Reports on 2012 DIA Docs Noting Extremist-Led, Western-Backed Syrian Insurgency Gain Momentum

A former marine with years of experience in Syria and the Middle East, Brad Hoff, broke the story about 2012 DIA docs that state the insurgency in Syria is driven by Islamic extremists, and predict the establishment of an “Islamic state” in Eastern Syria. Hoff’s report was followed by examinations of the documents by International Relations scholar Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, Prof. Juan Cole (both write for Middle East Eye, etc.), and the group of former military and intelligence personnel, Fabius Maximus, which was cited in Cole’s report.

To help flesh out Cole’s brief summary of the documents, Hoff posted my more lengthy point by point analysis, which was then noted by Dr. Ahmed and Fabius Maximus, which first noted Hoff’s analysis, followed by Cole’s and my own.

Since then, and after reporting by many other independent outlets, the news of the DIA docs has gradually entered some more moneyed outlets, both in the US and internationally (such as in The Guardian, RT, etc.).

Among others, HuffPo and Salon reported on the docs, with Salon referencing Cole. Hoff here gives an excellent summary of how reporting on the docs has played out, gaining coverage and attention after being broken by himself at Levant Report, followed by other independent researchers and media.

Hoff initially contacted the DIA for a response, but received none. However, since the news has entered the mainstream and refused to go away, the DIA reached out to him and gave an interview. In response to Hoff asking specifically whether the US intentionally or indirectly backed Salafists in Syria (as it has elsewhere), with Hoff almost begging for an unequivocal “No” in response, the DIA would only respond with “No comment.”

A former military intelligence official told Hoff that, for the DIA to reach out and contact him, he must have “hit a nerve” with them.

Dr. Ahmed, writing in Middle East Eye, has since further analyzed the documents, including giving a response to Cole and myself with additional background information and detailed critique (bold added):

Who were the “supporting powers?” According to Juan Cole, this refers to “those powers (e.g. Turkey and the Gulf monarchies) supporting the opposition.” He adds: “It doesn’t say the US or ‘the West’ wanted to see such a thing [as a Salafist principality].”

This is a selective, and false, reading. Cole ignores that the sentences of the report mentioning Turkey and the Gulf States as “supporting powers,” all begin with “the West”:

“The West, the Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition.”

Similarly, Robert Barsocchini speculates that “supporting powers” might refer to al-Qaeda in Iraq. However, the US intelligence community does not classify AQI or any other non-state terrorist network as a “power”.

The use of the plural, “supporting powers,” clarifies that the reference is to a group of powers supporting the rebels, not just one entity like AQI.

Barsocchini, like Cole, also suggests that Western governments would not admit to wanting a “Salafist Principality,” even privately. This is incorrect. Declassified files since World War II prove that Western governments frequently and privately admit to cultivating Islamist extremism for geopolitical reasons.

In summary, the Pentagon report is absolutely clear that the West, the Gulf states and Turkey were supporting the Syrian opposition to attain a common goal: the emergence of a “Salafist” political entity in eastern Syria that would help “isolate” Assad.

Even if we ignore the document’s inclusion of “the West”, Dr. Ahmed points out, the pages still show that “despite ongoing intelligence updates proving that their [the West’s] allies were not funding “moderates” – instead supporting their favoured Islamist terrorists – US and European intelligence advisers on the ground simply continued on the same course.”

Ahmed also notes that “despite official declarations of being able to certify support to “moderates” as opposed to extremists, last year the State Department was unable to identify a single “moderate” rebel group in receipt of Western support.”

Indeed, as reported by Patrick Cockburn in August, 2014, “Jihadi groups ideologically close to al-Qa‘ida have been relabeled as moderate if their actions are deemed supportive of US policy aims.”

And Shamus Cooke commented: “…the U.S.-backed “moderate” group, the Islamic Front, is dominated by the extremist group ahrar al sham.”

Ahmed also notes that the EU has bought oil from ISIS.


Author focuses on international force dynamics, and also writes professionally for the film industry.

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