Long after the demise of the 'Islamic State' and its short-lived territorial caliphate in eastern Syria and western Iraq, the US continues now to seek operations in the Levant ostensibly to "counter ISIS". Of course, this is but the excuse given to maintain a muscular stance in the region as US pressure continues and the sanctions choke-hold against Assad and the Iranians deepens the regional crisis, also as Russia is more deeply entrenched in Syria.
And now in 2021 we are still witnessing headlines like this: "Eisenhower Strike Group Joins Anti-ISIS Effort". The Pentagon this week announced that the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower strike group has initiated flight operations in the Eastern Mediterranean "to support the continuing campaign against Islamic State remnants in Syria and Iraq."
While in the past weeks there's been an uptick in reports that suggest ISIS might be seeking to stage a major comeback in the region, the carrier presence could also in reality be aimed at thwarting things like the below...
A million barrels of Iranian crude oil is approaching the Suez Canal from the Red Sea. It is part of a larger flotilla of tankers bound for Baniyas, Syria. We have visually identified all of them. The first one shall arrive in about 3 days time, all depending on congestion. #OOTT https://t.co/n1Jp9NHt90— TankerTrackers.com, Inc.⚓️🛢 (@TankerTrackers) April 2, 2021
In announcing the Eisenhower's new Eastern Mediterranean deployment, strike group commander Rear Adm. Scott F. Robertson, said "We can provide a wide range of options to our nation and allies in deterring adversarial aggression and disruption of maritime security and regional stability."
The carrier presence also comes as Idlib is still occupied by al-Qaeda terrorists (since 2015), which Russia and the Syrian Army have long sought to return to Damascus, but never having launched a final massive assault (in large part due to counter-threats from Washington of US military intervention to "save" Idlib).
Meanwhile on a related note, this is quite an official admission coming from the United States longtime top Syria policy czar, who just recently retired...
Abu Muhammad al-Jolani — former leader of Al Qaeda in Syria — argues his group now poses no threat to the West and even has some common interests with the US.— Matthew Petti (@matthew_petti) April 3, 2021
Former US envoy James Jeffrey agreed, telling PBS that Jolani is an “asset” to US strategy. https://t.co/qPhwDTqIfd
More proof of US support for al-Qaeda: A top US diplomat, James Jeffrey, admitted that Syria's rebranded al-Qaeda affiliate, HTS, is “an asset” in the US strategy in Syria's Idlib province.— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) April 3, 2021
The US has supported al-Qaeda in Syria, Libya, and Yemenhttps://t.co/6zQKsBR1Nx pic.twitter.com/oraTF4D3Au
Though of course there's nothing "former" about being leader of al-Qaeda, as if being a notorious terror leader and mass murderer is akin to changing a gym membership.
According to a new PBS report:
James Jeffrey, who served as a U.S. ambassador under both Republican and Democrat administrations and most recently as special representative for Syria engagement and special envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS during the Trump administration, told Smith that Jolani’s organization was "an asset" to America’s strategy in Idlib.
Trump's Syria policy czar calling Al-Qaeda ldr in Syria an "asset".— Ali Ahmadi (@AliAhmadi_Iran) April 3, 2021
US gov itself mocked the idea that HTS is not al-Qaeda when the group was formed. Its predecessor Nusra Front lied about being AQ wing for yrs & only admitted it when it was claimed by ISIS. https://t.co/vfxZQwiq8v
Friendly reminder of the 2012 DIA memo that predicted AQ/ISI would be used by US/West as a strategic asset... in light of US longtime Syria policy czar James Jeffrey calling Al-Qaeda leader in Syria an "ASSET" this week https://t.co/wmjcaPsSkJ— Brad Hoff (@BradRHoff) April 3, 2021
All of these latest developments, most particularly the US carrier presence close to Syria's coast, strongly suggests as we've been reporting lately that the Biden administration considers that it has some "unfinished business" in Syria related to Assad.