US ‘Terrorism’ Game Not Over by Baghdadi’s Death: Italian Author

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – An Italian author and geopolitical analyst highlighted the US attempts over the past decades to destabilize the Middle East by supporting terror groups and said Washington’s game of terrorism will not end by the killing of Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

US ‘Terrorism’ Game Not Over by Baghdadi’s Death: Italian Author

“Of course, the game of ‘terrorism’ is still to be played out because the destabilization of the Middle East carried out over the last 30 years by the US administrations is profound,” Stefano Vernole, the head of External Relations at the Eurasia Mediterranean Study Center, told Tasnim in an interview.

Vernole, a graduate in contemporary history and analysis of conflicts, ideologies, and politics in the contemporary world, has worked in the field of bibliographic cataloging and in the field of public administration. He is the head of external relations at the Eurasia Mediterranean Study Center and Deputy Director of "Eurasia", a journal of geopolitical studies. He is the author of Ex-Yugoslavia: Dirty Game in the Balkans, National Fragmentation and Geopolitical Risk of Kosovo (2013), The Serbian Question and the Kosovo Crisis (2008), as well as co-author of The struggle for Kosovo (2007), Tibet Crossroads between Past and Future (2014), Discovering Tibet (2015), and Lo Xizang (Tibet) and the New Silk Road (2016).

The following is the full text of the interview:

Tasnim: US President Donald Trump recently declared that Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead after a US military raid in northwest Syria over the weekend. In reaction, the spokesman for Iran’s administration, Ali Rabiei, shrugged off the US president’s announcement and said Washington’s policies are the main reason for the emergence of Daesh, adding that the death of Baghdadi does not mean that Takfiri terrorism or “Daeshism” has ended. Do you think the killing of the Daesh leader would play a major role in the fight against terrorism in the region or bring an end to the phenomenon given its root causes?

Vernole: The eventual killing of al-Baghdadi (Russia has raised some doubts about the real killing)certainly represents a symbolic blow in the fight against terrorism, but it certainly does not represent the end. US military action conducted in the Idlib area - an area under siege by Assad's troops and Russian aviation - represents a concession to Putin's pride in Trump. Let us not forget that the US president with his decision to withdraw a good part of the troops from Syria attracted criticism from the US establishment and needed a "coup de theater" to justify it. Of course, the game of "terrorism" is still to be played out because the destabilization of the Middle East carried out over the last 30 years by the US administrations is profound. Just think of what is happening in these hours in Lebanon and Iraq with the resignation of the two prime ministers. In particular, the Sunni component in the latter country had sought in Daesh a form of redemption for its suffering and its location in the current national scenario will not be easy. The Kurdish component itself comes down in its ambitions and the current Russian-Turkish-Iranian agreement will have to guarantee some claims, otherwise, stability remains at risk. In addition to the military instrument, therefore, a serious work of cultural re-education is needed for the many who believed in the Daesh dream-nightmare.

Tasnim: The US claims that it has started the withdrawal of its troops from Syria and says its forces shouldn’t be there. What was the main reason behind the US military operation? What do you think about the developments behind the scenes?

Vernole: It is evident that the Trump Administration is trying to respect, at least partially, the intentions of the electoral campaign and therefore the promises of disengagement from the various theaters of war. Obviously we are talking about the only superpower left after the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the US together with NATO has over 1,000 military bases abroad and still remains a "messianic" nation. Trump's intentions of not wanting to be "the world's policemen" clash with the opposing pressures of the US military-industrial-financial apparatus. This also explains why the Pentagon has decided to send a contingent to insure the oil wells in the area of Hasakah, in the north-east, but also deeper in Syrian territory, in Deir ez-Zor. It is obviously not a question of denying access to Daesh but to the Syrian government; However, Assad remains the main enemy for neo-cons apparatuses close to Israel. This move allows the United States to maintain an influence in Syria from which to start again if the Russian-Turkish-Iranian agreement goes into crisis. Current Lebanese events should also be read in this direction. Of course, Damascus and Moscow were annoyed and in the future, they will have to face the problem of the complete US withdrawal from Syria if they want to establish a true peace process and begin a serious reconstruction of the country.

Tasnim: According to some analysts, the killing of the Daesh leader changes some things for Trump. It temporarily changes the political conversation away from the impeachment inquiry which began a month ago. What do you think? Wasn’t the operation a show-off for media attention?

Vernole: I don't think it's directly linked to the attempted impeachment against Trump, that is a much more complex game that ultimately also involves Italy but it is true that it has certainly distracted the American public opinion from the accusations made against its President. The killing of the Daesh leader, on the other hand, is more useful in view of his electoral campaign, an operation that shows that in addition to shifting some internal balances it serves to increase his consent. The fact that he warned the Russians of the operation against Al-Baghdadi is emblematic in this regard.  President Donald Trump received widespread Republican criticism for his decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria just weeks ago. But with the death of the Daesh leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, over the weekend, Republicans are praising him for his efforts to fight terrorism.

The death of Baghdadi in Syria came after Republicans warned the president that removing troops from the region would lead to the escape of Daesh prisoners and prompt the re-emergence of the terrorist group. The news of Baghdadi’s death gave additional ammunition to Trump’s defenders against the House’s impeachment inquiry, after explosive testimony last week from the administration’s top diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, and the appearance of a string of officials who defied a White House directive not to cooperate with the investigation. While (last) week’s Sunday news shows were expected to focus on impeachment, Baghdadi’s death instead dominated.

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