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Kimberley Polman, a native of Hamilton, Ontario, returned to Canada recently after having secretly travelled to Syria in 2015 to marry an ISIS fighter (a member of the armed terrorist group styling itself as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; sometimes referred to as ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; or “Daesh” in Arabic). She is part of a group of fifty Canadian men, women, and children who have been held for several years in detainment camps run by the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), a Kurdish-separatist used by the US government illegally to occupy northeastern Syria, a third of the whole country, where Syria’s petroleum resources are located. Twenty-three of the detainees are represented by a Canadian lawyer known for taking on high-profile cases, Lawrence Greenspon.
In an interview with the CBC on October 26, 2022, Greenspon noted that his client, Polman, who has serious health issues, has been held in harsh conditions for over three years in the Al-Roj detention camp without being charged. She was arrested by the RCMP upon landing in Montreal but was later released on bail. According to Greenspon, Polman won’t be subject to criminal charges but rather obliged to sign a peace bond, a legal contract with the court to live under specified conditions for a specified period of time. In other words, at some point in the future, after meeting the terms of her peace bond, Polman will likely walk free.
Arriving in Canada alongside Polman was Oumaima Chouay and her two children. Chouay, however, faces charges of leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group, participating in a terrorist group, providing property or services for terrorism purposes, and conspiracy to participate in the activity of a terrorist group.
What is ISIS?
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria burst onto the world stage in June 2014. A handful of its followers, in a long column of brown Toyota pickup trucks wended its way across the open desert in broad daylight and in the full view of the occupying air force of the USA as it crossed unopposed from Syria into Iraq and proceeded to seize and occupy Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, hardly firing a shot.
Of course, a lot of preparation went into that invasion. As early as 2012, the Defence Intelligence Agency of the USA reported that plans to establish a “caliphate” (Islamic state) were in the works straddling the borders of Iraq and Syria. This agency noted that “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the (armed Syrian) opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.” The leader of this putative state was Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, an Iraqi cleric who had been held for a time in the US prison at Camp Bucca in Iraq where he joined al Qaeda in 2004. He was later killed in a US raid on his compound in Syria’s Idlib province in 2019.
ISIS was one of well over one hundred terrorist militias which were organized, trained, equipped, and funded by the USA and its coalition of countries (including Canada, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel) willing to violate international law in attempting to overthrow the democratically-elected and sovereign government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The US proxy war on Syria was unleashed in March 2011 at about the same time as a similar regime change operation was initiated by the USA in Libya to unseat Colonel Mouammar Gadaffi in Libya. A Canadian general was in command of the NATO operation that led to the destruction of that most prosperous state in Africa. A wave of disturbances swept West Asia (aka the “Middle East”) and North Africa under the guise of the “Arab Spring.” In this period, the US government was trying to re-organize North Africa and West Asia. It was seeking new puppets to assist in its strategic foreign policy goal of securing West Asian and North African petroleum resources, not necessarily to use them itself, but rather to control the flow of these critical resources to Europe, India, and China.
It was for this reason that the USA and UK invaded Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, unleashing turmoil in West Asia and in North and Western Africa that persists until today. It was partly for this reason that the US initiated the attempted regime change operation in Syria in 2011, which is not over yet, eleven years later. All told, the US wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Iraq contributed to an unprecedentedly-large wave of millions of refugees that swept over Europe and North America in the past decade.
The US plan for ISIS would effectively fracture the nation states of Syria and Iraq. The US would then be able to further balkanize the countries of Syria and Iraq into small and weak statelets, each run by leaders of compliant religious or ethnic groups, such as the Kurds. In the worst case scenario for the USA, if ISIS were challenged by a resurgent Syrian and/or Iraqi government in alliance with Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah (of Lebanon), then the presence of ISIS in both countries would provide a pretext (under GW Bush’s so-called “War on Terror”) for the USA to maintain a military presence with troops, tanks, and aircraft in both countries and thus to maintain control of the petroleum resources of each.
As it happened, the worst case scenario for the USA unfolded. Under the de facto leadership of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani (later assassinated by US President Donald Trump in January, 2020), a military alliance including the armed forces of Iran, Syria, Russia, plus the irregular forces of Hezbollah, Popular Mobilization Forces of Iraq, and certain armed Palestinian militias decisively defeated ISIS on the battlefield – with little help from the USA.
In fact, the US coalition did what it could to aid ISIS by purposely misdropping supplies to the terrorists, which supplies were intended to reach official allies of the USA on several occasions, by providing intelligence to ISIS which resulted in the deaths of many Syrian Arab Army soldiers, and by standing down on several occasions when ISIS launched attacks across the open desert on Palmyra, Syria. Both Joe Biden, then Vice-President, and Martin Dempsey, then top US general, both publicly acknowledged US support for ISIS on separate occasions, respectively in October and September 2014.
And on every occasion that ISIS suffered a major military defeat, such as at Raqqa (the capital city of ISIS), US forces, which had carpet-bombed the city with little regard for the city’s civilian population, rescued large numbers of ISIS fighters and bussed them out to other theatres of conflict such as its Al Tanf base in Syria and also to Afghanistan, following the chaotic collapse of the US occupation there.
In the summer of 2015, Kimberly Polman, then a resident of British Columbia, informed her family that she was taking a trip to Austria. Actually, she went to Syria after marrying an ISIS fighter online. She now recounts that she endured violence at the hands of ISIS, including having been raped on multiple occasions.
Polman spent several years under very harsh conditions in a detainment camp in northeastern Syria along with thousands of other detainees with a connection to ISIS, including the other forty nine prisoners claiming Canadian citizenship. According to lawyer Greenspon, about 20 countries have repatriated over one thousand prisoners from these detainment camps.
The Trudeau government, up to now, has shown a marked reluctance to do so. According to former Canadian Global Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne,
“Given the security situation and the lack of a physical presence on the ground, the Government of Canada’s ability to provide consular assistance in any part of Syria is extremely limited. Nevertheless, Canadian consular officials are engaged directly with the Canadians in the custody of the [Autonomous Administration of Northeastern Syria] … or their family members in Canada, to monitor their location and well-being.” Champagne also said Global Affairs has established a communication channel with regional authorities in northeast Syria “to advocate for the [detainees’] well-being to the extent possible.”
But the hands of successive Canadian governments are not clean in regards to Syria. Both the Harper and Trudeau governments have been accomplices of US efforts to overthrow the government of Syria.
Here’s a partial list of Canada’s dirty role in Syria:
- In December 2011, Canada’s ambassador to Tunisia, Glenn Davidson, was tasked with organizing the pre-conference to launch the Friends of Syria Group of Countries (FSG) in Tunis in February 2012. The FSG was the coalition of countries the USA used to coordinate, fund, and supply terrorist mercenary forces in Syria in obvious violation of international law and the UN Charter.
- Canada’s Foreign Minister, John Baird, invited members of the Syrian National Council to Ottawa in December 2011 and later travelled to Turkey to attend international conferences in support of the proxy warriors. In addition, Defence Minister Peter MacKay invited key figures of the Syrian armed opposition to the Halifax International Security Forum, a major Department of Defence and NATO gathering;
- The Harper government unilaterally broke off diplomatic relations with Syria in May, 2012, and delegated an ambassador to the Syrian National Council, the pretender government created by the USA;
- In June 2013, the Harper government hosted a meeting of the Sanctions Sub-Committee of the FSG which drew up the harsh regime of unilateral economic sanctions which has impoverished 80% of the Syrian people. These sanctions are illegal because they lack the approval of the UN Security Council. But the effect of those coercive economic measures, which persist until today, was to turn millions of Syrian people into refugees, some of whom, such as Alan Kurdi, died in Turkish waters. About 30,000 Syrian refugees ended up in Canada;
- In accordance with his 2015 campaign promise to “end the combat mission in Iraq”, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau did remove Canadian fighter jets from the Global Coalition Against Daesh. Instead, he replaced them with reconnaissance and refuelling aircraft at the service of the US coalition (which continued to operate illegally over Syria) and sent military “trainers” to fight alongside the Kurdish-separatist entity in Northern Iraq;
- The Trudeau government supported the Syrian White Helmets with at least 7.5m dollars of funding and toured the group’s spokespersons in Canada. The White Helmets, a propaganda tool of the West against Syria, were a creation of British intelligence in the person of John LeMesurier, who later died under mysterious circumstances in Turkey, after allegations of financial corruption.
- The most notorious fraud committed by the White Helmets was to stage a fake chemical attack in Douma, Syria, in April 2018 and blame the Syrian government. This led to USA, UK, and France launching a missile attack on Syria, an act of undeclared war. Later, inspectors of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) submitted detailed reports. Due to political and economic pressure from the US and NATO allies, including Canada, the OPCW suppressed the inspectors’ reports. This scandal threatens to destroy the organization’s reputation.
- Later, when the Syrian Arab Army liberated Daraa, hundreds of White Helmets and their Al Nusra / Al Qaeda terrorist allies fled into Israeli occupied Golan. Trudeau’s Global Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, took credit for their “rescue”. Several hundred of the fugitives disappeared; many of the rest were given refugee status in Canada.
ISIS bride Kimberly Polman faces a further court appearance on December 2 in British Columbia to finalize the terms of her peace bond. Ouimaima Chouay will also be required to appear in court to answer the charges against her. Canadians will watch to see how Canada will treat its citizens who illegally travelled to Syria to join ISIS. However, Canadians also deserve an accounting from our current and former leaders as to what they contributed to the enduring misery of the Syrian people since the regime change war began in 2011.
One of the accounts still unsettled is that of CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and its role in running a double agent, a Syrian by the name of Mohammed al-Rashid, who trafficked people like Kimberly Polman into Syria to be recruited by ISIS.
(to be continued…)
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Ken Stone is a long time antiwar, anti-racism, environmental, and labour activist, resident in Hamilton. He is Treasurer of the Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War. He is a regular contributor to Global Research.
Featured image is from The Hamilton Spectator
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