The CIA Is Training Syria’s Rebels: Uh-Oh, Says a Top Iraqi Leader
Robert Dreyfuss, Nation, Mar 1 2013
The US is slipping and sliding down that proverbial slippery slope in Syria toward something that looks increasingly like war. Most worryingly, according to the NYT, the CIA is training Syrian fighters in Jordan. Buried in its story today about Jackass Kerry’s announcement that the US will increase aid to the rebels, including medical supplies and those always tasty MREs (“Meals Ready to Eat”), was this previously unreported nugget:
A covert program to train rebel fighters, which State Dept officials here were not prepared to discuss, has also been under way. According to an official in Washington who asked not to be identified, the CIA since last year has been training groups of Syrian rebels in Jordan. The official did not provide details about the training or what difference it may have made on the battlefield, but said the CIA had not given weapons or ammunition to the rebels. An agency spokesman declined to comment.
Now, let us not be shocked that the CIA is doing this; in fact, it’s very likely that this is the tip of a very large iceberg. Undoubtedly, the CIA along with the Pentagon are coordinating a regional effort involving the Sunni bloc involving Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar to topple the Assad government in Damascus. That’s called “regime change” and we’ve seen it before. The additional $60m in US aid to Syria’s rebels is headed to the coffers of the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Syrian Military Council, a newly-created body that purports to represent the FSA. Although Egypt has pretty much stayed out of the fray in Syria officially, the SOC and the SMC are based in Cairo, whose national MBs are backing the Syrian MB rebels. At a background briefing yesterday, a State Dept official said:
The US will be sending technical advisors through our implementing partners to support the SOC’s staff at their Cairo headquarters in the execution of this assistance. This will ensure that the assistance continues to comply with US rules and regulations on the use of foreign assistance, including vetting, oversight, and monitoring. To remind that this additional $60m for the SOC is in addition to the more than $50m in non-lethal support we have already provided to help Syrian activists organize opposition efforts across the country and to amplify their message to Syrians and to the world through communications and broadcasting equipment.
There’s a long analysis of the FSA and the SMC published by the Institute for the Study of War, a neocon think tank in Washington. Here’s an excerpt:
The 30-member SMC was created at a three-day conference held in Antalya between Dec 5-7 2012. During this conference, rebel leaders from across Syria announced the election of the new unified command structure. The SMC is led by CoS Maj-Gen Salim Idris and includes 11 former officers and 19 civilian leaders. The SMC differs from previous efforts to unify the military opposition because more groups and support networks are included. It could prove to be a more sustainable organization than its predecessors. The SMC includes all of Syria’s most important field commanders: Abd’el-Qadir Salah, head of the Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo; Mustafa Abd’el-Karim, head of the Dara al-Thawra Brigade; Ahmed Issa, head of Suqour al-Sham Brigade in Idlib; Jamal Marouf, head of the Syrian Martyrs Brigade in Idlib; Osama al-Jinidi, head of the Farouq Battalions; and General Ziad al-Fahd, head of the Damascus Military Council. The SMC was organized to incorporate the supply chains and networks that already existed inside Syria and eventually channel them through the centralized units of the SMC. In order to achieve this goal, the command is divided into 5 geographic fronts, North, South, East, West & Homs, with 6 elected members each.
That all sounds organized enough, but on the ground, inside Syria, the lines of authority and the lines of command are less than clear, and many of the anti-Assad fighters are radical and extreme Islamists and al-Qaeda types. Although the US would like to “vet” the recipients of its aid, and although the people that the CIA is training in Jordan are probably from the more-moderate rather than less-moderate part of the anti-Assad spectrum (but of course – RB), there’s just no telling what Syria after the fall of Assad might look like. One person who’s worried about exactly that is Faleh al-Fayyah, the national security adviser of Iraq, who spoke yesterday at CSIS (pdf). In his talk, he was asked about recent comments from PM Maliki, who worried about Syria spinning out of control. Iraq, of course, ruled by a Shi’a coalition, is petrified at the idea that a bunch of Sunni radicals and MB types might take over in Damascus, leading to civil war, partition and a spillover into Iraq. Fayyah said:
I believe that the statement by PM Maliki yesterday was an analysis for the potential and possible repercussions that would happen given the developments in Syria. And if it’s a bad, negative end to the issue in Syria, then you will see the partition of the country, you would see a war, you would see a potentially a (inaudible) and also if the extremist factions come into power in a new regime, in a new order in Syria, then this will export an array of problems to Iraq. We have also started to see that some of these problems started being shipped to Lebanon, exported to Lebanon, and the ripple effect is now being seen in Lebanon. PM Maliki’s analysis is an accurate and correct one. And if the situation keeps going in that direction that it is taking today, we feel there might be a civil war, there might be a sectarian partition of the country, and also we feel that terrorist groups may try to get the upper hand in that environment. Therefore, we feel if the situation goes into that direction, the future of the Middle East will witness tension, will witness further problems, and in that effect, the analysis of PM Maliki was accurate and correct.
So what are we looking at? The very regime that the US installed in Baghdad, now closely aligned with Iran, is fearful that the regime we are now trying to install in Damascus might be a bitter enemy, which naturally will drive Baghdad into the waiting arms of Tehran.