This article is originally appeared at Reports from Underground
The fact that the US can find only 60 Syrian rebels to train is quite telling.
It means that out of nearly 18 million Syrians (reduced by 4 million since the start of the conflict) the US could only find 60 that were willing to fight against the Syrian Army, only 60.
In other words, only an increase of ~0.000333% of the Syrian population is deemed “moderate” by the US and willing to fight. The military is currently in the process of vetting 7,000 volunteers, so if we assume that all of them will pass inspection, that will amount to a mere ~0.039222% of the population. A far cry from 0.1%, let alone 1% of the total inhabitants.
The fact that only 60 can be deemed “moderate” is also quite telling. This coming from a government who deemed the Free Syrian Army, among others, as “moderates.” In September of 2014, FSA “moderate” commander and recipient of US aid Bassel Idriss admitted that “We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front,” the reason for this being “We have reached a point where we have to collaborate with anyone against unfairness and injustice.”
Back in April of the same year, the leader of the US-backed “moderate” Syrian Revolutionary Front Jamal Maarouf admitted that al-Qaeda was “not our problem” and that his fighters conducted joint operations with al-Nusra. “If the people who support us tell us to send weapons to another group, we send them. They [Jabhat al-Nusra] asked us a month ago to send weapons to Yabroud so we sent a lot of weapons there. When they asked us to do this, we do it.”
One of the most senior “moderate” rebel commanders to be backed by the US and main recipient of Western aid, Col. Okaidi, is seen in a video, which has been authenticated by Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma, speaking during interviews saying “My relationship with the brothers in ISIL is good… I communicate almost daily with brothers in ISIL… the relationship is good, even brotherly.”
Okaidi admits al-Qaeda is not any different from the FSA “They [al-Nusra] did not exhibit any abnormal behavior, which is different from that of the FSA.” The video shows Okaidi with ISIS Emir Abu Jandal celebrating a victory, an ally ISIS fighter shouts “I swear to Allah, O Alawites, we came to slaughter you. Await what you deserve!”
US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who worked closely with Okaidi, himself admitted to giving material support to ISIS and al-Nusra, stating that he “absolutely does not deny” knowing that most of the rebels he backed fought alongside ISIS and Nusra.
The reason for all of this is simply that, as pointed out by the leading Western journalist in the region, Patrick Cockburn, “In reality, there is no dividing wall between them [ISIS and Nusra] and America’s supposedly moderate opposition allies.” According to Vice President Biden, “there was no moderate middle because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers.”
This means that apart from a plethora of substantially foreign terrorist jihadi lunatics, there is no other force willing to fight against the government.
The reasons for this were further articulated by Obama himself, who stated that it was a “fantasy” to think that the US could arm and equip “farmers, dentists, and folks who never fought before” and have them be an effective force against Assad. What is implied here is that ordinary Syrians, actually moderate individuals, have no desire for military action nor are they capable of effectively harnessing it, hence the need to support the extremists, who are. And therefore, as Biden points out, the Wests’ allies “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons to… al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” What Biden leaves out is that this was all coordinated under a covert US-led operation.
In reality, these moderates were the peaceful opposition that did not want the destruction of the state but instead desired democratic change, who were then displaced by foreign-backers and terrorist who hijacked their uprising, as is conceded by prominent opposition leaders.
This hijacking was the result of US leaders realizing that the actual moderates only wanted peaceful change, while the West desired the overthrow of the state through any means necessary, including violent takeover, and so therefore “Jihadi groups ideologically close to al-Qaeda have been relabeled as moderate if their actions are deemed supportive of US policy aims,” as Patrick Cockburn rightly points out. The result of this is that “Washington thus allowed advanced weaponry to be handed to its deadliest enemy.”
The recent training of 60 “moderates” is nothing different.
To illustrate this, it’s important to see that this narrative of a moderate opposition stays constant, while the group this label is applied to constantly changes.
Right now this label is being applied to the Southern Front, hailed as the new moderate force America can morally support. However, this group is financed and supported by the Military Operations Centre (MOC) in Amman that is staffed by agents from the US, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, as well as other anti-Assad governments, and according to Syrian expert Aron Lund, “adoption of MOC-provided talking points” of moderation by members of this alliance are likely “to be more opportunistic than heartfelt.”
The reason the US is now training 60 rebels is because every single other rebel group that the US trained, equipped, funded, and marked as “moderate” has gone on to join either al-Qaeda or ISIS. FSA brigades, the Syrian Revolutionary Front, Harakat Hazm, all of them have now defected to al-Qaeda and ISIS.
At every point along the way while receiving US-aid they were branded as “moderates.” After they went on to join ISIS or it became too hard to keep up their “moderate” image, the torch was passed on to a new group, as now it is passed onto the Southern Front, yet “in reality” there was never any “moderate middle” nor is there “a dividing wall between [the extremists] and America’s supposedly moderate opposition allies.”
Therefore we should not be fooled when new rebels “ideologically close to al-Qaeda” are “relabeled as moderate” all because “their actions are deemed supportive of US policy aims”, whether they be the Southern Front, the new 60-trainees, or the next group that is sure to emerge in the future, especially given that from the beginning, according to US intelligence, the opposition has taken “a clear sectarian direction”, and according to leading Western journalists has been dominated from the start by “ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra… in addition to other extreme jihadi groups.”
There is nothing moderate about voluntarily taking up arms and agreeing to be a proxy force for foreign powers. Furthermore, there is nothing moderate about attacking and overtaking towns and villages, which is the expressed aim of this new US-backed force, when the majority of the population isn’t calling for it and doesn’t desire it. As Zbigniew Brzezinski has stated, Assad has more support than any group opposing him, and surely he has more support than a US-backed militia, as polls consistently show world opinion sees the US as the major threat to peace, and since most Syrians are aware of the dirty war being perpetrated on them by the West.
The presence of ISIS is not an argument for the training of more rebels, it is instead an argument against this, as quite possibly the single biggest factor in the creation and rise of ISIS was the US sponsoring of the insurgency in Syria which they knew to be sectarian and extremist, coupled with the training of rebels who were either themselves extremist terrorist or affiliated with such parties, flooding them with arms and funds to the tune of $1 billion per year and $2.91 billion since 2014.
It must be remembered what former Scotland Yard detective and UK counterterrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge rightly pointed out, that “the ‘moderate’ rebels the US and UK support themselves openly welcomed the arrival of such extremists. Indeed, the Free Syria Army backed by the West was allied with ISIS, until ISIS attacked them at the end of 2013.”
For the first 3 years of the crisis the rebels the West openly backed were allies of ISIS, committing the exact same kind of atrocities and terroristic acts. And according to Patrick Cockburn, the US-backed FSA were at times despised even more than the other terrorist organizations asthey would terrorize and ransack the civilian populations, “Pilloried in the West for their sectarian ferocity, these jihadists were often welcomed by local people for restoring law and order after the looting and banditry of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.”
If you train rebels one time and they commit these atrocities and fight alongside fanatical terrorists you can at least plead ignorance and good intentions, however if you continue these actions when this has been the outcome every single time, let alone doing it over, and over, and over, and over again, then that is premeditated complicity in the sponsoring of terrorism, an act by the West that Syria’s Christian leaders are also demanding an end to.
This recent attempt to train “moderate” rebels is no different. There is nothing moderate about the entire process, and these fighters will go on to commit the exact same kinds of atrocities and ally with the exact same terrorist entities that all of our other rebels have done in the past.
Furthermore, just the mere action of pumping in more bullets, guns, weaponry, and fighters will inevitably lead to further bloodshed and civilian casualties caught within the crossfire, exacerbating the situation and increasing pain and suffering. As Charles Shoebridge notes, the notion that “pouring sophisticated weaponry into a war zone already awash with weapons” will somehow “save civilian lives” is a deeply “flawed assumption.” “Syria’s rebels must be assessed as they are, not as they once were, or as we’d romantically like them to be,” and therefore on that basis, noting the extensively documented history of rebel atrocities, “we should not be backing them.”
In his book “The Rise of Islamic State” Patrick Cockburn writes, “An intelligence officer from a Middle Eastern country neighboring Syria told me that ISIS members “say they are always pleased when sophisticated weapons are sent to anti-Assad groups of any kind, because they can always get the arms off them by threats of force or cash payments.””
I think it’s about time we stop fueling the spilling of blood and the arming of terrorists inside Syria. If we actually wanted to stop ISIS, that’s the first place we would start.