US covert war on Syria

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This article is about the US war against the Syrian government. For the US war against ISIS, see U.S. Air Strikes in Syria.
CIA weapons pipeline from Croatia and Gulf states to Syrian "rebels", as exposed by the New York Times on March 24, 2013

What we know

First, let’s establish what we do know. Based on multiple reports over the past three-and-a-half years, we know that the Central Intelligence Agency set up a secret program of arming, funding and training anti-Assad forces. This has been reported by major outlets, including the New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and, most recently, the Washington Post, which—partly thanks to the Snowden revelations—detailed a program that trained approximately 10,000 rebel fighters at a cost of $1 billion a year, or roughly 1/15th of the CIA’s official annual budget.
In addition to the CIA’s efforts, there is a much more scrutinized and far more publicized program by the Department of Defense to train “moderate rebels,” of which only a few dozen actually saw battle. The Pentagon program, which began earlier this year and is charged with fighting ISIS (rather than Syrian government forces), is separate from the covert CIA operation. It has, by all accounts, been an abysmal failure.
One thing the DoD’s rebel training program hasn’t been a failure at, however, is helping credulous reporters rewrite history by treating the Pentagon program as the only US effort to train Syrian rebels–now or in the past. As the US’s strategy in Syria is publicly debated, the CIA’s years-long program has vanished from many popular accounts, giving the average reader the impression the US has sat idly by while foreign actors, Iranian and Russian, have interfered in the internal matters of Syria.
Down the Memory Hole: NYT Erases CIA’s Efforts to Overthrow Syria’s Government, FAIR, September 20, 2015
The Liwa Suqour al-Jabal, whose fighters have attended military training organized by the Central Intelligence Agency in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, was also hit last week by Russian raids as Moscow began its air campaign in support of Damascus. New strikes targeted the group's main weapons depots in western Aleppo province and completely destroyed them late on Tuesday, its commander Hassan Haj Ali told Reuters on Wednesday via an Internet messaging service.
Russian warplanes in Syria destroy U.S.-trained rebels' weapons depots: commander - Reuters, October 7, 2015
The Defense Information Agency report from August 2012 confirms that weapons were flowing to the Syrian armed opposition after the overthrow of the Libyan government in Fall 2011. The claim that the U.S. was only supplying communications equipment and other non-lethal supplies in 2012 and 2013 was for public consumption and ‘plausible deniability’. In reality the U.S. was supplying great quantities of weapons. The ‘dark side’ included a huge budget for CIA operations including training and arming the Syrian armed opposition.
— Rick Sterling, Faulty Analysis and Conclusions on Syria - CounterPunch, October 21, 2015

Timeline

Reflects the main standoff against USSR, with other issues largely tools in the game. Have similarities with our time, despite the cold war ending.

Prior to 2011

  • Why the Arabs Don’t Want Us in Syria- Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Politico, February 22, 2016, pp 1-4 (aka 'history of proxy wars over a pipeline')
  • The War Against the Assad Regime Is Not a "Pipeline War" - Gareth Porter, Truthout, 21 September 2016
    The massive, direct and immediate power interests of the US war state -- not the determination to ensure that a pipeline would carry Qatar's natural gas to Europe -- drove the US policy of participation in the war against the Syrian regime.
  • U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by WikiLeaks show - Washington Post, April 17, 2011
    Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria. The channel is named after the Barada River, which courses through the heart of Damascus, the Syrian capital.


2011

The United States said Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has failed to prove himself a worthy leader nearly two months after being challenged by President Obama to guide his country toward a democratic transition or leave power.
In endorsing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's declaration that Assad has "lost legitimacy," the Obama administration moved closer to openly declaring its desire for regime change in Syria.

2012

  • Syrian rebels get influx of arms with gulf neighbors’ money, U.S. coordination - Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly, Washington Post, May 15, 2012
    Syrian rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have begun receiving significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, an effort paid for by Persian Gulf nations and coordinated in part by the United States, according to opposition activists and U.S. and foreign officials.
  • August 12, 2012: date of a now-declassified Defense Intelligence Agency memo outlining the state of and goals in the evolving Syria conflict. It says in part "THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME…”. (see Levant Report)
    The list of "supporting powers" is comprised of the US and several allies.
  • Sept. 11, 2012, US Ambassador Stevens killed in Benghazi, Libya while organizing transfer of Libyan arms to Syria via Turkey.
  • U.S.-Approved Arms for Libya Rebels Fell Into Jihadis’ Hands - The New York Times, December 5, 2012
    The Obama administration (not the CIA, not the State Department) secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats. But in the months before, the Obama administration clearly was worried about the consequences of its hidden hand in helping arm Libyan militants, concerns that have not previously been reported.
    The experience in Libya has taken on new urgency as the administration considers whether to play a direct role in arming rebels in Syria, where weapons are flowing in from Qatar and other countries. The Obama administration did not initially raise objections when Qatar began shipping arms to opposition groups in Syria, even if it did not offer encouragement, according to current and former administration officials. But they said the United States has growing concerns that, just as in Libya, the Qataris are equipping some of the wrong militants.
  • Obama Blocked Rebel Arms - Adam Entous, WSJ, February 12, 2013 (published in 2013, but discusses events in 2012 and 2011)
    White House Opposed Pentagon, CIA, State Plan to Ship Weapons to Syrian Resistance
    A proposal to (OVERTLY?) arm Syrian rebels was backed by the Pentagon, the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, but the White House decided not to act on the plan.
    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed publicly for the first time at a Senate hearing on Thursday that they supported the proposal last year (2012) by senior officials including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA director David Petraeus.
    ...
    In the months after the start of the conflict in Syria in March 2011, the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA began presenting the White House with multiple options for intervening with force, covert action or arms supplies. Options have included establishing a no-fly zone, bombing Syrian aircraft in their hangars, and funneling light arms and actionable intelligence to a select group of American-vetted rebels.

2013

2014

2015

The most recent offensive, dubbed Operation Southern Storm, began on 25 June. It was planned, equipped and directed by the [Military Operations Centre (MOC) in Amman], which is staffed by senior military figures from 14 countries including the US, Europe and the Arab Gulf. The MOC provides approved rebel groups with weapons, ammunition and salaries for fighters, and in return, the MOC directs the actions of the groups it supports.
  • NY Times, "Obama Administration Halts Program to Train Syrians to Combat ISIS", 9.10.2015
    A senior defense official said that the remaining training “will be much more minimal” than the previous program. The Central Intelligence Agency runs a separate program to train and arm selected groups, many of which are now battling Syrian army units backed by Russian air power.
  • Officials: Before Russian bombs, CIA rebels had Syrian gains - Ken Dilanian, AP, Oct. 10, 2015 (NYT)
    CIA-backed rebels in Syria, who had begun to put serious pressure on President Bashar Assad's forces, are now under Russian bombardment with little prospect of rescue by their American patrons, U.S. officials say.
    The CIA began a covert operation in 2013 to arm, fund and train a moderate opposition to Assad. Over that time, the CIA has trained an estimated 10,000 fighters, although the number still fighting with so-called moderate forces is unclear.
    The effort was separate from the one run by the military, which trained militants willing to promise to take on IS exclusively. That program was widely considered a failure, and on Friday, the Defense Department announced it was abandoning the goal of a U.S.-trained Syrian force, instead opting to equip established groups to fight IS.
  • CIA went to Moscow 10 days before the air campaign.
Wie "Bild am Sonntag" unter Berufung auf US-Geheimdienstkreise berichtet, trafen sich bereits in der vergangenen Woche führende Delegationen der CIA und des russischen Auslandsgeheimdienstes SWR in Moskau
  • Did U.S. weapons supplied to Syrian rebels draw Russia into the conflict? - Liz Sly. The Washington Post, October 11, 2015
    American antitank missiles supplied to Syrian rebels are playing an unexpectedly prominent role in shaping the Syrian battlefield, giving the conflict the semblance of a proxy war between the United States and Russia, despite President Obama’s express desire to avoid one.
    The U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW missiles were delivered under a two-year-old covert program coordinated between the United States and its allies to help vetted Free Syrian Army groups in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad. Now that Russia has entered the war in support of Assad, they are taking on a greater significance than was originally intended.
    The TOW missile program overseen by the CIA is entirely separate from a failed program run by the Pentagon that was intended to influence the outcome of the other war being waged in Syria, the one in the northeastern part of the country against the Islamic State.
    The CIA program got underway before the Pentagon one, in early 2014, with the goal of propping up the flagging rebellion against Assad’s rule by delivering training, small arms, ammunition and the antitank missiles, which have proved instrumental in eroding the government’s key advantage over the lightly armed rebel force — its tanks and heavy armor.
    (Note, other weapons were delivered by the CIA starting in 2011.)
  • Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter: "We're sending on President [Barack] Obama's orders … Special Operations Forces personnel to Syria to support the fight against ISIL," Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told the US Congress on 1 December. The SOF force will help "garner valuable ground intelligence, further enhance our air campaign, and enable local forces that can regain and then hold territory occupied by ISIL", he said- Janes, and a video on Yahoo News. "Next, in full coordination with the Government of Iraq, we're deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and to put even more pressure on ISIL," Carter said. "These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders." The force is in addition to the "less than 50" Special Operations forces Obama authorized in October to aid in the fight against ISIS in Syria, according to KSL.com
  • U.S. deploying new force to Iraq to boost fight against Islamic State, Reuters, December 1, 2015:
    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the deployment of such a force was not acceptable without Iraq's approval, raising questions over how closely Washington coordinated the plan with Baghdad. Powerful Shi'ite Muslim armed groups pledged to fight any new deployment of U.S. forces to the country.
  • Airstrike on SAA Saeqa military camp near Deir ez-Zor, December 6, 2015; on a separate page, + talk page. Responsibility disputed.
US forces setting up airbase in northeast Syria: Sources, Hurriyet daily news/AFP, Jan. 24, 2016. (Rmeilan airbase: US military does not confirm/contradictory info)
Vzgliad.ru-similarly contradictory account.

2016

  • Daraa rebels ordered to stop fighting Syria regime: report - NOW (Lebanon), January 20, 2016
    Al-Akhbar claimed that the foreign powers operating the MOC promised rebels renewed aid in return for them agreeing to change tracks and launch a major campaign against Nusra. “Each faction that joins the campaign will receive five tanks with full training for their crews as well as other incentives related to salaries and armament,” sources told the pro-Hezbollah daily.
    The rebel leaders present in the Amman meeting all agreed to the MOC’s new plan, except the Youth of Sunnah Brigade chief, who eventually consented following further guarantees of support. According to Al-Akhbar, the rebels were also promised training in a US-prepared base that will be staffed by military experts from Britain, Jordan and other Western states.
  • Defense Secretary Carter: Accelerate fight against ISIS, CNBC, Jan.22, 2016. 'Leading from behind' ground operation?
    We're looking for opportunities to do more, and there will be boots on the ground — I want to be clear about that — but it's a strategic question, whether you are enabling local forces to take and hold, rather than trying to substitute for them.
  • TASS relays Ash Carter interview to CNN, promising to 'liberate Mosul and Raqqa, to debunk the myth itself of the possibility of the existence of a state based on this ideology'
Carter explains to 101 airborne their revised mission
  • The United States Is Waging 2 Contradictory Wars in Syria - James Carden, The Nation, Jan 26, 2016
  • Syria rebels say get more missiles from Assad's enemies - Tom Perry, Reuters, February 13, 2016
    Facing one of the biggest defeats of the five-year-long war, rebels have been complaining that foreign states such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey have let them down by not providing them with more powerful weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles.
    Assad's enemies have been supplying vetted rebel groups with weapons via a Turkey-based operations center. Some of the vetted groups have received military training overseen by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The Syrian government says it aims to seal the border to cut rebel supply routes from Turkey.
  • Russia concerned over Soviet-type weapons delivery to Syrian opposition — foreign ministry - TASS, April 21, 2016
  • US airstrike on SAA in Deir ez-Zor, Sept. 17, 2016; on a separate page.
  • Plans to send heavier weapons to CIA-backed rebels in Syria stall amid White House skepticism - Washington Post, October 23, 2016
    One senior U.S. official said that it is time for a “ruthless” look at whether agency-supported fighters can still be considered moderate, and whether the program can accomplish anything beyond adding to the carnage in Syria.
    The CIA units are “not doing any better on the battlefield, they’re up against a more formidable adversary, and they’re increasingly dominated by extremists,” said the U.S. official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive operation. “What has this program become, and how will history record this effort?”
  • Army Special Forces soldiers killed in Jordan were working for the CIA - Washington Post, November 12, 2016
    The three Army Special Forces soldiers killed at a Jordanian military base this month were working for a CIA program to train moderate Syrian fighters when they were shot at a checkpoint under still-unclear circumstances.
    The soldiers were among roughly 2,000 U.S. troops working in Jordan while participating in the U.S.-led campaign fighting the Islamic State. Some of the troops have been assigned to mobile artillery units along the Jordanian border while others assist CIA-led training programs for Syrian opposition fighters.

Response to Russian airstrikes

  • "Obama weighs moving U.S. troops closer to front lines in Syria, Iraq", Washington Post, 26.10.2015
The debate over the proposed steps, which would for the first time position a limited number of Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria and put U.S. advisers closer to the firefights in Iraq, comes as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter presses the military to deliver new options for greater military involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
commented on by John McCain
  • "You either do it or you don't "-Trump (CNN).
  • "US Senator (Graham) attacks Defense Minister..." , for "not planning a war" -a Russian Insider titled video from CSpan
in fact, raises an important question, 'what does an average Syrian citizen want'(with respect to Asssad)--how do they know? --They seem to take the answer for granted.
Senator Graham: "is it smart to have Russians fight IS, and we stay out of the fight?" (Answer provided to him was not affirmative).
  • US brings aerial combat F-15C planes to a base in Turkey
  • US Special Forces Allegedly Start Training Rebels in Syria - Sputnik, 2015
    US military advisors are alleged to have started training so-called moderate rebels near the city of Salma in the Latakia province in what amounts to breaking a pledge not to put US boots on the ground in Syria, Lebanon's satellite television channel al-Mayadeen reported, citing an unnamed military source.
    "American officers began training Turkmen militants around Salma in the Latakia Province," the media outlet noted, adding that the mission was previously carried out in Turkey.

Weapon deliveries

Simplified packing list for December 2015 arms shipment
Some of the Yugoslav ammunition is from very old stock from the 1940s or 1950s. (More here)
Brand new BM 21 Grad rockets from VMZ in Bulgaria used by FSA 1st and 13th brigades and by al-Nusra Front
  • Czech government to send more arms aid to Iraq and Jordan - Prague Daily monitor, January 26, 2016
  • US arms shipment to Syrian rebels detailed - Jeremy Binnie, Neil Gibson, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, April 8, 2016
    The FBO has released two solicitations in recent months looking for shipping companies to transport explosive material from Eastern Europe to the Jordanian port of Aqaba on behalf of the US Navy's Military Sealift Command.
    Released on 3 November 2015, the first solicitation sought a contractor to ship 81 containers of cargo that included explosive material from Constanta in Romania to Aqaba.
    The solicitation was subsequently updated with a detailed packing list that showed the cargo had a total weight of 994 tonnes, a little under half of which was to be unloaded at Agalar, a military pier near the Turkish town of Tasucu, the other half at Aqaba.
    The cargo listed in the document included AK-47 rifles, PKM general-purpose machine guns, DShK heavy machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers, and 9K111M Faktoria anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) systems. The Faktoria is an improved version of the 9K111 Fagot ATGW, the primary difference being that its missile has a tandem warhead for defeating explosive reactive armour (ERA) fitted to some tanks.
  • Syria: NATO Sends New GRADS to Foreign Terrorists in Idlib - Miri Wood, Syria News, September 29, 2016
    It is clear that those GRADs in Idlib are brand new, directly from the factory. No old Warsaw stockpiles stuff anymore. This pristine gift, this gift to slaughter Syrian soldiers defending their homeland within its borders, this gift to further destroy Syrian infrastructure, this gift to massacre more Syrians, comes from Bulgaria, specifically from Vazovski Masbinostroitelni Zavodi (VMZ), “the biggest enterprise of the military and industrial complex in Bulgaria.”
  • IS conflict: How is it getting hold of weapons from the West? - Gordon Corera, BBC News, November 21, 2016
    Ammo paid by US/Saudi for Syrian rebels ends up with ISIS (video)
  • Aleppo Starts Uncovering Washington’s Evil Designs, Jean Périer, New Eastern Outlook, December 16, 2016
    In July, the report presented by the Balkan Network for Investigative Journalism» (BIRN) and the Project for the Investigation of Corruption and Organized Crime» (OCCRP) stated that thousands of units of small arms and ammunition were smuggled from the Balkans to the Persian Gulf and the states bordering Syria. Arms export data, UN reports, plane tracking, and weapons contracts examined during a year-long investigation reveal how the munitions were sent east from Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Slovakia, Serbia and Romania. .Arms dealers in eastern Europe procured assets from their own countries and brokered the sale of ammunition from Ukraine and Belarus, even attempting to secure Soviet-made anti-tank systems bought from the UK. Robert Stephen Ford, the US ambassador to Syria in the period from 2011 to 2014, told BIRN and OCCRP, that trade is coordinated by the US Central Intelligence Agency, Turkey’s MIT and Gulf monarchies through the centers in Jordan and Turkey. [...]
    Over the last five years, Ukraine alone has sold nearly 615 thousand units of small arms to Syria. But it’s curious that its officials customers are not some third world countries, but large Western companies like Hire & Fire, IZH Impex Inc, Waffen Schumacher GmbH, BVS, spol. Sro – all buying old Soviet weapons en masse. In 2012 alone the American Hire & Fire made an acquisition of 90 thousand Soviet rifles. That’s almost enough to arm four divisions! And in just one year!
  • Exclusive: CIA-backed aid for Syrian rebels frozen after Islamist attack - sources - REUTERS, February 21, 2017
    The halt in assistance, which has included salaries, training, ammunition and in some cases guided anti-tank missiles, is a response to jihadist attacks and has nothing to do with U.S. President Donald Trump replacing Barack Obama in January, two U.S. officials familiar with the CIA-led program said.
    The support funneled to vetted FSA factions has included contributions from Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia - states that have opposed Assad. It is one of several foreign aid channels to rebels. Others still function.
    Reuters confirmed the freeze with officials from five of the FSA groups that have been recipients of financial and military support from the so-called "MOM operations room". It was also confirmed by two other senior FSA figures briefed on the matter.
    They spoke on condition of anonymity given the covert nature of the CIA-backed program and the sensitivity of the subject.
  • The Death Of A US Contractor Has Exposed America’s Failures In Syria - Aram Roston, BuzzFeed News, March 29, 2017
    But guided anti-tank missiles have been hard to come by in recent years — the wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have depleted the stockpiles. So Purple Shovel and Regulus, in a bizarre move for a US deal, were buying the Konkurs from the sanctioned nation of Belarus, which had been under European Union arms embargo and is often called “Europe’s last dictatorship.” It’s considered a rogue state, dealing with Syria, Iran, and North Korea. BuzzFeed News has previously revealed that SOCOM was aware the missiles were being bought from Belarus.
    He pushed for extreme secrecy. “I need no loose lips,” he wrote. “It is VERY VERY important the 3 guys do not mention to anyone Tuesday through Friday in Bulgaria that they were in Belarus.”
  • Tracing Bulgarian Arms Shipments to Syrian Islamists - Diana Mikhailova, via South Front, April 25, 2017
    It’s April 6, 2017. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Denmark-flagged Marianne Danica cargo ship has arrived in the biggest seaport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The ship had left Burgas ten days earlier (March 28) loaded with tons of weapons, a fact confirmed by Marinetraffic.com satellite tracking data. The ship was declared as carrying a Hazard A (Major) dangerous cargo, which in accordance with the International Cargo Classification system denotes weapons and explosives. The dangerous cargo is unloaded within 8 hours of the ship arriving in Jeddah, and the ship sets return course to Burgas. The Bulgarian weapons shipments are not meant for Saudi Arabia which could not use it in any event, as its military uses only Western weapons.
    In December 2016, Trud reporters discovered Bulgarian weapons manufactured at VMZ-Sopot, in 9 An-Nusra jihadists’ storage facilities in eastern Aleppo in Syria. An-Nusra is considered a terrorist group due to its ties with Al-Qaeda. In spite on the ban on exporting weapons due to the war in Syria, two million shells and 4 thousand Grad rockets have made their way from Bulgaria to the jihadists in Aleppo, as demonstrated by our investigation in Syria.
    The boxes in markings in the Bulgarian language, which indicate Bulgaria was the country of origin, contain 122mm Grad rockets.

Timber Sycamore program

  • U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels - Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, January 23, 2016 (mirror)
    When Mr. Obama signed off on arming the rebels in the spring of 2013, it was partly to try to gain control of the apparent free-for-all in the region. The Qataris and the Saudis had been funneling weapons into Syria for more than a year. The Qataris had even smuggled in shipments of Chinese-made FN-6 shoulder-fired missiles over the border from Turkey.
    The Saudi efforts were led by the flamboyant Prince Bandar bin Sultan, at the time the intelligence chief, who directed Saudi spies to buy thousands of AK-47s and millions of rounds of ammunition in Eastern Europe for the Syrian rebels. The C.I.A. helped arrange some of the arms purchases for the Saudis, including a large deal in Croatia in 2012.
    By the summer of 2012, a freewheeling feel had taken hold along Turkey’s border with Syria as the gulf nations funneled cash and weapons to rebel groups — even some that American officials were concerned had ties to radical groups like Al Qaeda.
    The C.I.A. was mostly on the sidelines during this period, authorized by the White House under the Timber Sycamore training program to deliver nonlethal aid to the rebels but not weapons. In late 2012, according to two former senior American officials, David H. Petraeus, then the C.I.A. director, delivered a stern lecture to intelligence officials of several gulf nations at a meeting near the Dead Sea in Jordan. He chastised them for sending arms into Syria without coordinating with one another or with C.I.A. officers in Jordan and Turkey.
    Months later, Mr. Obama gave his approval for the C.I.A. to begin directly arming and training the rebels from a base in Jordan, amending the Timber Sycamore program to allow lethal assistance. Under the new arrangement, the C.I.A. took the lead in training, while Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, the General Intelligence Directorate, provided money and weapons, including TOW anti-tank missiles.
    The Qataris have also helped finance the training and allowed a Qatari base to be used as an additional training location. But American officials said Saudi Arabia was by far the largest contributor to the operation.
  • Investigation Exposes How Saudi Arabia has Been Tasking and Directly Funding CIA Black Ops - Andrew Emett, The Free Thought Project, January 24, 2016
    After decades of accepting bribes from the Saudi government, the CIA is currently funneling guns and money to Syrian rebels and terrorists.
  • Operation „Timber Sycamore“: Wie die USA islamistische Aufständische in Syrien unterstützen - RT, January 25, 2016
  • Visas for Al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked the World - Sputnik, Jan 26, 2016
    Under the "Timber Sycamore" program the Saudis provide funding and purchase weapons for Syrian rebels, while the CIA trains them in secret camps in Jordan.
  • Washington’s Secret War in Syria Uncovered - Vladimir Odintsov, New Eastern Outlook, February 1, 2016
    As for the war in Syria, the CIA and Saudi Arabia back in 2013 agreed to conduct a joint operation under the codename: Timber Sycamore, the prime goal of which was the toppling of the legitimately elected Syrian president. Under this agreement, the Saudis have been providing arms and resources, while the CIA trained “insurgents” before deploying to the battlefield. The newspaper names other “sponsors” of the CIA campaign: Turkey, Jordan and Qatar. Although the exact amount of the “contribution” of each of the states to the secret operation in Syria remains unknown, it is mentioned that Saudi Arabia has been one of the main sponsors, providing billions of dollars.
  • US Special Forces sabotage White House policy gone disastrously wrong with covert ops in Syria - Jack Murphy, SOFREP, September 14, 2016
    “Nobody believes in it. You’re like, ‘Fuck this,’” a former Green Beret says of America’s covert and clandestine programs to train and arm Syrian militias. “Everyone on the ground knows they are jihadis. No one on the ground believes in this mission or this effort, and they know they are just training the next generation of jihadis, so they are sabotaging it by saying, ‘Fuck it, who cares?’”
    “I don’t want to be responsible for Nusra guys saying they were trained by Americans,” the Green Beret added. A second Special Forces soldier commented that one Syrian militia they had trained recently crossed the border from Jordan on what had been pitched as a large-scale shaping operation that would change the course of the war. Watching the battle on a monitor while a drone flew overhead, “We literally watched them, with 30 guys in their force, run away from three or four ISIS guys.”

Sources

  • James Stavridis, "8 steps to ...", Time, 18.11.2015
  • Media Maskirovka: Russia and the Free Syrian Army - Aron Lund, November 8, 2015
    The failure to produce an official FSA leadership does not mean that there are no material structures connecting these segments of the insurgency. Thousands of rebel fighters have by now been vetted, trained, and approved for material support via two Military Operations Centers, which feed the insurgency from across the Turkish and Jordanian borders. The one in Turkey is colloquially known as the MOM, for Müşterek Operasyon Merkezi, while its Jordanian counterpart is called the MOC, after its English initials.
    Apart from Turkey and Jordan, these centers gather representatives of the United States, Saudi Arabia, France, and a bunch of other governments. Their role is to coordinate and supervise the flow of arms and ammunition to a select number of rebel groups. Foreign intelligence services, chief among them the CIA, collaborate through these centers to pick which groups should be eligible for support. They will not receive a stamp of approval until their members have been vetted for suspicious contacts, declared that they will stay away from alliances with al-Qaeda, and showed some interest in a negotiated solution to the conflict. The groups involved enjoy different levels of trust and approval, but many also receive “unofficial” support on the side from, for example, Turkey, Qatar, or Saudi Arabia, or various private funders.
    So far, this arrangement has been accepted by something like a hundred rebel factions all in all, although a head count is complicated by the fact that they are often folded into overlapping regional umbrellas. While each faction is typically quite small and few of them enjoy national name recognition, they collectively make up a fairly significant segment of the armed opposition. In southern Syria, MOC-funded groups seem to account for a majority of the insurgency. The northern MOM-backed factions enjoy less influence than their southern counterparts, but they are still a considerable force around Aleppo, and some have used U.S.-manufactured missiles to establish themselves in an important niche role as anti-tank units in the Idleb-Hama region.
    These groups are what the U.S. government typically refers to when it talks about “the FSA” and there is indeed a very considerable overlap between MOM/MOC-backed factions and factions that self-designate as “FSA.” This crude definition (MOM + MOC = FSA) is also increasingly used by the Syrian exile opposition, the rebels themselves, and others who follow this conflict.
The article also discusses Russian interaction with FSA, from the American perspective. According to Russian sources (TASS, Russian): The Russian army supports some forces of the "Free Syrian Army", which conduct offensive operations against the "Islamic State" , told the press secretary of the president of Russia, Dmitry Peskov. Some 5000 fighters are said to be involved ('and numbers growing'), with Russia providing some air support, supplies and ammunition. Exact groups involved were not specified. This appears to be an attempt to create their own 'moderate opposition' version and counteract US efforts, not exactly a diplomacy or 'elite level trolling'. (As somebody said, opposition is moderate as far as it believed to be controlled; thus US controlled opposition does not have to be the same as Russia -controlled opposition, despite making an even messier situation).
One of the photos is at least 2 weeks old. Similarly themed publication show an arsenal of weapons, communication equipment (Thuraya satellite communication, a drone, etc), and a video fragment, Daily Mail, July 28, 2016.

Supporting Kurds

Guerrilla attacks and targeted assassinations

Several sources say the training given to Syrian rebels consisted of guerrilla attacks and targeted assassinations. I wonder what rebel group would use or need this kind of tactics. Actually these are the terror tactics used by Al-Nusra Front.

  • Syrian colonel plots guerrilla attacks against Assad regime - Justin Vela, The Independent, October 9, 2011
    The most senior officer to defect from Syria's armed forces is plotting a series of guerrilla attacks and targeted assassinations from self-imposed exile in Turkey in an attempt to topple the regime.
  • Leaked Memo Says U.S. Special Operation Forces in Syria Since - Bryant Jordan. Military.com, March 09, 2012
    U.S. Special Operation Forces reportedly have been in Syria since December training groups to conduct guerrilla attacks and assassinations to bring down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a leaked Stratfor memo published by WikiLeaks.
  • Syria rebels vow to adopt guerrilla tactics as Assad forces seize two thirds of east Aleppo - Raf Sanchez, The Telegraph, December 3, 2016
    Faced with almost certain defeat in the city of Aleppo, Syrian rebel groups have promised to continue their war by adopting the guerrilla tactics of assassinations, armed raids and roadside bombs.
    “We’ll use all the forms of resistance: guerrilla fighting, assassinations, explosions. We won’t rule out any form of fighting against the regime.”

Ukraine

Nato has been giving similar training to Ukrainian reconnaissance and sabotage groups.

Weapon Drops

Despite cancelling their ‘rebel’ training program, the US has now airdropped 50 tons of ammunition for smalls arms, along with grenades, into the ISIS hotbed of Northern Syria.
  • Fox News, October 12 reports the drop included (only?) ammunition for personal rifles, and "originally was intended for the U.S. military's "train and equip" mission, the official said. But that program was canceled last week." As for where:
The 50 tons of supplies were airdropped into Al-Hasakah province, home to Syrian Kurds, Arabs and a minority Assyrian community. ... "All the pallets reached friendly forces," the official said, adding that the drop "looked similar to what we did in Kobani."

According to Van Linge's Situation in Syria map, ISIS has minimal presence in Hasakah (northeast corner), but there are some government-held areas and even areas of joint Kurdish-government/loyalist control (like in the capitol, and Qamishli on the border). Otherwise it's held by Kurdish YPG militias, not in cooperation with FSA as is the case in Kobane. This is interesting given the Kobane precedent, where weapons were delivered to FSA and not Kurds, to avoid rifling Turkey (mentioned in above report). The likely recipients this time will be YPG, depending on where, either to push ISIS south or to attack the last government-held areas.

Moslem said “These weapons have been given not only to us but also to the Arab groups we act together. ... PYD co-chair lastly stated that operations against Raqqa and Jarablus are on the table and that they are working only for the timing of the operations at the moment. He added that Russia would be positive about the operation.

Both mentioned cities are well to the west, adjascent to areas of joint PYD-FSA control, so the pattern is not much different. Still, Turkish Prime Minister Davutoğlu's threatened that “we could intervene (against) the PYD”, to which Moslem responded they would defend themselves if attacked by Turkey, but had no plans to attack them or transfer weapons to the PKK.

A day later, the YPG spokesperson Redur Xalil released a statement saying that Saleh Moslem doesn't speak for the YPG and hasn't detail knowledge of military operations. The US, he says, "knows to who they sent weapons", likely referring to US statements insisting that "Arab groups" had received the ammo. Curiously on the same day, a new coalition of YPG and some regional Arab groups was announced and named Syrian Democratic Forces. In their founding declaration they thanked the US-led coalition for their support.

  • Russian volunteer Timur, in Syria with Kurds, and a regular contributor to Rusvesna, describes NATO sponsored shipments of Soviet design weapons, produced under license in Bulgaria and smuggled to (all) anti-government forces via Turkey rusvesna, 26.10.15. He refers to Kurdish intelligence sources and also says that recently Syrian government forces were capturing suspiciously new Soviet design weapons from the rebels. He indicates that FSA as well as extremists are receiving weapons (but does not make much distinction between those anyway).

Striking Syrian forces

Moved to US military action against Syria

US needs a new strategy?

  • Henry Kissinger, A Path Out of the Middle East Collapse, WSJ , 16.10.15
With Russia in Syria, a geopolitical structure that lasted four decades is in shambles. The U.S. needs a new strategy and priorities.
The destruction of ISIS is more urgent than the overthrow of Bashar Assad
it is preferable for ISIS-held territory to be reconquered either by moderate Sunni forces or outside powers than by Iranian jihadist or imperial forces.
For Russia, limiting its military role to the anti-ISIS campaign may avoid a return to Cold War conditions with the U.S.
  • Stephen Cohen: 'There is no Alternative' to Putin's Strategy in Syria' sputniknews.com, 17.10.15.
US has three options. The first one is to do what American hawks, including Senator John McCain, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and some other Republicans are advocating. They essentially urge to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria and shoot down Russian planes if they violate it. The second option is to stand aside and see what Putin could accomplish with his allies. The third one, according to the Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, is to join Russia. Cohen sees the third option as the best choice for the Obama administration

Western Coalition

France and its allies have agreed on the need for a "precise timetable" for the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as they met ahead of international talks, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said -Daily Mail, 28.10.2015 --Resup (talk) 16:46, 28 October 2015 (UTC)

ACLOS and Related

  • Robert Ford, Weapons Inspector: The Rebellion Begins in Hama, Part 2 Adam Larson (Caustic Logic) Monitor on Massacre Marketing, July 26, 2015. Detailed relation of US. ambassador Robert Ford, arrived just ahead of the first protests, met with ... activists, egged them on, emphatically denied or glossed over their first militant victories (of great barbarity, by the way...)
Exactly where Ford needs a certain effect, he conjures the right words, even when those words are the most opposite of true. As soon as he saw clear evidence in the July 31 attacks that the violent insurrection in Hama was really underway, he needed all the cover he could find to help the seeds take root. So as soon as there were armed gangs running streets and bridges in Hama, he became more vocal than ever about this being a regime lie, by definition.

See also

Interaction with Russia

  • Proposed document "Terms of Reference for the Joint Implementation Group' Washington Post, and an op-ed on the issue, 13 July, 2016
  • "The Case for (Finally) Bombing Assad" (op-ed), NY Times, Aug. 3, 2016
    Highly recommended by John McCain

Analysis