Saturday, 22 July 2017

CONFIRMED: CIA support for anti-Assad forces in Syria are ending

US special operations chief confirms end of CIA support for anti-Assad forces in Syria

US special operations chief confirms end of CIA support for anti-Assad forces in Syria
© Alaa Faqir / Reuters

20 July, 2017

A US army general has confirmed that Washington has decided to put an end to a CIA scheme to equip and train certain rebel groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. He insisted the policy shift had nothing to do with improving relations with Russia.

US Army General Raymond Thomas, head of the Special Operations Command, said the decision was "based on assessment of the program."

"At least from what I know about that program and the decision to end it, (it was) absolutely not a sop to the Russians," Thomas said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Friday.

Unnamed government sources told various media outlets last week that the decision to end the program had been partly due to the Trump administration wanting a better relationship with Russia.

The decision to terminate the program was reportedly taken by Trump in consultation with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster ahead of his meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg earlier this month.

But the end of the CIA's Timber Sycamore strategy was not a precondition for the ceasefire deal reached between Putin and Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit, the US officials insisted.

The covert CIA program began arming and training the so-called moderate Syrian opposition forces in 2013.

Two US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity with Reuters, pointed out that the covert CIA tactic had produced little success.

Russia has always warned against arming the so-called moderate opposition groups in Syria, underlining that weapons supplied to them often fall into the hands of jihadist groups.

The so-called moderate opposition has effectively ceased to exist in Syria, hijacked by armed extremists, Russia's former UN ambassadortold the General Assembly in December last year.

Having pointed to the scale of destruction in Syria, Vitaly Churkin, now late, said it was "a result of the mindless foreign policy of several international and regional players who once decided to change the leadership in Damascus and to redraw drastically the political, ethnic, confessional, and economic map of the region."

But despite having "extensive financial, logistical, and propaganda support" from the outside, "the elusive concept of 'moderate Syrian opposition' has effectively failed," the Russian diplomat then said.

White House Admits Defeat in Syria
By Finian Cunningham

July 21, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - 

President Trump's announcement this week to end the CIA's covert arming of militants in Syria is an admission of defeat. The US has lost its six-year war for regime change in the Arab country. It's time to wrap it up.

It's not over yet, of course. It remains to be seen if Trump's decision can in fact be implemented. Can the CIA be reined in to obey orders? Will the US be able to stop regional client regimes, like Saudi Arabia, from stepping up their covert supply of American weapons to the militants in Syria?

Also, Trump's decision does not mean the US and its allies will withdraw ground and air forces from Syria, where they are illegally operating in violation of international law.

Nevertheless, the American president's declared ending of the CIA's role in fueling the insurgency in Syria should be seen as a welcome move. It is the right thing to do, and a brave one also because of the anti-Russia flak he is bound to receive for taking the decision. It would have been politically expedient for Trump to have not pulled the plug on the CIA in Syria. But by doing so, he is bound to compound the anti-Russia hysteria gripping Washington and large sections of the media accusing him of being a "Kremlin stooge".

Any rational person would have to agree that the best way to end the violence in Syria is for foreign countries to halt pouring weapons into the country. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has long maintained this logical position: if nations want Syria's bloodshed to stop, as they claim, then they should stop supplying arms and cut out sponsoring militant groups.

By its own admission, the US has been funneling weapons into Syria since at least 2013, according to media reports, and probably before that date right back to the beginning of the war in March 2011. Not only the US but its NATO partners, Britain, France and Turkey, as well as regional allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel. This is an admission of a criminal conspiracy to destabilize a sovereign country by supporting illegally armed anti-government militant groups. It matters little whether these groups are arbitrarily designated "moderate rebels". They are illegally armed.

With a Syrian death toll of up to 400,000 over six years of war, millions of refugees and a culturally rich country driven to the brink of destruction, it is blindingly obvious that Trump made the right call to at least partially reduce the flow of weapons, by ending the CIA program. It is well past time to bring the US-led criminal assault on Syria to an end.

Trump's call was also a brave one because the US media immediately and predictably depicted the move as a "concession to Russia". With the US president already being assailed with endless accusations of "colluding" with Russia in winning the election to the White House last year, his decision to leash the dogs of war in Syria this week only lends more grist to the Russophobia rumor mill.

The Washington Post headlined the news with: "Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow".

Several other US media outlets followed suit, making snide comments that the move "will please the Kremlin" and that Trump was "appeasing Putin" by closing down the CIA covert operations in Syria.

The American corporate media persist with the myth that the CIA has been backing "moderate rebels". When in reality, the "moderate rebels" and the "terrorist jihadists" are one and the same motley army of mercenaries. 

Mercenaries who have barbarized the Syrian people with sickening massacres, under the tutelage of the CIA and other foreign military services.

With contorted logic, US media spin that Trump's shuttering of the CIA program to train "moderate rebels" in Syria may now strengthen the hand of "extremists".
The president is accused of capitulating to Putin on Syria. There are mutterings in the US media suggesting that this is what Trump talked about with Putin during their meetings in Hamburg at the G20 summit earlier this month. Especially, during the so-called "secret meeting" in front of 18 other heads of state while at dinner.

What the incorrigible lying US media don't get is that American involvement in Syria has been a criminal enterprise from the get-go, constituting a monumental crime against peace and humanity. The US-sponsored terrorism in Syria has gone on for far too long. No amount of sanitizing by the media can alter that brutal truth.

It was Russia's principled decision at the end of 2015 to intervene in Syria, in accordance with international law, that began to bring the criminal conspiracy to an end. Two years on, the Syrian state is beginning to get the upper-hand over the foreign-backed militant groups that have ravaged the country. Russia's military support has been vital to that impending victory.

"The shuttering of the [CIA] program is also an acknowledgment of Washington's limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power," noted the Washington Post.

In other words, begrudgingly, the US war for regime change in Syria is being acknowledged as a defeat. And it is Russia that ensured that defeat.
The Washington Post quotes one US official as saying more openly: "It is a momentous decision. Putin won in Syria."

Rather than coming clean and admitting that the US has been engaged in a sordid, criminal war on Syria which it has finally lost, the American media are now spinning Trump's ending of CIA operations as a "concession" to Russia.

For all his flaws, and there are many, at least Donald Trump knows when to admit that the US war in Syria is a loser. And despite the carping Russophobia trying to box him in, Trump appears ready to take the right decision to bring this criminal American war to an end.

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

This article was first published by Sputnik -

From Newsweek


21 July, 2017

The head of Special Forces said Friday that Russia had established a more credible foothold than the U.S. in Syria, and that Moscow could use this influence to essentially expel his forces.

Addressing a security conference at the Aspen Institute, Special Operations Command chief Army General Raymond Thomas said that, while counterterrorism remained a priority for his forces, international law could prevent the U.S. from maintaining a long-term presence in Syria, where its intervention has been declared illegal by the  government. Russia is also involved in the fight against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and other jihadists in Syria, but entered at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, something that Thomas said could allow Moscow to make a solid case for the U.S.'s departure.

Here's the conundrum: We are operating in the sovereign country of Syria. The Russians, their stalwarts, their backstoppers have already uninvited the Turks from Syria. We're a bad day away from the Russians saying, 'Why are you still in Syria, U.S.?,'" Thomas said.

"If the Russians play that card, we could want to stay and have no ability to do it," he added.

RTX30GQ1Russian soldiers, on armored vehicles, patrol a street in Aleppo, Syria, February 2017. The Syrian military's successful recapture of Aleppo has widely been considered a turning point in the war and demonstrated how Russia's support was crucial to Assad's efforts to reestablish control over areas lost to rebels and jihadists.OMAR SANADIKI/REUTERS

The U.S. and Russia are both battling ISIS in Syria, but they back different factions that hold opposing views on Syria's political future. The U.S. backs the Syrian Democratic Forces, which Thomas said Special Forces helped name in order to distance themselves from the Kurdish nationalist People's Protection Units (YPG). Thomas also confirmed that the CIA has  cut ties with other Syrian rebel groups that have attempted to overthrow Assad since 2011. Russia and Iran support the Syrian military and its allies, which reject the national aspirations of Kurdish groups, the ultraconservative Sunni Muslim ideology of jihadists and calls for political upheaval by the opposition.

Assad, along with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, has continually demanded that the U.S. and other countries opposed to the Syrian government respect the country's national sovereignty. While President Donald Trump appeared to adhere to this view more so than his predecessor, he took a more aggressive approach in April when he ordered an unprecedented attack on a Syrian air force base, claiming it was the origins of chemical weapons strike on civilians days prior. Assad and Putin have denied these allegations, and the legality of the strike has come into question among experts.
RTS193DKA U.S army soldier holds a gun as he stands guard next to an armored vehicle as Brett McGurk, U.S. envoy to the coalition against Islamic State militant group (ISIS), visits the town of Tabqa, Syria June 29, 2017. The U.S. is also involved in the fight against ISIS, but backs a different faction from Russia not associated with the Syrian government.RODI SAID/REUTERS

The U.S. argues that it does not intend to target pro-government forces, but has done so on a number of occasions, arguing self-defense of its unilaterally declared "deconfliction zone." A series of attacks on fighters supportive of Assad in the country's south and the shooting down of Syrian military jet in the north have been met with fury by Russia, which went as far as to say last month it would begin targeting U.S-led coalition aircraft. Thomas alluded to this and other incidents between pro-government and U.S.-backed forces, calling them "close calls" that could ultimately lead to Russia questioning the U.S.'s presence in Syria once ISIS is defeated.

The two powers have pursued an uneasy rapprochement in recent weeks and have negotiated a cease-fire between the military and rebels in the country's southwest. Tensions remains, however, as the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syria's armed forces dislodge ISIS from territory in and around its de facto capital of Raqqa, establishing their own presence along the way.

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