Posts Tagged ‘syria’

CNN just a couple of months ago confirmed that contractors hired by the Pentagon were in fact training the terrorists in the use of chemical weapons.

And now we have a statement by a United Nations Independent Commission, which has confirmed unequivocally — and it was revealed on the same day — that the terrorists who are backed by the United States and its allies, they are in possession of deadly sarin nerve gas, which they are using against the civilian population.”

Pentagon Contractors trained Syrian Terrorists to use Chemical Weapons http://real-agenda.com/2013/05/09/pen…

Press TV has conducted an interview with Michael Chossudovsky, Center for Research on Globalization, Montreal about the statement made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Syria is able to face Israel. http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/05/…

Free Syrian Army rebels defect to Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra – The well-resourced organisation, which is linked to al-Qaida, is luring many anti-Assad fighters awayhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/…

It’s Dishonest to Talk about Benghazi Without Talking About the Syrian War http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/0…

U.S. ex-soldier charged with using RPG for al Qaeda grouphttp://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/28/jus…

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June 15th, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.(Reuters / Yuri Gripas)U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.(Reuters / Yuri Gripas)

 

The use of chemical weapons by Damascus and Hezbollah involvement in Syria risks derailing a political settlement to the conflict, John Kerry warned. His comments follow reports the CIA is preparing to funnel arms to rebel forces via Jordan and Turkey.

The US State Department issued a statement on Saturday condemning the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for its lack of commitment to a negotiated settlement after Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with his Iraqi counterpart the previous day.

“The secretary reaffirmed that the United States continues to work aggressively for a political solution with the goal of a second Geneva meeting, but that the use of chemical weapons and increasing involvement of Hezbollah demonstrates the regime’s lack of commitment to negotiations and threatens to put a political settlement out of reach,” the department said.

The statement further noted it’s appreciation for Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who issued a June 11 statement “discouraging Iraqis from joining the fight in Syria.”

Kerry, who expressed concern over the “increasingly sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict on both sides,”asked Zebari to take “every possible measure to help end the military resupply of the Assad regime and thereby increase the pressure that will be necessary to advance a political solution.”

On Thursday, the Obama Administration said it would reverse US policy of not providing lethal aid to rebel fighters after claiming the Syrian government had crossed a red line by allegedly deploying chemical weapons against opposition forces on four separate occasions.

Syrian rebels take position in a house during clashes with regime froces in the old city of Aleppo.(AFP Photo / Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)Syrian rebels take position in a house during clashes with regime froces in the old city of Aleppo.(AFP Photo / Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov characterized the evidence provided by the United States regarding the use of chemical weapons by Damascus as “unconvincing.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also warned the US against sending rebel factions in Syria the“wrong signals” with promises of increased military aid, a move which would shift their focus on“escalating the fight instead of starting a dialogue.”

However, the US said the arms shipments would begin within a matter of weeks, with the CIA acting as the middleman between Washington and the opposition’s Supreme Military Council.

CIA to arm rebels via Jordan, Turkey?

On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that clandestine bases in Jordan and Turkey would serve as conduits for arms being delivered to the rebel fighters amidst fears American armaments would fall into the hands of Syria’s many Islamist factions.

Despite concerns expressed by US intelligence officials last year, Benjamin Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said on Friday the US is capable of delivering arms “not only into the country,”Rhodes said, but “into the right hands.”

“The Syrian puzzle has come into sharper focus in the past year, especially the makeup of various anti-regime groups,” one US official familiar with CIA assessments of the conflict told the Post on condition of anonymity. “And while the opposition remains far from monolithic, its military structures and coordination processes have improved.”

Such reassurances have had little impact on the Obama administrations reticence towards providing antitank or antiaircraft weapons to rebel groups, as the initial deliveries will include light arms and other munitions.

Syrian rebels of the Suqur Ali bin Aba Talib brigade prepare to launch a rocket from the roof of a building during ongoing clashes with regime forces.(AFP Photo / Zac Baillie) Syrian rebels of the Suqur Ali bin Aba Talib brigade prepare to launch a rocket from the roof of a building during ongoing clashes with regime forces.(AFP Photo / Zac Baillie)

US military leaders have previously stated that tracking heavy weaponry delivered to rebel groups such as MANPADs — man-portable air-defense systems – remained unreliable.

Obama’s decision to approve CIA weapons shipments could also signal green light to regional allies like Qatar and Saudi Arabia to provide such heavy weaponry despite concerns such armaments could be used against civilian aviation targets by terrorist groups.

US diplomats have also intonated that Washington might impose a no-fly zone “to help Assad’s opponents.”

No-fly zone looming?

The Pentagon on Saturday confirmed suspicions that F-16 fighter jets and Patriot anti-missile systems which were deployed to Jordan as part of the joint 12-day Eager Lion exercise would remain in the country once the annual training event concluded.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “has approved a request from the Kingdom of Jordan for a detachment of F-16s and Patriot Missiles to remain in Jordan following the conclusion of the Eager Lion Exercise next week,” Reuters cites Pentagon spokesman George Little as saying in a statement.

“All other US personnel assigned to Jordan for Eager Lion will depart at the conclusion of the exercise,”
 the statement continued.

Two patriot missile batteries.(AFP Photo / Jack Guez) Two patriot missile batteries.(AFP Photo / Jack Guez)

Lavrov said that any attempt to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria using the F-16s and missile batteries would be in clear violation of international law.

“There have been leaks from Western media regarding the serious consideration to create a no-fly zone over Syria through the deployment of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles and F-16 jets in Jordan,”
 Lavrov said.

“You don’t have to be a great expert to understand that this will violate international law,” Russia’s top diplomat continued.

Washington’s willingness for more direct engagement in the Syrian conflict comes ahead of the
Geneva II peace conference set for July.

syriakurd438

Hawks Desperate to Drum Up an Excuse for War

It is likely that Al Qaeda rebels – and not the Syrian government – carried out the chemical weapons attack which the hawks in Washington are trying to use as a reason to invade.

Haaretz reported on March 24th, “Jihadists, not Assad, apparently behind reported chemical attack in Syria“.

Te Syria Tribune released a video in December allegedly showing Syrian rebels killing rabbits with chemical weapons, and threatening to use them against supporters of the Syrian government. (It is impossible at this point to say whether this is genuine or propaganda).

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson – the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell under President George W. Bush – said yesterday that the Syrian chemical weapons could be a “Israeli false flag operation”.

Wilkerson said that he had been told by his sources in the intelligence community that evidence that Syria had used chemical weapons was “really flaky” and that President Barack Obama should think twice before intervening.

“This could have been an Israeli false flag operation,” he said. “You’ve got basically a geo-strategically, geo-political — if you will — inept regime in Tel Aviv right now.”

Indeed, Neoconservatives planned regime change in Syria – and throughout the Middle East and North Africa – 20 years ago.

And carrying out acts of violence and blaming it on the Syrian government as an excuse for regime change – i.e. false flag terror – was discussed over 50 years ago by British and American leaders.

And the “rebels” in Syria that the U.S. has been supporting are Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, the New York Times s reported last week that virtually all of the rebel fighters are Al Qaeda terrorist,

But that doesn’t matter … war is sold just like toothpaste, and once there is a sufficient excuse for war – real or made up – we can march forward.

May 22nd, 2013

 “We have failed over and over again in our attempts to pull the strings of Middle Eastern politics.”

In an extremely disappointing vote, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Tuesday voted 15-3 to authorize the president to—among other things—arm and train the rebels in Syria who are fighting the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

This bill is terrible, and should be rejected by the Senate.

Yet, even amid this committee vote, there were a few bright spots in the form of Sens. Chris Murphy, Tom Udall, and Rand Paul, who were the three who voted no. Their vote wasn’t just correct, but their assessment of the situation should be heeded by the Obama administration and the full Senate as both consider what should be done, if anything, in Syria.

Once we introduce weapons, we have zero control over them. Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, was correct when he said the United States “could turn over the weapons we’re talking about and next day they end up in the hands of al-Qaida.”

Yes, the legislation mandates that any groups who receive weapons are thoroughly investigated and vetted. But as long as groups are fighting together, they will exchange arms. And as long as groups need funding, they’ll be open to sell arms. Where those arms end up, no one really knows.

But as Udall noted, some of these groups are reportedly affiliated with al-Qaida. “It’s impossible to know who our friends are,” said Paul, adding that any of the rebels could turn their arms over to terrorist-affiliated groups.

Our next concern should focus on Syria’s neighbor to the East. We could end up killing the very Iraqi Army our troops died building and reignite the Iraqi Civil War.

Some of the so-called Syrian rebels are reportedly tied to Sunni insurgents from Iraq. Those same Sunni insurgents used terror attacks to try to kill Americans and destabilize the Iraqi government that was permitting us to operate there.

I helped train the Iraqi Army during my second tour in Iraq and still have contacts there. So, when I read a couple of months ago that violence had spilled over into the Iraqi border, and that nine Iraqi troops lost their lives, I called a colonel in the Iraqi Army to hear more about it.

When I asked about the Free Syrian Army, he replied: “What Army? You mean the terrorists?” That said it all in a nutshell. The Iraqi Army doesn’t consider them rebels or freedom fighters or anything of the sort. Their concern is that many of the anti-Assad forces are the same terrorists they’ve fought before and who still are targeting the Iraqi Army. Days after the attacks in Iraq by Syrian rebels, al-Qaida claimed responsibility.

It is astounding to me that Sen. John McCain of Arizona voiced strong support for arming the rebels. This is the same John McCain who said it was worth billions of dollars and thousands of American lives to get the Iraqi government and Army on its feet. Now, he’s for arming those who would seek to destroy it.

Moreover, there is no winning scenario when we get involved in other nations’ civil wars and proxy wars.

On this point, Sen. Murphy said it best: “We have failed over and over again in our attempts to pull the strings of Middle Eastern politics.”

It would be nice if this was a clean, simple conflict. But it isn’t. Sometimes the enemy of your enemy can also be your enemy.  Not only are there a wide array of groups involved, but the introduction of Iranian and Hezbollah forces combined with support from Russia, provide a strong center of gravity for Assad regime support, eliminating the possibility of UN action. The insurgents aren’t organized, and even with weapons, would have a difficult time conducting decisive combat operations in what looks like a stalemate.

If our view is that by arming rebels, the new Syrian government would be friendly to the US, then I would say that would happen anyway. A new Syrian government would need to reach out to the nations of the world for support—including the United States. Look no further than Egypt for proof. We didn’t arm anti-government forces there, and yet, Mohammed Morsi immediately assured us that Egypt’s treaties would remain in place and relations with the United States would remain normalized.

The Senate bill that passed committee is misguided and dangerous.  Thankfully, three brave Senators bucked the group-think and laid out a strong case for the bill’s defeat. In an era where nearly every single piece of legislation dies in the Senate, this one is worthy of that fate.

Posted March 20th, 2012

The former director of the security firm Blackwater aided the Libyan opposition and was subsequently sent to contact Syrian rebels in Turkey at the request of a U.S. Government committee, according to published Stratfor emails and reported by Al-Akhbar English.

Blackwater’s primary public contract is with the U.S. State Department for protective services in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Israel.

Jamie F. Smith, former director of Blackwater, is currently the chief executive of the security firm SCG International.

In an email sent to Stratfor on February 11, 2011, Smith praised the company’s intelligence gathering and said his “background is CIA and our company is comprised of former DOD [i.e. Department of Defense], CIA and former law enforcement personnel. We provide services for those same groups in the form of training, security and information collection.”

Smith became a major source for Stratfor by September as he and Stratfor vice president Fred Burton built a rapport. Smith provided intelligence (under the codename LY700) to Burton on developments in Libya— where  SCG International was contracted to protect Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) members and train Libyan rebel fighters after the implementation of the no-fly zone in March 2011.

Smith provided information on missing surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and allegedly “took part” in the killing of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in the town of Sirte.

Burton was impressed by Smith’s intel and reciprocated praise by writing, “Good skinny. This is what is defined as a credible source. Not some windbag Paki academic belching and passing gas.”

The last emails about Smith came on December 13, days before the Stratfor mail servers were reportedly hacked. In one Burton says:

“**Source and Dr. Walid Phares are getting air cover from Congresswoman [Sue] Myrick to engage Syrian opposition in Turkey (non-MB and non-Qatari) on a fact finding mission for Congress.

** The true mission is how they can help in regime change.

** Source intends to offer his services to help protect the opposition members, like he had underway in Libya.”

Walid Phares is a Lebanese-American citizen who is currently co-chair of Mitt Romney’s Middle East advisory group.

In another email from December 13— in which Stratfor is organizing intelligence on the Syrian opposition that Smith had requested— Burton reports that Smith “is meeting w/specific people described as key leaders.”

Burton is a former Deputy Chief of the Department of State’s counterterrorism division for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). The DSS assists the Department of Defense in following leads and doing forensic analysis of hard drives seized by the U.S. government in ongoing criminal investigations.

Stratfor provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations and government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

WikiLeaks has published 925 out of what they say is a cache of 5 million internal Stratfor emails (dated between July 2004 and December 2011) obtained by the hacker collective Anonymous around Christmas.

Army vet who fought alongside Al-Qaeda arrested by FBI

March 29, 2013

The father of U.S. Army veteran Eric Harroun, arrested on Tuesday night by the FBI for fighting alongside an Al-Qaeda group in Syria, says his son was working for the CIA.

As we previously reported, in January Harroun slipped into Syria to link up with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda group that killed U.S. troops in Iraq and is now the leading front line fighting force in Syria, commanding the other rebel groups. Despite being listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department back in December, 29 different US-backed Syrian opposition groups pledged their allegiance to the group.

Harroun was arrested by FBI agents at a hotel near Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia on charges of using a rocket propelled grenade launcher on behalf of an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria.

Harroun’s father Darryl Harroun told reporters yesterday his son was “very patriotic” and would never join up with Al-Qaeda, a somewhat deluded claim given that Harroun appears in numerous videos with al-Nusra terrorists in which he brags about helping them take down a military helicopter. Harroun also admitted to FBI agents that he had shot at least 10 people.

However, Harroun’s father let slip what probably represents the key to the entire story when he said, “I know he was doing some work for the CIA over there,” adding, “I know for a fact that he was passing information onto the CIA.”

The CIA’s involvement in aiding, training and equipping rebel insurgents in Syria is no secret. Last week, the New York Times reported how the CIA had worked with Turkey and other Arab governments in the region to oversee a, “secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.”

Harroun’s CIA connection and his role in fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra further confirms the fact that the agency is supporting and even steering the actions of radical terrorists in Syria who have carried out suicide bombings and other attacks targeting schools, universities, as well as engaging in numerous other atrocities such as chemical weapons attacks, torture and gruesome beheadings.

Rebels have also ransacked Christian churches, tortured Christians as part of sectarian reprisals, and have been caught on tape burning US flags, chanting anti-American slogans and singing the praises of Osama Bin Laden while glorifying the 9/11 attacks.

The fact that Harroun was arrested by FBI agents despite apparently working for the CIA most likely reflects on the inter-agency rivalry between the two organizations. Before 9/11, an FBI investigation into the Bin Laden family and other terrorists that if seen through may have prevented the attacks was stymied by the CIA itself.

Another American who fought alongside Al-Qaeda terrorists in both Libya and Syria, Matthew VanDyke, recently returned to the United States and gave lectures in Washington DC earlier this month. VanDyke admitted that he originally wanted to join the CIA but later became a self-described “freedom fighter”.

Harroun’s story underscores the hypocrisy of US foreign policy in Syria. While America and numerous other NATO countries are openly supporting Al-Qaeda extremists in Syria as part of an effort to impose regime change, as soon as those militants return home they are arrested as terrorists. Britain has also arrested numerous citizens on their return to the UK from Syria despite simultaneously pushing to arm some of the very same terrorists in Syria.

March 1, 2013

The long-term US funding of anti-government programs in Syria has raised questions about the types of groups being supported, and the benefits and arms supplied to militant groups; establishing political stability requires considered dialogue.

It appears that the US State Department under John Kerry will soon shift its focus to helping the rebels establish a full-fledged alternative government on Syrian territory and recognize it as the legal government of Syria. Such a move would legitimize the transfer of heavy weaponry and would allow the US to directly employ air strikes or Patriot anti-missile batteries against Assad’s forces.

Some would argue that these moves could help to marginalize the notable al-Qaeda presence among rebel forces. Pumping more arms and heavier weapons into Syria is unconscionable at this point, and continuing to do so will inevitably bolster the muscle and reach of jihadi and Salafist fighters. The argument that the US and its allies have only armed the “moderate” rebels is a deeply flawed one; weapons are in high demand by all rebel factions and there is little means to effectively prevent arms from gravitating toward hardcore Al-Qaeda fighters.

In his famous 1962 description of irregular warfare operations, US President John F. Kennedy alluded to “another type of warfare,” one that is “new in its intensity, ancient in its origin—war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of by combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him. It preys on unrest.”

After two harrowing years of division, senseless killing and civil war, the scared Syrian nation and its people are well acquainted with these unconventional methods of warfare denounced over 50 years ago.

Yet Western and Gulf states have proven their double standards by enabling radicals elsewhere – lest we forget the presence of Libyan military commander Abdulhakim Belhadj, former leader of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (officially designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department), who was sent to Syria to aid the Free Syrian Army on orders of the entity formerly known as the Libyan National Transition Council (NTC). The track record of allied Western and Gulf states shows that they are more interested in enabling terrorism for their own purposes rather than preventing it.

Since the eruption of violence in March 2011, Syria has endured targeted assassination campaigns, ceaseless suicide bombings and shelling, and massacres where infants have had their throats slit to the spine – the time has come for the opposition to engage the Assad government in dialogue and finally bring about a ceasefire and the total cessation of violence and insurgency.

From the reports of third-party sniper-fire targeting both protesters and security personnel in the southern city of Daraa at the very onset of the conflict, to the horrendous attacks on the students of Aleppo University in January 2013 – those who have critically monitored the situation from the beginning are under no illusions – the influx of armament and mercenary elements from abroad into Syria has brought the situation to where it is today. Western capitals have provided logistics, coordination, political support, and non-lethal aid, Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have openly provided weapons and monthly salaries for rebel fighters, and Turkey has allowed rebel fighters to receive training and arms from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the southeastern part of the country, allowing militants to pass into Syria freely.

There are those who say that Syria is the subject of an internal revolution that is brutally repressed by a malicious dictator, and those who say instead that Syria is being attacked by foreign powers who have deployed mercenaries and extremist fighters from abroad to engage in the destruction of infrastructure and conduct targeted assassinations to bring about an end to the Assad regime.  Despite Washington’s concerns of heavy weapons falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda-linked militants, the US-backed campaign to coax regime change in Damascus has from the very onset enabled militants who justify their acts of terror in the name of a perverted interpretation of Islam. Reports in the Washington Post indicate that US support for anti-government groups in Syria began in 2005, transcending two presidential administrations:

“The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad. Syrian authorities ‘would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change,’ read an April 2009 cable signed by the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Damascus at the time. ‘A reassessment of current U.S.-sponsored programming that supports anti-[government] factions, both inside and outside Syria, may prove productive,’ the cable said. The cables report persistent fears among U.S. diplomats that Syrian state security agents had uncovered the money trail from Washington.”

The article describes how Washington funnelled about $12 million to anti-government programs in Syria between 2005 and 2010 to recipients affiliated with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Israel, which is now illegally conducting exploratory drilling in the occupied Golan Heights, and the US view the toppling of Damascus as a means of extinguishing the critical conduit between Iran and Hezbollah, the political and militant Shi’a organization centered in Southern Lebanon, in addition to helping isolate the Palestinian resistance.

The non-violent route: Laying aside differences

Both the incumbent Syrian authorities and the opposition must find strength to come to a mutually acceptable compromise. These parties have no other option than to search for a solution, lay down an agreeable constitutional basis for elections, and face each other in international monitored polls once the situation stabilizes. The Syrian people must not have democracy imposed on them, and the victor of this war should not be decided on the battlefield, but by the ballot box.

To gain the confidence of the electorate, election observers from the US, Qatar, Russia, and Iran could be sent to monitor the transition process – if the people of Syria want Assad to remain in power, then the rule of majority must be honored. Militant groups comprised of mostly hard line foreign fighters such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham cannot be expected to participate in a ceasefire, so the true test of a short-term alliance between Assad and the SNC would be in its ability to cooperate in quelling radical militants and restoring stability – such is a perquisite for any kind of transition.

Former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton once threatened Russia and China that they would “pay a price” for their position on the Syrian issue. It should be noted that these powers maintained a balanced approach throughout and advocated dialogue from the start, in addition to stringently adhering to former UN Envoy Kofi Annan’s six point peace plan. Iran should also be given due credit for hosting an International Consultative Conference in August 2012, which brought together representatives of thirty nations to call for ending the flow of foreign arms into terrorist hands inside Syria, proposals to broker a meaningful ceasefire, the coordination of humanitarian aid, and support for Syrian people’s right to reform without foreign interference.

Accommodating diversity in Syrian society

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted in the Washington Post stating, “Syrian society is a beautiful mosaic of ethnicities, faiths and cultures, and it will be smashed to pieces should President Bashar Assad abruptly fall. The idea that, in that event, there would be an orderly transition of power is an illusion. Abrupt political change without a roadmap for managed political transition will lead only to a precarious situation that would destabilize one of the world’s most sensitive regions.” It is clear that the Assad government is more stable than many Western states anticipated, and it continues to enjoy popular support.

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah recently warned against sectarian infighting in Lebanon related to the Syrian civil war, arguing that outsiders are pushing Lebanon “toward civil and religious strife, and specifically Sunni-Shia strife.” Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki also warned that a victory for rebels would “create a new extremist haven and destabilize the wider Middle East.” The Syrian regime will not imminently collapse but if it is brought down by military intervention, the consequences could lead to a highly unpredictable situation where match and tinder can meet at any moment with debilitating consequences for the region. It is time for both parties to convene. It is time to end this war.

Selective support

Reports published in 2007 in the New Yorker by veteran journalist Seymour Hersh detail how the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia supported a regional network of extremist fighters and terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda with the aim of stomping out Hezbollah and Syria’s Assad in a bid to isolate Iran, who is viewed as an existential threat to the US and its allies in the region. A principal component of this policy shift was the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups, hence the ever-deepening sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

While the CIA has purportedly claimed to distribute arms only to “secular” and “moderate” rebel forces, Washington insiders from various academic and think-tank circles have openly endorsed bizarre positions in favor of integrating terrorists into Syria’s rebel forces. “Al-Qaeda’s Specter in Syria,” penned by Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Ed Husain, argues in favor of Al-Qaeda terrorists and their inclusion in the Free Syrian Army, stating, “The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervour, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, the FSA needs al-Qaeda now.” Foreign Policy’s, “Two Cheers for Syrian Islamists,” penned by Gary Gambill of the heavily neo-conservative Middle East Forum, argues in favor of Al-Qaeda, “Islamists — many of them hardened by years of fighting U.S. forces in Iraq — are simply more effective fighters than their secular counterparts. Assad has had extraordinary difficulty countering tactics perfected by his former jihadist allies, particularly suicide bombings and roadside bombs.”

While many Western media outlets once likened Syria’s rebels to pro-democracy freedom fighters, it has become more challenging to view them as anything other than Salafist radicals – the former’s existence was amplified specifically to provide cover and legitimacy for the violence and subversion of the latter. As a result of a foreign-backed insurgency, the Assad regime resorted to tactics of shelling and conducing air strikes on rebel strongholds, which were mostly in densely populated urban areas. It should not be denied that these heavy-handed tactics have also led to a substantial and regrettable loss of life.

The Friends of Syria group recently convened in Rome, where the US State Department has pledged $60 million to help the opposition maintain “the institutions of the state” in areas under their control, such as establishing terms of governance, the rule of law, and police forces. Reports have also claimed that the US is also deliberating more open engagement in Syria under newly appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry, however Washington has stopped short of openly providing arms and military training. American and western officials have told the New York Times that Saudi Arabia has recently financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and funnelled them to Syrian rebel groups. Although the United States is not credited with providing arms to rebel forces, the New York Times has reported the presence of CIA operatives in southern Turkey since June 2012, who are distributing weapons with the Obama administration’s blessing. US spokesperson Jay Carney was quoted as saying, “We will continue to provide assistance to the Syrian people, to the Syrian opposition, we will continue to increase our assistance in the effort to bring about a post-Assad Syria.”

In early March 2013, the Syrian National Council (SNC) will meet in Istanbul to form a provisional government that would oversee rebel-held areas of the country. This wouldn’t be the first time the SNC has attempted to form a government; previous attempts in January 2013 fell apart, with many factions refusing to consider a prime ministerial nominee. SNC President Moaz al-Khatib has angered several factions for proposing his readiness to negotiate with the Assad government, a position that many in the opposition refuse to accept.

The Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari has urged the Friends of Syria states to convince the Syrian opposition to sit down for an unconditional national dialogue, which al-Khatib has expressed his willingness to take part in. One could surmise that al-Khatib’s shift toward dialogue indicates that the SNC is feeling less secure and more wary of a possible military defeat or rivalry with radical factions. Such a dialogue would undoubtedly represent a step in the right direction. Despite political differences and two years of deep conflict, these two parties must establish a genuine ceasefire and partnership to restore a climate of normality throughout the country. In this context, both parties must be able to agree on coordinating aid distribution to all parts of the country.

International recognition of a provisional SNC government would only create further divisions at a time when national unity is most needed. Although rebel-held areas are badly isolated and in need of humanitarian supplies, the delivery of aid must be facilitated through direct talks and partnership between Moaz al-Khatib’s Syrian National Council and Bashar Al-Assad’s government.