Sept 18, 2014
As both houses of Congress, at the request of the president, debate providing $500 million worth of weapons and training to the Syrian Free Army (SFA) in an already weapon-rich region, a major dynamic is conveniently ignored. (The House passed the amendment 273-156)
Despite several hearings on both Benghazi and ISIS terrorism threats leveled by both political parties, Congress continues to tiptoe around the commonalities—illegal weapons trafficking. The very weapons that have gone missing in Libya, including MANPADS (shoulder-fire missiles that can bring down commercial airliners), are being used to murder Christians, ethnic minorities and Muslims in the Middle East.
Yesterday’s Congressional hearings sparked a litany of concerns from members who say their constituents are not thrilled about arming the SFA. American’s rightly want to know what role the SFA will play in an effort to hunt down the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group that captured worldwide attention after they beheaded two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker and then posted it to YouTube.
War hawk John McCain (R-AZ) grilled Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey at yesterday’s hearings.
“That is a fundamental misunderstanding of the entire concept and motivation of the Free Syrian Army. It is Bashar [al-] Assad who has killed many more of them than [IS]. And for us to say that we are going to go in and help train and equip these people only to fight against [IS] — you’re not going to get many recruits, general, I guarantee you that. It’s a fundamental fallacy in everything you are presenting today.”
Several lawmakers highlighted the fact that America really doesn’t have a way to vet the supposedly-moderate Syrian Free Army and there are real questions as to the rebel’s allegiance. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the White House may be open to attacking al-Assad (Obama’s declared regime target of change) if he interfered with the U.S.’s plans to attack ISIS in Syria using the so-called “moderates.”
“We will help them (Syrian rebels) and we will support them,” Hagel told McCain. “Any attack on those that we have trained and are supporting us, we will help them.” It’s worth mentioning that a U.S. attack against Syria’s president would constitute an act of war, something Congress has not approved.
General Dempsey told the Senate committee that once the U.S. plan was approved it would take up 12 months to train and get the “moderates” battlefield ready.
Hagel also described the type of assistance the White House initially approved to include, “small arms, vehicles and basic equipment like communications, as well as tactical and strategic training. As these forces prove their effectiveness on the battlefield, we would be prepared to provide increasingly sophisticated types of assistance to the most trusted commanders and capable forces.”
A vocal critic of President Obama’s plan to arm the Syrian Free Army is Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). “When you start looking at what we’ve spent — almost $20 billion trying to build up a 280,000-person army in Iraq and the first time they were tested they turned tail and ran. I have a hard time understanding how we’re going to convince these 5,000 to turn around and fight [IS], who’s fighting the same religious war that they’re fighting against the Assad regime,” Manchin pointed out.
Further complicating the matter is a cease-fire deal reached over the weekend where the Syrian Free Army and ISIS decided to work together to fight their common enemy – Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
Middle Eastern news agencies like AFP as well as DC’s The Hill reported that “Syrian rebels and jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have agreed (to) a non-aggression pact for the first time in a suburb of the capital Damascus, a monitoring group said on Friday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the ceasefire deal was agreed between ISIS and moderate and Islamist rebels in Hajar al-Aswad, south of the capital.”
Under the deal, “the two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri regime. Nussayri is a pejorative term for the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.”
In a recent interview with Jamal Maroof, moderate Syrian Free Army leader openly talks about accepting U.S. military aid and said the U.S. government has been training his soldiers. However, a disturbing element in the YouTube interview is the ISIS (al-Qaeda) black flag in the background. (Watch the YouTube video here. Plus ISIS released movie trailer called the “Flames of War” today, however YouTube already killed the video.)
If this alarmingly new development is true the question becomes exactly who is the U.S. arming?
ISIS has already won the “hearts and minds,” campaign in northern Syria
Al Monitor reported the thoughts of local Syrian resident Abu Riad. “We have been living in absolute terror for a week now under regime airstrikes. Now we have the Americans coming to bomb us too. Where do we go? Why is everyone killing us; what have we done to deserve this?” Indeed, Al-Bab has suffered from heavy barrel bombing in the past few days, resulting in many casualties, which prompted him to avoid going to the town altogether and remain in the relative safety of rural areas. Caught between the hammer of regime bombings and the anvil of imminent U.S. airstrikes, many people have started doing the same, fleeing the towns for safer areas.
The terror group knows this well, which is why it is secretly overjoyed at the prospect of military action against it. In its calculations, the outpouring of support it expects both locally and on the international jihadist scene more than outweighs the loss of fighters to air strikes. And its fighters are not afraid of martyrdom by U.S. bombs. In fact, the chance for martyrdom is why many of them came to fight in Syria in the first place.
“My business had never been this good under the local rebels, some of whom were my relatives,” said Syrian business owner Abu Riad. “They (ISIS) brought law and order; they went after the criminals and bandits and cleaned up the town. Under the rebels, it was chaos and lawlessness. Now I can be sure my merchandise is safe and I can transport it safely as no one dares steal here anymore,” he added.
“Even more extraordinary is that some of Aleppo’s industrialists and factory owners opted to move their machinery from the Sheikh Najjar industrial zone into Islamic State territory in Al-Bab, as they knew it would be safe from looting there. Law and order aren’t the only advantages of being under IS rule. The group also provides many services, mostly free of charge.
“They fixed roads and power lines; they gave out food to the needy. They have traffic police and free religious schools. The rebels never did that. All they did was steal and fight each other,” said Abu Raid. Asked about the hardships under the strict Islamic State, Abu Raid said, “Yes, they have very strict laws, but they won’t harm or bother you unless you cross the red lines. For me, the only difficulty I had was not being able to smoke in public. The rest wasn’t too bad; we are a very conservative town, after all.”
After three years of civil war in Syria, more than 150,000 have died. Al-Assad remains in power and ISIS has grown stronger in the north and America appears to be on the brink of choosing sides in a region that doesn’t share U.S. values. Polls suggest that Congress take all aspects of this regional war into consideration before committing more U.S. troops to any kind of war. The president and his cabinet members are saying that America must act to save the Middle East from the horrors of Islamic rule, the only question is, “Where are the demonstrations against ISIS in the region?”
Read “The absence of a bold plan for destroying ISIS costs another hostage his life” link here.
Read previous story: “ISIS moves with impunity” link here
Read part one: “Obama trained insurgents launch killing spree against Iraq then turn to Syria” link here.
Read “Iraq, ISIS and trained Islamic insurgents” (Part Two) link here.
The headlines splashed across most major publications this week centered on the growing destabilization of Iraq. After a decade of war, peace and prosperity remain elusive and the “hearts and minds” COIN policy is officially dead. For the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, peace was nothing more than an American dream.
Obama’s Regime change train stops in Ukraine: link here
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