Hopeful news at the end of last week that the Obama Administration was considering disengaging from its schizophrenic war in Syria has given way to the ugly reality that Washington’s neocons in charge will never back away from a fight (as long as they are not doing the fighting).
In the first bit of bad news, we saw the policy shift away from vetting and training rebels. The Administration announced that because the $500 million plan to train and equip vetted “moderate” rebels has been an obvious failure, the solution was to remove the training and vetting part of the project and simply send military equipment. From now on only leaders of the rebel groups would be vetted. The fighters would simply be armed, no questions asked.
The new plan has materialized with considerable speed. Over the weekend we learned that Saudi Arabia delivered 500 TOW anti-tank missiles to anti-Assad Syrian rebels.
Today CNN reports that the United States has airdropped 50 tons of weapons and ammunition to its favored “Syrian Arab Coalition” forces — a US re-branded group known for its unreliability and for handing weapons over to al-Qaeda and ISIS.
In fact, according to Joshua Landis, a Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma, “probably 60 to 80 percent of the arms that America shoveled in have gone to al-Qaida and its affiliates.”
But it’s even worse and more dangerous than that. The hundreds of TOW missiles provided to the rebels by the US and its allies have for the past several days been used not against ISIS, but to strike Russian-made tanks of the Syrian Arab Army as it fights against al-Qaeda and ISIS.
Thus laid bare is the real US policy goal in Syria: to take out Assad. ISIS, not so much.
The TOW missile program is a CIA program, separate from the failed Defense Department rebel training program. The CIA has been arming and training unvetted rebels — many if not most foreign mercenaries rather than Syrians — to overthrow the Assad government since 2011 or 2012. The shot in the arm it has received from new shipments is obvious, as one rebel commander describes a recent attack on Assad’s forces:
‘It was a tank massacre,’ said Capt. Mustafa Moarati, whose Tajamu al-Izza group says it destroyed seven tanks and armored vehicles Wednesday.
More missiles are on the way, he said. New supplies arrived after the Russian deployments began, he said, and the rebels’ allies have promised further deliveries soon, bringing echoes of the role played by U.S.-supplied Stinger antiaircraft missiles in forcing the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Administration officials are openly welcoming attacks by their proxies against Russian targets — including bases — in Syria, according to a Washington Post article:
One U.S. official who is familiar with the CIA program — and who like other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters — said the attacks have galvanized some of the agency-equipped units.
‘Now they get to fight the Russians,’ the official said. ‘This improves morale.’ …
U.S. officials said those involved in the agency program are already exploring options that include sending in rocket systems and other weapons that could enable rebels to strike Russian bases…
So here is the strategy dreamed up by the Beltway’s best and brightest: replay the 1980s US proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It is the resurrection of the Zbigniew Brzezinski plan to create and arm the Mujahideen to take out Russia in Syria as they took out the USSR in Afghanistan.
In a 1998 interview reproduced in Counterpunch, Brzezinski openly bragged about being the father of this plan. Asked (in 1998!) whether he regretted taking action that led to the creation of Islamic extremism in Afghanistan, he scoffed:
Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
Most Americans hopefully still remember what happened three years after this interview and hopefully will draw the right conclusions about the Brzezinski Plan redux in 2015. The danger deepens. Obama should have disengaged.