US Sanctions Syrian 'Moderate Rebels' It Had Previously Armed

by | Aug 21, 2023


In 2013 the CIA was handing out TOW anti-tank missiles to ‘moderate rebel’ groups who were fighting the government in Syria. These groups were allegedly ‘vetted’ before they receive money and weapons. Unfortunately ‘vetting’ was something the CIA had never been good at.

One of the groups that received such support was the Hamza Division:

Hamza Division (Forqat al-Hamza – فرقة الحمزة): An FSA-banner group composed of six substituent brigades that operate mostly in the environs of Inkhil, Daraa. The Hamza Division has received TOW ATGMs and it works under the supervision of the Daraa Military Council. They receives foreign support from Western and Arab state backers and are a member of the Southern Front coalition. The Southern Front has stated their commitment to a civil state, and have released a comprehensive political program in support of democratic reform. The Division came together with the Syria Revolutionaries Front and the 1st Artillery Regiment to create the 1st Army, which later disbanded. The Hamza Division continues using the 1st Army imagery alongside its own while the other former substituents do not. Social Media: YouTubeYouTube (older channel)

Hamza was later also supported by the Pentagon. Without such support the group would never have become a viable entity. Things got a bit complicated when militias armed by the Pentagon started to fight those armed by the CIA.

Later Hamza was sponsored by the Turkish state. This again made things a bit complicated:

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai – 17:39 · Oct 16, 2019

Do you remember when the #US spent $500 million to train/arm Al-Hamza Division?

Well the US-trained “Moderate rebels” are fighting – under a NATO flagged country (#Turkey) – the US-trained Kurdish YPG in the area occupied by the #US.

I’ll make it even easier: A few minutes ago, #US Prsdt @realDonaldTrump said the “PKK is far more dangerous than #ISIS (The Islamic State)”.

The US trained & armed Syrian Kurds proxies, the YPG, are the Syrian branch of the PKK that Trump considers far more dangerous than ISIS.

Ten years after being ‘vetted’ the Hamza division is again receiving US attention. This time from the Department of the Treasuries:

Today, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is designating two Syria-based armed militias and three members of the groups’ leadership structures in connection with serious human rights abuses against those residing in the Afrin region of northern Syria. An auto sales company owned by the leader of one of the armed groups is also being designated.

The Hamza Division, another armed opposition group operating in northern Syria, has been involved in abductions, theft of property, and torture. The division also operates detention facilities in which it houses those it has abducted for extended periods of time. During their imprisonment, victims are held for ransom, often suffering sexual abuse at the hands of Hamza Division fighters.

The Suleiman Shah Brigade and the Hamza Division are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13894 for being responsible for or complicit in, or for having directly or indirectly engaged in, the commission of serious human rights abuses against the Syrian people.

Sayf Boulad Abu Bakr is the leader of the Hamza Division and its public face, appearing in numerous propaganda videos produced by the Hamza Division. While Abu Bakr has been commander, the Hamza Division has been accused of brutal repression of the local population, including kidnapping Kurdish women and severely abusing prisoners, at times leading to their death.

Sayf Boulad Abu Bakr is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13894 for acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Hamza Division.

The AP report about the new sanctions does not mention any Pentagon or CIA support the groups had previously received.

One wonders how long it will take until the US will sanction the fascists militia it has and is now arming and sponsoring in Ukraine.

Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.