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See the Washington Post article “Plans to send heavier weapons to CIA-backed rebels in Syria stall amid White House skepticism” by Greg Miller and Adam Entous 23rd October 2016 ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/plans-to-send-heavier-weapons-to-cia-backed-rebels-in-syria-stall-amid-white-house-skepticism/2016/10/23/f166ddac-96ee-11e6-bb29-bf2701dbe0a3_story.html ).

This article exposes the fundamentally flawed reasoning by the Obama administration’s decision making on Syria. Here are five examples:

Concerned about low quality of discussions in the White House, as reported in this article.

1. “If [Obama does nothing] so, Obama’s successor will inherit an array of unattractive options. Critics of the proposal to increase arms shipments warn that it would only worsen the violence in Syria without fundamentally changing the outcome.” …………… The program to arm rebels has to be part of a wider strategy, which includes a No Bomb Zone and support for Syrian civil society (see Charles Lister http://warontherocks.com/2016/09/a-plan-for-winding-down-the-syrian-civil-war/ and https://partnershipblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/how-a-no-bomb-zone-would-work/ ). To criticise part of a strategy as ineffective because it would not work by itself is nuts.

2. “One senior U.S. official said that it is time for a ‘ruthless’ look at whether agency-supported fighters can still be considered moderate, and whether the program can accomplish anything beyond adding to the carnage in Syria. The CIA units are ‘not doing any better on the battlefield, they’re up against a more formidable adversary, and they’re increasingly dominated by extremists,’ said the U.S. official ….’What has this program become, and how will history record this effort?'” …………….. It is estimated that 10-15% of rebels can be classed as extremists. The ruthless reality is that the armed Syrian Opposition have been fighting the resources of the extensive Syrian Armed Forces, barbaric “security” brigades, extremist shiite militias, long term Russian military supplies (with recent financial backing from China) and now the Russian air force. All this with comparatively meagre support from the West and funds from sympathisers in the Gulf States. To say they may not deserve or warrant support is not only ruthless but myopic. Extremists have filled some of the vacuum left by West in the Syrian Opposition, so the answer is obvious. The issue of effectiveness, ignores the fact that the armed opposition is dependent on all it’s elements. This is the point, a properly backed moderate opposition has no need of the extremists. Comparing how these units fight in these circumstances is meaningless.

3. “In 2012, he [Obama] commissioned a classified study of other cases of the agency backing rebel forces. In an interview with the New Yorker magazine, Obama said that he wanted examples of when ‘that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much’.” ……….The Arab Democratic Uprising started in 2011, and has only been given meagre support by the West, even in Libya. Are there any cases of US actually effectively supporting mass uprisings against dictatorships?

4. “’The Russians have seized the initiative,’ said a second senior administration official involved in Syria discussions. ‘You can’t pretend you can go to war against Assad and not go to war against Russia’.” ………….. The Russians only acted directly after years of Western inaction, hardly seized. A “No Bomb Zone” strategy” would mean imposing consequences on Assad and Putin regime war crimes, while only hitting Assad regime targets (see briefing http://www.syriauk.org/p/no-bomb-zone.html ).The US went to war against Soviet Russia in Afghanistan without going to war with Russia, which lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union. It then failed to follow up with support for Afghans after the conflict, leading to a Taliban government.

5.”The CIA’s own assessments of the program have been viewed with suspicion by some at the White House, officials said. ‘Does it make any sense that the people who are totally invested in this program . . . are the same people who are writing analyses of the Syrian opposition on which decisions are based on the future of that program?’ the first U.S. official said.” ……. All they need to do is a little homework and contact “analysts like Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, Charles Lister and Aron Lund who provide regular analysis on rebel organisations”( see http://www.syriauk.org/2015/12/who-are-syrian-rebels.html ).

Core Issue

However the former senior administration official quoted, gets to the core of this problem. “There’s a huge risk here since the Russians entered. . . . The lesson out of this is that if you don’t take action early on, you should almost expect the options to get worse and worse and worse.”

The next bigger core lesson, not mentioned in the article, is that this does not stop in Syria if Putin is appeased, and the Assad regime continues. Russia will become the natural ally of any country with an oppressive dictatorship who has an angry population that needs annihilating. Putin has the advantage of no effective domestic opposition to foreign support for mass murder. The world has changed, there is no ideological barrier to who the Russians or Chinese can support. See Egypt, see Philippines. Obama’s caution is recklessness in truth, and this is how lack of intervention in Syria will be judged harshly by the future, as the twin failures of reckless invasion when the opposite was required in Afghanistan and Iraq, put together with reckless lack of support for the Arab Democratic Uprising especially in Syria and Libya.

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