Perhaps those seeking to understand the current situation in Syria should go back to a piece published by Seymour Hersh in 2007. The key quotes may be found here
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.
Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.
The above link will take you not to Hersh's article but to a much more recent piece written by one Tony Cartalucci, whom I've never read previously. He argues that Obama has continued the Bush policy of arming Al Qaeda-related insurgents in Syria.
As proof, he cites this NYT story
, headlined "Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.":
The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.
As it evolved, the airlift correlated with shifts in the war within Syria, as rebels drove Syria’s army from territory by the middle of last year. And even as the Obama administration has publicly refused to give more than “nonlethal” aid to the rebels, the involvement of the C.I.A. in the arms shipments — albeit mostly in a consultative role, American officials say — has shown that the United States is more willing to help its Arab allies support the lethal side of the civil war.
From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.
There's much more at the other end of the link. Bottom line: The effort to supply these rebels is massive and ongoing. I'm reminded of the CIA in Laos.
And yet -- most passing strange!
-- this story does not mention Al Qaeda or its Syrian offshoot, the Nusra Front. For a fuller picture, we need to turn to an earlier NYT story on the Syrian rebellion -- "Syrian Rebels Tied to Al Qaeda Play Key Role in War"
The lone Syrian rebel group with an explicit stamp of approval from Al Qaeda has become one of the uprising’s most effective fighting forces, posing a stark challenge to the United States and other countries that want to support the rebels but not Islamic extremists.
The group is called the Nusra Front. The U.S. wants to square the circle, aiding the Syrian rebels yet officially proclaiming the Nusra Front to be terrorists, jihadis, and Very Bad People.
"Bad" as in bad-ass. The London Telegraph
confirms that Nusra pretty much is
the rebellion by this point.
The group is well funded – probably through established global jihadist networks – in comparison to moderates. Meanwhile pro-democracy rebel group commanders say money from foreign governments has all but dried up because of fears over radical Islamists.
How can we reconcile this information with the NYT's tale of a massive arms flow to the rebellion? According to the New York Times, the CIA -- often working through fronts like Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- has been funding the rebellion. If the money for the democratic rebels has "dried up," then where did the funds go?
To Nusra, obviously.
And yet the Telegraph would have us believe that the funding comes "through established jihadist networks." Come off it. Who do they think they're fooling? I doubt whether Al Qaeda (on its own) has
that kind of network these days. They certainly don't have the kind of money needed to topple a government.
Let's get back to Cartalucci's piece:
It is now admitted that thousands of tons of weapons have been smuggled into Syria by the US and its regional allies. While the Western media has attempted in the past to feign ignorance as to where Al Qaeda's al-Nusra was getting their weapons from, it is now abundantly clear - al-Nusra's power has expanded across Syria in tandem with the CIA's ever-expanding operations along the nation's borders.
Also see here
I'm getting a sick feeling about this. In the 1980s, the CIA justified working with jihadis in Afghanistan on the grounds that one must sometimes make deals with devils in order to combat even bigger devils. Yada yada yada. Obviously, that history is repeating itself.
The Afghanistan policy didn't turn out well. The Soviets left, only to be replaced by the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Even in the early 1980s, I suspected that we would one day regret forming an alliance with the Islamic fundamentalist "freedom fighters" who would occasionally appear on CSPAN when they came to DC to ask for more aid. Every one of them looked like a potential nightmare. Of course, back then I had to be very careful about voicing my views, because everyone presumed that the great game against the Russians trumped all other concerns.