Fearing Loss of CIA Backing, Syria Rebels Turn to al-Qaeda, Saudis

'Moderate' Rebels Already Cozy With Islamists to Begin With

President-elect Donald Trump has been very clear since elected that he intends to shift US policy in Syria, saying he fully expects to end the CIA’s program of arming “moderate” rebels, noting that the US doesn’t know who these groups really are, and saying he wants to focus on fighting ISIS.

The rebels have been listening, and with the possible loss of the CIA gravy train that’s been keeping them at least semi-relevant throughout the civil war, the groups are looking for the Saudis to make up the difference, and also looking to get even closer to al-Qaeda.

Despite the US pretense of these groups being “vetted moderates,” most of the rebels are already plenty close with al-Qaeda, with some portions of the Free Syrian Army operating as little more than an auxiliary wing of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, funneling US arms through nominal moderates to the Islamists.

This wasn’t a huge problem from the CIA’s perspective, seeing the war’s continuation as an end unto itself. It likewise probably won’t scare the Saudis away, as they see Syria as a proxy war with Shi’ite Iran, and have historically been more than happy to use Salafist groups in such conflicts.

The big question, however, is how much this will make up for the rebels losing the CIA’s backing, as the CIA was smuggling Saudi arms to them en masse in the first place, and they were already plenty close with al-Qaeda.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.

  • “Getting closer to al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia”.

    …if they were any closer they’d be grafted onto each other by now. Which they already are.

    • Bianca

      This is why Kerry was never able to fullfill Russian request that “good” rebels be separated from terrorists. Even Obama once said that “good” ones are fantasy. But clever uber liberal Obama said that only to inocculate domestic public by essentially saying that as bad as the headchoppers are — secular Assad is worse.

      It is not that Russia did not know that separation of same minded people is not possible. But the only way to prevail to is to go along with the delusion. So, Russia patiently waited through many ceasefires for “good” to separate.
      That fiction being exposed nothing remained but to smear the Russian effort of fighting terrorism, by the newly minted status of Aleppo as martyr city — all with citizen manning barricades, white helmets and nurse photographers. But the story has not stuck outside the Western bubble.

      Now, Russia is asking US to call for militants to leave Aleppo — no separation of good or bad. Syrian military has already processed thousands of militants that left the town. They are detaining only those that are not from Aleppo. Aleppo residents are just registered and let go. Those that do not leave the city will be treated as terrorists. It remains to be seen on Tuesday if we finally stop the charade if supporting terrorists. The key will be letting civilians leave.

  • TellTheTruth-2

    This will really make John McCain mad .. cutting off his ISIS buddies.

    • Bianca

      Can such people as McCain really be called conservative? There has never been a revolution he did not like.

  • RPDC

    To the extent that there’s any FSA remaining who aren’t fairly described as “terrorists,” they’re down in the south and haven’t been active for over a year.

    In the north, there are no “moderates” or anything close, and there haven’t been for a long time.

  • Bianca

    I did not know they can get any closer. But herein may lie the problem. They ARE so close that SEPARATING them is a bigger problem. For example, a group of Jaish Al-Islam fighters from Aleppo wanted to leave and surrender. Number mentioned is about 300. Who knows the real number, but apparently they were arrested by Al-Qaeda, and thrir whereabouts unknown. Jaish Al-Islam was Saudi funded Salafi group. It does not look like they are encouraged by their patron to continue.

    It is very worrysome for the future — to think that militant groups can stash supplies, weapons and ammunition, explosives and other gear — and hold cities hostage for years. It is lesson yet to be learned.

    In the meantime the clueless EU is recommending decetralization of Syria to allow the “rebels” to be integrated into police! Now that is a jewel of diplomacy. Why not provide them with a safe place, with crayons, so they can express themselves better and not have the need to chop heads of children or elderly. And then they will they give up forcing their bizzare version of Sharia to be the law of their “decetralized” Syria. That should be a releif to Syria’s first lady, a Harvard educated investment banker — not to be forced to give up her Western style clothes and give up her drivers licence.

    In Europe we see liberalism gone off the rails — trying yo jusify and explain every behavour. I hope such delusions will not be part of Post-war Syria.

    The liberal establishments from both sides of the Atlantic have been presiding over terror-based “opposition” movements taking hold in many countries. The concept of peacefull change of government has been replaced by revolutions. And ballots by bullets. Now — Europe cannot face its Frankenstein. It is trying to appease him by keeping him over there in Syria. It is afraid of millions of immigrants. But the ptoblems are INEVITABLE. There are no jobs, no opportunities in depressed Europe. And there is no time for new experiments. The liberal nation building experiments on the backs of unfortunate nations — produced their logical outcomes. Now adults are needed to clean up the mess.