The US has largely abdicated the throne in Syria in terms of supplying the rebels with funds and leadership. This is because Washington cannot see the end game clearly. For that, it needs a figure-head, a rebel leader with the potential to carry things through to an end that is in Washington’s interest.
There is, however, a figure rising up out of the dust and shrapnel in Syria that deserves our attention. Right now, he is the only figure that appears capable of shaping an end to the regime of Bashar al-Assad and ensuring a new Syrian government that is not overrun by Sunni fundamentalists.
The force of this figure—Colonel Abdel-Jabber Akidi, commander of rebel forces in the Aleppo region and arguably now the senior commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA)—combined with the intelligence and policy expertise provided by the Syrian Support Group (SSG) based in Washington, DC could provide us with more certainty (and stability) in terms of an end game.
What Colonel Akidi wants is significant, but what he is offering is more so, according to Jellyfish Operations, a DC-based private intelligence firm working in Syria.
What he wants is modern anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, as well as a crash training course, which are necessary if the rebels are to defeat Assad and halt the violence.
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What he’s promising in return is to keep these weapons out of the hands of the extremists who have infiltrated the ranks of the rebels, and this is the most important point and the main issue behind Washington’s reluctance to do more to help the rebels.
Colonel Akidi’s message is this, and it is a powerful one: If the US does not step in to fill the vacuum with funds and weapons to support the rebels against Assad, the Saudis and Qataris and other Gulf contributors will ensure that Sunni extremist groups gain increasing power and sideline the genuine rebels entirely.
The US cannot afford for this to happen.
According to Michael Bagley, President of Jellyfish, there are three keys to an acceptable end game in Syria: First, support for Colonel Akidi on the ground, as the top leader of the FSA; second, the recognition of the Syrian Support Group as the key to effective policy leadership; third, the creation of an Independent Policy Entity (IPE) established by the SSG.
“The Syrian Support Group has proven itself to be one of the most reliable networks of experts providing information and intelligence to the USG and its allies,” Bagley told Oilprice.com. “And while the US has abdicated its role of supplier of funds and leadership, it should be leading the way with more resources for the SSG and Colonel Akidi on the ground.”
What troubles Bagley is this: “A distribution of material is being manipulated and circumvented by those not aligned with pro-democratic elements.”
As such, he says, the time is urgent for the SSG “to establish an Independent Political Entity to begin to take over a leadership position in Syria.”
Here’s how it would work, according to Bagley. Once the SSG establishes an Independent Political Entity, the main FSA commanders on the ground in Syria would endorse it and in likelihood nominate Colonel Akidi as its head. The new entity would be comprised of civilian and military leaders and would declare itself to various governments to be the “mechanism through which all interaction with the FSA will be coordinated”.
Importantly, says Bagley, the new entity would be inclusive, comprised of Sunni, Shi’ite, Allawi, Christian, Turkomen, Kurd and Armenian representatives, all coordinated by the SSG.
“This will unify and empower the rebels, and give them a clear support theater for their operations,” he said. “It will also allow for better coordination and equipping of operations and better prioritization across different theaters, from Aleppo and Damascus, to Homs. It will also establish the new IPE commanders as the only legitimate figures for establishing security throughout the regions.
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One particular mission that requires this level of coordination is the freeing of some 10,000 political prisoners currently being held by Assad at the Air Force Intel Center near Aleppo, according to intelligence reports given to Jellyfish.
Significantly, adds Bagley, the creation of a new entity run by the SSG and Akidi would open up a clear path for the flow and distribution of humanitarian aid to those who need it.
Jellyfish envisions this Independent Political Entity declaring free and democratic elections within one year after the fall of the Assad regime.
“The US could not afford to be left out of this end game once a credible IPE is established and a clear path for democracy becomes visible,” Bagley said.
While the administration in Washington has been hoping to ride out the US presidential elections before making any decision on Syria, time is running out. But there are signs of action:
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly withdrew support for the Syrian National Council (SNC)—a group of Syrian expatriates who saw themselves as the leaders of the Syrian opposition.
Clinton said, “There has to be a representation of those who are on the front lines fighting and dying today.”
This withdrawal of support for the SNC—which reflects Washington’s fears that the body cannot control the infiltration of the rebels by extremist forces—could pave the way for the Syrian Support Group, along with its intelligence and military forces on the ground in Syria, to emerge as the real leader of the Syrian uprising.
US officials are already in quiet negotiations and are hoping to bring together some 50 opposition representatives for a meeting that would choose an executive council, which in turn Washington hopes would receive the blessing of the Arab League at a meeting later this month in Cairo. This should be where the Syrian Support Group’s intelligence, policy and coordination efforts are realized—and where Colonel Akidi is given the power to make good on his promises.
The alternative is more unnecessary bloodshed at the hands of the Assad regime, and a potential victory for fundamentalist forces that have anything but Washington’s interests in mind. They would also have access to a major cache of chemical weapons).
By. Jen Alic of Oilprice.com