US media are now reporting what everyone else has known for some time: American special forces are helping train Syrian rebels on Jordanian territory, despite the fact that radical jihadists have infiltrated the Syrian rebels and could turn on Jordan’s monarchy the minute the dust settles in Syria.
This special forces cooperation has been going on for almost a year, even according to US military sources who are suddenly keen to make this public via the Associated Press.
The reason this story is being run through the mass media belatedly is because the US is concerned that its operations in Jordan might be perceived the wrong way (the arming-jihadists way).
With this in mind, some US military officials have been quick to point out that its Jordanian training program involves only “secular” Syrians, with around 100 special forces training classes of up to 60 rebels. The whole point of the program, according to these unnamed sources, is not only to bolster the offensive against the Syrian regime, but also to reduce the influence of radical Islamic forces who have infiltrated the rebels.
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But here’s where the stories begin to differ, as senior officials struggle to find the best way to present this. The Defense Department isn’t so sure about this media blitz. A senior US defense official has also been quoted as saying that American special forces aren’t training Syrian rebels, only Jordanians. The Pentagon claims it is not involved with any military training or arms provisions to the Syrian rebels.
Getting the story right for public consumption has been challenging. People have put two and two together to discover that if the US military is training the Free Syrian Army, then it is by default training jihadists. Intelligence from ISA Intel suggests that Salafi jihadists have managed a 30-40% infiltration of the Free Syrian Army. The Associated Press cited officials who said those being trained aren’t members of the Free Syrian Army at all. Of course, all of the sources are anonymous to maintain the appearance of a “leak” rather than a purposeful (if not coherent) public relations strategy.
On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the US had “provided some logistical nonlethal support that has also come in handy for the Syrian rebels who are, again, fighting a regime that is not hesitating to use the military might of that regime against its own people. That is something we're going to continue to work to bring to an end.”
So who, exactly, are they training? Syrian rebels who aren’t part of the Free Syrian Army and who aren’t actually Syrian, but who are definitely secular? The information quagmire deepens with officials’ statements that the “Syrians” the US is training (or not) in Jordan are then passing along those training tips to other “Syrians” across the border in the conflict zone.
The CIA is also dabbling in Jordan, which along with Turkey is a key destination for secret Arab military cargo flights of supplies for the Syrian rebels, according to the New York Times, which counts 160 of these secret airlifts over the past year, and a noted increase over the past several months. This is where the special forces training and the airlifts cross paths.
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All of this public relations effort comes as the US props up Syrian-born Texas man Ghassan HItto to lead a post-Assad regime. Last week, Hitto was “elected” interim prime minister of Syrian rebel-held territories. HItto’s election to this elusive post has caused further disunity among the opposition.
Syria is now a monster that will be impossible to control. The lack of official US consensus about the Jordan “training program” has to do with a very dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy: Syria has been overrun by Al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which is shuffling commanders back and forth between Iraq and Syria. Its fundraisers are Iraqi, Syrian and … Jordanian, according to ISA Intel. And Al-Nusra doesn’t have its eye only on the Syrian prize (or the Iraqi prize): It’s eyeing the Jordanian monarchy and Lebanon as well. Right now, only Hezbollah is stopping it from gaining a stronger foothold in Lebanon.
The only way out of this mess is probably going to be unfortunate drone strikes on al-Nusra positions in Syria—but only after Assad is taken care of.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com