Obama Weighs "Syria Retreat" As White House Ends Training Of Moderate Rebels

Tyler Durden's picture

This past weekend we called Obama's latest failed attempt to replace Syria's president (after a comparable attempt in 2013 also ended in failure) for what it is: "Make no mistake, this is shaping up to be the most spectacular US foreign policy debacle since Vietnam - and we don't think that's an exaggeration."

Some of our high level observations:

The US, in conjunction with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, attempted to train and support Sunni extremists to overthrow the Assad regime. Some of those Sunni extremists ended up going crazy and declaring a Medeival caliphate putting the Pentagon and Langley in the hilarious position of being forced to classify al-Qaeda as "moderate." The situation spun out of control leading to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and when Washington finally decided to try and find real "moderates" to help contain the Frankenstein monster the CIA had created in ISIS (there were of course numerous other CIA efforts to arm and train anti-Assad fighters, see below for the fate of the most "successful" of those groups), the effort ended up being a complete embarrassment that culminated with the admission that only "four or five" remained and just days after that admission, those "four or five" were car jacked by al-Qaeda in what was perhaps the most under-reported piece of foreign policy comedy in history.


Meanwhile, Iran sensed an epic opportunity to capitalize on Washington's incompetence. Tehran then sent its most powerful general to Russia where a pitch was made to upend the Mid-East balance of power. The Kremlin loved the idea because after all, Moscow is stinging from Western economic sanctions and Vladimir Putin is keen on showing the West that, in the wake of the controversy surrounding the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russia isn't set to back down. Thanks to the fact that the US chose extremists as its weapon of choice in Syria, Russia gets to frame its involvement as a "war on terror" and thanks to Russia's involvement, Iran gets to safely broadcast its military support for Assad just weeks after the nuclear deal was struck. Now, Russian airstrikes have debilitated the only group of CIA-backed fighters that had actually proven to be somewhat effective and Iran and Hezbollah are preparing a massive ground invasion under cover of Russian air support. Worse still, the entire on-the-ground effort is being coordinated by the Iranian general who is public enemy number one in Western intelligence circles and he's effectively operating at the behest of Putin, the man that Western media paints as the most dangerous person on the planet.

Today, less than a week later, we have confirmation that this assessment was accurate, following two major developments in the Syria global proxy war.

First, Bloomberg reports that a week into Russia's military intervention in Syria, some top White House advisers and National Security Council staffers are trying to persuade President Barack Obama to scale back U.S. engagement there, to focus on lessening the violence and, for now, to give up on toppling the Syrian regime.

It adds that "the administration came to this conclusion late. Despite warnings from U.S. intelligence agencies that Putin's military buildup was intended to keep Assad in power, the White House nonetheless decided to explore cooperating with Russia on the ground. Throughout the summer and into the fall, top Russian officials -- including Putin himself in a meeting last month with Obama at the U.N. -- said they were not committed to keeping Assad in power for the long term, and would only target Islamic State fighters in their military offensive, according to U.S. officials."

So U.S. intelligence is shocked that following a multi-year campaign which was launched in 2011, which escalated in 2013 to a near-naval war, and which culminated in 2014 with the "mysterious" emergence of ISIS whose stated purpose according to leaked CIA documents was a simple one: to depose Assad, that Obama's biggest antagonist on the global superpower stage, Russian president Putin would do everything in his power to prop up his own key pawn in the middle east.

Putin's intervention has had the U.S. flummoxed from day one. As the Russian military moved into Syria, U.S. intelligence officials tell us, the intelligence community was skeptical that it intended to focus its military campaign on the Islamic State. Even so, as the New York Times reported, the U.S. was surprised by the speed with which Russia built and then announced its new coalition with the governments of Syria, Iran and Iraq to support its military campaign.

Did we say "U.S. intelligence"? Scratch that.

In any event, after confirming virtually every word of our conclusion from past weekend, now that the administration realizes it is trapped without a credible way out absent de-escalation, it has no choice but to do just that:

Obama has ruled out engaging in a proxy war with Putin's military, leaving few good options. One path, however, would mean finding ways to tamp down the fighting by negotiating small, local ceasefires with the Assad regime. “The White House somehow thinks we can de-escalate the conflict while keeping Assad in power,” one senior administration official told us.


“The current policy of the United States and its partners, to increase pressure on Assad so that he ‘comes to the table’ and negotiates his own departure, must be rethought,” Malley’s predecessor at the National Security Council, Philip Gordon, wrote at Politico as Russia was amassing its forces in Syria.

The planted Bloomberg story, meant solely to lessen the blow from the latest foreign policy humiliation adds that "that view, being pushed by top White House National Security staffers, including senior coordinator for the Middle East Rob Malley, is not new. But it has received fresh emphasis given Russian intervention."

To be sure, there are neo-con war hawks, led by John Kerry and Samantha Power, who as a reminder was the puppet-masted behind the Ukraine coup, who want to escalate to the bitter end, even if it literally ends in a mushroom cloud: "The NSC view is opposed by top officials in other parts of the government, especially Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. They are trying to persuade Obama that the only way to solve Syria is to increase the pressure on Assad in the hopes he will enter negotiations."

However, just like in the 2013 Syria campaign, when Kerry huffed and puffed and ultimately folded, so two years later the man who married into the Heinz family fortune will have no choice but to fold again:

Yet Kerry and Power now find themselves without any hope that Putin might bring the Syrian regime to the table. Kerry, though always skeptical of Russia, has been the point man on engaging the Russian government through several conversations with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. But it’s now clear the Russians were leading the Obama administration down the primrose path.

Others in Congress have already understood the endgame: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said that by not doing more to confront Putin’s escalation, "the administration is tacitly admitting it will no longer be able to secure Assad’s ouster."

The implications are profound:

"If Assad is staying and there’s no political process in sight, this argument goes, the U.S. might as well focus on alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people and mitigate the growing refugee crisis.


Local ceasefires have been struck sporadically throughout the war, mostly in areas under siege by the Assad regime. The United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has been pushing this idea for over a year.

This means that the dramatic migrant exodus heading into Europe, which is now spun as positive for the economy, and would have been the catalyst form more deficit-funding QE as a result of debt-funded spending spree required by Germany to pay for the millions in refugees, may be coming to an end, with substantial implications for monetary policy.

Bloomberg's own conclusion shows a glimmer of hope that the end is not in sight just yet:

Caught between two camps in his administration, Obama may not end up shifting the U.S. approach to Syria at all, although the de-escalation side has the momentum. Either way, as Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime change facts on the ground, the relative position of America and the Syrians it has supported becomes graver by the day.

And then moments ago, the NYT confirmed that the de-escalation process has begun, when it reported that "the Obama administration has ended the Pentagon’s $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels, administration officials said on Friday, in an acknowledgment that the beleaguered program had failed to produce any kind of ground combat forces capable of taking on the Islamic State in Syria."

Pentagon officials were expected to officially announce the end of the program on Friday, as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter leaves London after meetings with his British counterpart, Michael Fallon, about the continuing wars in Syria and Iraq.


A senior Defense Department official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that there would no longer be any more recruiting of so-called moderate Syrian rebels to go through training programs in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Instead, a much smaller training center would be set up in Turkey, where a small group of “enablers” — mostly leaders of opposition groups — would be taught operational maneuvers like how to call in airstrikes.

To be sure, the admin tried to soften the blow: moments ago Reuters added that "The U.S. military program to train and equip Syrian rebels is not "ending" but is instead being refocused, a senior U.S. defense official said on Friday, ahead of an announcement on overhauling the troubled U.S. effort." No matter how one diplomatically phrases it though, at this point the wheels are in motion.

Which brings us to our own conclusion from last week:

If Russia ends up bolstering Iran's position in Syria (by expanding Hezbollah's influence and capabilities) and if the Russian air force effectively takes control of Iraq thus allowing Iran to exert a greater influence over the government in Baghdad, the fragile balance of power that has existed in the region will be turned on its head and in the event this plays out, one should not expect Washington, Riyadh, Jerusalem, and London to simply go gentle into that good night.

It is precisely this scenario that U.S. "intelligence" just realized, and why Obama is now sounding the retreat. The only question is whether Putin, who is now on the offensive across the mid-east region, agrees to take Obama's olive branch, or whether he continues the "campaign to end ISIS", in the process creating the biggest shift in the mid-east balance of power with a Russia-Syria-Iran-Iraq axis, and with China waiting patiently in the wings.

Finally, this may be just the catalyst that ends the torrid surge in oil higher over the past week now that the biggest geopolitical factor pushing black gold above $50 is in the rear view mirror.

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JustObserving's picture

Obama needs the money to sustain what remains of ISIS

ISIS: The jihadist movement stamped “Made in America”


Looney's picture

Not to hijack the thread, but THIS is the result of Putin’s play in Syria.

According to DWN (Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten), the EU President Jean-Claude Juncker is openly dissing the US

Large roll backwards: EU wants normal relations with Russia

The EU is apparently very impressed with Vladimir Putin's actions in Syria: EU President Jean-Claude Juncker says suddenly that EU should not be dictated by the United States their relationship with Russia. He called for a normalization of relations - and thus indirectly an end to the sanctions.

Holy freaking baby-Santa on a Pogo Stick!!! ;-)




Chuck Norris's picture


Checkmate, Bitch



NidStyles's picture

Good start. Let's see the whole policy go up in flames. Then maybe the US can focus on it's own borders again. 

Latina Lover's picture

Agreed, this is a good start.  Even better, lets burn out rats nest of neocon's and neoliberal humanitarian bombers infesting America.....then send the remains back to that sterling democracy in the south east Mediterranean.  The Neocons/Neoliberals have ruined America's finances through endless failed wars while turning us into international terrorists, pariahs of the civilized world.

The Juggernaut's picture

Something tells me that there is something else brewing.  About time this decision was made though; blowback is a bitch.

two hoots's picture


What’s brewing is another Hillary flip flop.


McCormick No. 9's picture

This is a good move on Obama's part. It's always good to know your limitations. It would have been seen as enightened wisdom if it had been our policy all along. I'm just afraid some nasty, sneaky shit is in the works from the zio-con criminals. There is a God. They will be judged.

Save_America1st's picture

well, nothing's "official" unless/until one of these socipathic scumbags like o-fuck-tard or Samantha Powers Tweets it.  THEN it's official.  Putin will be defenseless against the power of the U.S. gov-scum Tweet message.  ;-)

HowdyDoody's picture

The game isn't over until the last war criminal / sponsor of terrorism has been brought to trial.

Here is one for starters.


Dutti's picture


Obama is definitely one of the worst US presidents in my opinion: Economic policy, Obamacare, surveillance state etc.

However, in foreign policy he is less bad than many of his real and potential alternatives: World war 3 could be even closer with people like George W. Bush, John McCain or Carly Fiorina etc. in charge.

We should not forget, the MIC is incredibly powerful and it's not easy to be a moderate with so many powerful warmongers in the US.

Obama had pulled back from bombing Syria, despite that the alleged use of chemical weapons red line had been crossed.

Obama is not just a slave of Israel in relations to Iran, he reached an agreement to deescalate a tense situation.

Obama decreased the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Majestic12's picture

"the MIC is incredibly powerful"

As Dwight, John and Bobby discovered.

They work for the Banksters, that is why they are powerful.

However, Obama is a slave to Israel...letting them murder hundreds of thousands, and he dragged out Afgahnistan to maintain AlQueda training (to act as mercenaries) and the herion poppy crops for black ops cash.

He is no saint, but yes, probably not at bad as McCain.

Dr. Venkman's picture

Obama not being McCain is his only redeeming quality so far. I cannot believe McCain was even considered a potential candidate. Holy shit.

Keyser's picture

No one ever gave McCain a chance in hell of winning, especially with Palin as a running mate... He was cannon fodder to assure an Obama ascendency...  If McCain HAD been elected, the world would be a smoldering relic by now... 

philipat's picture

Thank God finally for some common sense. Recent calls by senior US Officials to shoot down Russian aircraft in Syria because they were attacking "US Assets" were absolutely nonesensical. This presumably referred to CIA funded and trained "Moderate" rebels who have no legal presence in Syria. Conversely, having been invited into Syria, a soveriegn State, Russia is acting entirely in compliance with International law.

Now, I know that "The exceptional country" does not see any need to recognise International law, including the Geneva Conventions, but in the face of total humiliation and a Russian Check-Mate, it is at least better that The US has chosen retreat over the start of WWIII.

Son of Loki's picture

How do I get in on that action of spending $500 million to train a handful of soldiers?


Sounds pork juicy!

NoVa's picture

related to your comment, the Benghazi hearing.  I found this recent letter definitely worth reading.  Hitlary was behind a private military force / firm to sweep into Libya after removal of Quadafi. 



Clint Liquor's picture

Finally Obama does something smart. Why train them if Putin is just going to kill them?

Pinto Currency's picture


Some hillarity to end the article:

".. Finally, this may be just the catalyst that ends the torrid surge in oil higher over the past week now that the biggest geopolitical factor pushing black gold above $50 is in the rear view mirror. ..."

Has the new payment system also been withdrawn?



knukles's picture

Opie should call Assad and say he's sorry and ask if they can still be friends

Nenad's picture
Nenad (not verified) knukles Oct 9, 2015 4:10 PM

Obama will not finish his second term! Current Events Linked to Ancient Biblical Prophecy!


1033eruth's picture

What makes you think he was training anybody?  Because the media says so?  Whatever the media says is a lie.  That's guaranteed.  From there you can only speculate on WHAT the $500 million was spent on, but at the very least, it is also guaranteed that the US taxpayers got fucked in the bargain.

Flagit's picture

Because it's no fun pwning noobs all day.

Vincent.Vega's picture

> Finally Obama does something smart. Why train them if Putin is just going to kill them?

Putin will just use some kind of "moderate" ammo against the "moderate" terrorists

Blankone's picture

Do not count on it.  Changing methods is not deescalation.  It is not retreating.  Do not count on "legal" meaning anything.

You could just as easily see ISIS somehow "capture" some modern anti air missile systems and then see it escalate beyond what it was before.

The people of he EU do seem to want their govt to seperate from the US requested sanctions.  But their govt heads have to respond to the strings that have been attached to them as well.  It seems what is happening is that the EU officials are trying to negotiate some changes in order to pacify their citizens.

They claim they are going to start testing China by sailing ships into the 12 mile buffer.  That is more of a sign that they will look for ways to probe and test for resolve vs weakness.  Russia, as I am sure they are, needs to expect something to occur.  If they step back then they will keep Russia moving back. 

With just a surface look, it appears this is the time for Russia to get Iraq's consent to take control of parts of Iraq and to establish a land connection from Syria to Iran.  And to establish Russia along the Lebanon southern borders with anti air systems to take control of the air space and start to bond Lebanon and Syria further and more directly. 

A change has occured but it is no where near a major retreat nor has anything been conceeded just yet.  If Russia supplied Syria and IRAN with the S-400 systems that would be a real game changer.  Iran seems to have a pair and might be move to help where Russia is too cautious.

Lurk Skywatcher's picture

There has been a change - a change in your rhetoric.

Funny how it exactly mirrors the official aquiescent explainations now coming out of Washington, just like it copied the beligerent arrogance before.



Flagit's picture

Sooo, watcha sayin', huh....? :o

Nenad's picture
Nenad (not verified) Keyser Oct 9, 2015 11:36 AM

Obama will not finish his second term!


11b40's picture

How much do you want to bet?

TongueStun's picture
TongueStun (not verified) Dr. Venkman Oct 9, 2015 9:44 AM

Obama needs to take his dick out  Ben Finkenbinder's rectum, get on national TV and explain to the American people why WE need to attack Syria, so QATAR can build a NAT GAS pipeline to Europe.

Antifaschistische's picture

yep....and if the entire population of Syria moves to Germany, then Germany will need even more natural gas, and Syria will be empty and therefore easy to put a pipeline through.


it sort of has the makings of a great Obama Legacy Movie.  "A Pipeline Runs Through It"

El Vaquero's picture

A natural gas pipeline may have been part of the reason for beginning this shitfest over there, but it is not the reason for continuing it.  As soon as Syria was destabilized, they guaranteed that there wouldn't be a pipeline through there for a long time.  The CIA created a monster that it cannot control, and it might get some bright ideas to blow up any pipeline that is built. Something else is going on, and the only idea that I've read thus far that makes sense is from Winston Churchill saying it is about water.  I don't know that it is about water, but it's a desert with a lot of people over there, so it is plausable. 

Herd Redirection Committee's picture

Water is the reason Israel stole the Golan Heights...  So yeah, of course they would be willing to do whatever it takes, to retain, or expand their water access.

Save_America1st's picture

I'm the one who down-voted you on those statements.  I'm sure everyone else will know why even if you don't. 

Paveway IV's picture

That's almost expected here lately, SA1st. Knee-jerk reaction for the Obama-haters to any suggestion that he isn't the cartoonish villain they want him to be. I agree whole-hartedly with Dutti - for all Obama's faults, he is at least some counterpoint to the psychopathic clans of competing neocon Israeli-firsters that control much of the U.S. government from behind the scenes. Traitors and chicken-hawks that would otherwise have had us nuking Iran for Israel and starting WWIII with Russia over our Middle-East clownfuckery. I wouldn't vote for him as president, but I can reach beyond the CNN/Kardashian mindset of a one-dimensional 'Obama SUCKS' Tourettes to see that certain things he ends up doing are good for the country (by mistake or intent) despite the disproportionate number of bad things he has done.

I don't think knee-jerk Obama-haters represent any kind of broad consensus here (although he's certainly not popular on ZH), it's just that the die-hard Obama-haters are more eager to down-vote anything positive said about him. Which I think is fucking pathetic - this is the exact same mentality the U.S. used to fire up American knuckle-draggers and mouth-breathers to demonize Gaddafi, Hussein and now Assad. I guess some cartoonish depictions and demonizations are allowed and some not. Too bad, because a country like the U.S. demands citizens with far more critical thinking ability and intellect than that. People that focus all their attention on knee-jerk Obama-hating are often from the same crowd that imagines if we can only get candidate X from party Y elected instead, everything will be better. The idea is so insulting to my intelligence that I don't even bother voting.

Which is exactly why I reject the notion that people simply need to 'wake the fuck up' in order to regain control of the U.S. - people who like cartoon-like clarity and simplicity in a complex democracy ARE wide awake RIGHT NOW. Psychopathic leaders love them as easy fodder. Government policy is reduced to a long game of psychopathic politicians lining up for their own bizarre version of American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. You watch the performances for a while, and then you get to decide the winner!

But fuck the down votes - this is fight club (or at least was). Everyone should get punched in the face just for showing up.

BarkingCat's picture

The only positive about Obama was that when he first took office he did not blow Israel.
Now he blows them part time because someone pulls on his ears.

Paveway IV's picture

Oh my God... +1000

that's hands-down the most succinct summary I have ever heard of his Israeli policy history. Best not to use it with kids around though.

HopefulCynical's picture

The mistake I see you making is in thinking that the Iran deal would go through without Israel's approval. Yeah yeah, Bibi objected - in public.

I think this situation is actually, behind the scenes, like Bill Hicks talking about Jack Palance in 'Shane' - pick up the gun. Iran gets to have a nuke program, which Israel will use, in a few years, as an excuse to go in and wipe out the Iranian government. "They were making nukes!!"


So no, I think Obama is a 100% fuckwit, just like Bush, McCain, etc.

Paveway IV's picture

No, I didn't make that mistake. Life would have been easier if Israel could have scuttled the deal up front. But they'll just scheme away if it does get approved and use it as a pretense to start a way. Everybody already knew that.

The dual-citizen Israeli-firster bastards in the U.S. Congress owe me at least the courtesy of trying to hide their outright treasonous behavior from me. I don't think that's too much to ask. 'Demanding' that they don't commit treason and insisting that they follow the law is absolutely infantile - they'll always be traitors and criminals. The laws and constitution don't apply to them, and I have no say over that.

OpenThePodBayDoorHAL's picture

Oh give me a friggin break "Oh oh Obama isn't so bad, at least he's better than X". Sorry friend, he's worse than bad, when we had "bad" (Bush/Cheney etc) and they were bombing and spying and bailing out bank gamblers and putting in nonsensical health care giveaways there was AT LEAST a path to oppose that stuff. Now that the Obama crowd has been doing all that same stuff for 7 years PLUS acting totally fucking incompetent on the strategic issues. They have normalized the rampant corporo-fascism so there's no path left to oppose it all, a giant fucking Trojan Horse that has careened the debate so far to the right that anyone proposing simple obvious stuff (bring the troops home, stop destroying the middle class, put some bankers in jail) is called a wacko leftie.

WORST_PRESIDENT_EVER and yes I'm counting Millard Fillmore and Andrew Johnson

new game's picture

i still blame bush, ha...

Dr. Venkman's picture

Best case scenario: Obama is/was so pathetically unprepared/unable to deal with other countries via a cohesive foreign policy, he let the neo-cons run rough-shod over him. So he played golf.

His actions in Syria are the most pathetic thing I have witnessed. There was a wholesale revolt across the entire globe against his foaming-at-the-mouth attempt to bomb the shit out of the Assad regime on immediately proven false pretenses. Dubya probably wakes up every morning and high fives an Obama manequin before trying to figure out how to boil an egg for breakfast.

new game's picture

he wanted to stay alive.

Dog Will Hunt's picture

Every president's actions are more pathetic than the previous, and so on and so forth.  

Four chan's picture

why is that? ever since george washington.

whirling tword freedom's picture

Sorry that this is off topic but, its relavent to the site.

I don't know if any of you all have had this happen but, this site is having some issues you all need to be aware of if you're not yet.

In the last two weeks,  I've had two popups telling me my computer was infected that were launched from this site.    It was saying that my computer had hard drive corruption.

I guess it's more of an irritation than anything.   I wasn't going to call the 800 number on the screen.... lol.... the popup was launched from javascript etc....


The one yesteday had my computer beeping etc.....  I'm working from a virus protected computer that has never surfed any company blocked sites etc. so, it's not with my computer etc.....   also, I write web apps for a living etc. so, I'm not just spouting BS.

Luc X. Ifer's picture

R u usin' W$os? Then you deserve it ...

whirling tword freedom's picture

It's even worse than that.... I'm runnin wOS and IE11... LOL....  I keep my proxy turned off on my firefox browser so my apps run faster over vpn for testing and I browse out using IE11 when I'm logged in at work.

It's a work puter so, I don't have much of a choice....   I run Linux everywhere else and, I log in and develop on Linux at work.

Anyway, don't know if anyone else here has seen these popups with bogus info asking you to call them because your hard drive is corrupt.   The message is attempting to seem like a system message but, it's popping up from your browser.

Anyway, I just thought I'd report it.... do what you will with the info.