You have to hand it to Washington. When it comes to foreign policy blunders, the US certainly isn’t afraid to double and triple down.
As a leaked diplomatic cable from 2006 definitively shows, the US has actively sought to stoke sectarian violence in Syria for at least the last ten years and part of that effort has involved coordinating with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey to support Sunni extremists.
That support led directly to what has to be considered the most absurd foreign policy outcome in the history of modern statecraft and we never tire of calling it out: Washington, Ankara, Riyadh, and Doha trained and equipped a group of fighters, told them to go and destabilize the Assad regime, and somewhere along the way, that group of fighters went rogue and metamorphosed into a insane band of black flag-waving, sword-wielding, white Nike-wearing, desert bandits hell bent on establishing a medieval caliphate.
Whether or not ISIS is still getting support now that they have gone completely native we’ll never know for sure, but what we do know is that despite the sheer ridiculousness of that “train and equip” exercise, the US and its regional allies went on to arm and fund still more Sunni extremists hoping against hope that they might manage to find the rebel Goldilocks zone and finally back a group that is all at once effective at fighting to overthrow the regime and not prone to going absolutely nuts in the process.
And if the original efforts to arm and train Syrian “freedom fighters” ended in tears of sorrow, more recent efforts have ended in tears of laughter. The Pentagon’s latest foray into building a Syrian proxy army began back in May with a completely ridiculous press release that attempted to explain the rebel “vetting” process. By the time summer rolled around, the US had only managed to field around 60 fighters. In July they were ambushed by al-Qaeda who kidnapped the group’s commander and deputy. By September, US Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin admitted to Congress that only “four or five” fighters were still active on the ground. The rest had either been killed, captured, had defected to ISIS, or were lost in the desert.
Now that Russia is in the process of obliterating anything that even looks like a rebel and now that Hezbollah, the IRGC, and Tehran’s various Shiite militias are busy marching over anything that even looks like a Sunni extremist, Washington has resorted to resupplying America’s proxy armies. That is absurd for two reasons, i) it amounts to the US giving weapons to soldiers who are trying to kill the Russians and the Iranians, meaning Washington is literally waging a war against Moscow and Tehran with one degree of separation, and ii) the US is giving the Free Syrian Army anti-tank weapons to use against the very same Shiite militias who Washington supports in Iraq (i.e. they’re “allies” in Iraq, and enemies in Syria).
The effort to rearm the rebels is now more urgent than ever thanks to the fact that Russia and Iran are advancing on Aleppo. If Aleppo falls to the regime, it’s game over. Assad will effectively be restored and Putin and Soleimaini will turn their eyes west to ISIS and then, once Raqqa falls, they'll march and fly right on into Iraq. Amusingly, Moscow even offered to provide air cover for the Free Syrian Army if the US would be so kind as to point Russia to the group’s “patriots” who are defending the country against extremists. The FSA declined to accept help from The Kremlin.
Make no mistake, Washington and Riyadh understand all of the above.
Well, maybe not all of it.
They clearly haven’t learned much from the myriad failures that have accompanied the whole “train and equip Sunni extremists” strategy because now, the US and Saudi Arabia are set to step up support for the rebels fighting Russia and Iran in an astonishing (if characteristic) display of Einsteinian insanity. As always, the excuse is "fighting ISIS." Here’s WSJ:
Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Salman agreed to increase support for Syrian forces fighting Islamic State militants while backing international diplomatic efforts to begin a political transition in Damascus, U.S. and Saudi officials said.
The U.S. diplomat and Saudi monarch also coordinated on their countries’ joint efforts to fight the Islamic State terrorist organization that has gained control over large sections of Syrian and Iraqi territory in recent months.
“The secretary thanked the king for Saudi Arabia’s support to multilateral efforts to pursue a political transition in Syria…and reaffirmed our mutual goal of achieving a unified, pluralistic and stable country for all Syrians,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said after Mr. Kerry’s meeting on Saturday night with the Saudi monarch.
Note the hypocrisy there. In fact, allow us to spell it out. Compare and contrast:
- Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Salman agreed to increase support for Syrian forces.
- “The secretary thanked the king for Saudi Arabia’s support to multilateral efforts to pursue a political transition.”
So on the one hand, Kerry and Salman are paradropping more guns and ammo into Syria, and on the other, they’re patting themselves on the back for pursuing “a political transition.”
In any event, back to WSJ:
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia provide arms and training to rebel armies fighting in Syria. Washington, though, has refrained from backing insurgents who are directly fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
That’s an interesting assessment, because we could swear that the Free Syrian Army has been the target of Russian (i.e. pro-regime) airstrikes, and we could also swear that the US provided them with more weapons just last week.
The American media can't even keep Washington's lies straight anymore.
Here’s a bit more from Reuters:
The United States and Saudi Arabia agreed to increase support to Syria's moderate opposition while seeking a political resolution of the four-year conflict, the U.S. State Department said after Secretary of State John Kerry met King Salman on Saturday.
Kerry was in Riyadh for meetings with the Saudi monarch, crown prince, deputy crown prince and foreign minister - the last stop in a trip that also included Vienna, where he met counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia.
"They pledged to continue and intensify support to the moderate Syrian opposition while the political track is being pursued," the State Department statement said after Kerry's meetings in Saudi Arabia. It did not spell out what kind of support would be offered.
Rebels have appealed for more military support from foreign backers, including Saudi Arabia, to confront major Syrian army offensives. Those offensives are backed by Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian fighters and Russian air strikes.
The United States and Saudi Arabia, together with other states opposed to Assad, already provides some military support to Syrian rebels. That includes training by the Central Intelligence Agency and anti-tank missiles.
So, coming full circle, Washington is once again doubling down on a strategy that has not only been a demonstrable failure, but has i) served to propel the rise of brutal terrorist organizations, ii) fomented discord on the way to sparking a civil war that's cost hundreds of thousands of lives and left millions displaced, and iii) now threatens to ignite a world war, as the US and its regional allies are effectively encouraging the rebels to kill Iranian soldiers battling under cover of Russian air support.
Need we say more?