Nothing unusual in that you might think, but hang on a minute, I thought: Where did these defectors learn those guerilla tactics?
I am no expert on guerilla warfare, but it seems to me you need specialized training, or a lot of experience, to know how to pull off “staged ambushes” and “counterattacks” against tanks and armoured personnel carriers. As far as I understand, these defectors had until recently been ordinary members of the army they were now opposing. So where did they suddenly acquire their “guerilla warfare” skills?
As Erika Solomon recently reported, “The Free Syrian Armyis a loose network of local units, made up of deserters from government ranks joined by armed volunteers and commanded, at least in principle, by defecting senior officers who have fled to Turkey.
“Ten months after the street demonstrations of the Arab Spring first challenged 42 years of Assad family rule, the FSA’s resources are still limited. Few of its own leaders – let alone international experts – give it much chance of quick victory without a dramatic change on the ground, such as a collapse of support among Assad’s still-loyal generals. Foreign intervention still seems remote.
“Yet the capture this month of a strategic mountain enclave by the Lebanese border, followed by heady days of defiance in the suburbs of the capital itself, has prompted heady talk among some FSA commanders of “liberating” territory, as the opponents of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi did in the east of their country.”
So where did these “armed volunteers” and their absentee commanders suddenly acquire “guerilla warfare” skills? Indeed, from where and whom are they getting the money to keep fighting? (As Solomon notes: “Rebels told Reuters they were bringing in more funds and weapons through Lebanon from financiers they declined to name.”)
Not surprisingly, I quickly jumped to the conclusion: the American CIA, Britain’s MI-6, France’s External Documentation and Counter-Espionage Service (DGSE) and, who knows, Israel’s Mossad. And why not? Who else would have the wherewithal to provide such training or financing? Who else but the CIA and its purported allied intelligence agencies would be able to engage in such clandestine activities.
Last April, WikiLeaks cables revealed that the U.S. State Department has been secretly financing Syrian opposition groups and other opposition projects for at least five years. That aid continued going into the hands of the opposition even after the U.S. began its reengagement policy with Syria under President Barack Obama in 2009.
During the fighting in Libya last year that eventually topped Gadhafi’s regime, there were reports of bands of fighters apparently armed, equipped and supposedly controlled by Qatar’s intelligence agency operating at large. Qatar is a close ally to the United States.
Now there are reportsof these and other fighters arriving on the Turkish border of Syria, where the “Free Syrian Army” has established itself and, with the aid of American, British and French Special Forces, begun to attack targets in Syria. Are these the “foreign saboteurs” Assad refers to when he tries to justify shelling his own citizens?
However, unlike these sites – leftist, anti-American, anti-imperialist, etc. — which tend to get rather hysterical about western intelligence agencies protecting – and projecting — western interests, I’m all in favour of a CIA cabal bringing down another tyrant and asserting western hegemony. Besides, you can be damn sure that the Russians and the Iranians (and the Saudis, the Turks, and maybe even the Chinese) have intelligence operatives in Syria.
Iran’s theocratic dictators, in particular, cannot be happy at the possibility of Assad’s regime crumbling. They’ve been backing him for years, and last thing they want is their next-door neighbour going the way of Egypt and Tunisia. That would isolate the ayatollahs even more, and bring Arab Spring sentiments – along with the CIA — right to Iran’s borders. In short, Iran would be even more isolated.
Obviously, this is a dangerous game, and it can come back to bite you. In the 1980s, the CIA trained and funded the mujahidin in their fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Twenty years later some of those same fighters, going under the name of Al Qaeda, launched terrorist attacks against the United States and, thereby, ignited the Islamist war against the West. That said, the CIA’s “interference” in Afghanistan was instrumental in helping bring down the Soviet Union and, thus, ending the 40-year Cold War.
But that only goes to show that in the realm of realpolitik, yesterday’s ally can be tomorrow’s enemy, and you have to face your enemies as they come.