A New York Times report should be deeply encouraging to everyone who is vehemently opposed to U.S. intervention in Syria. The good news is that the CIA still can’t figure out who’s who among the rebels but they’re afraid that the weapons that are flowing into the country are going to the wrong guys. In other words, those who remain convinced that the uprising against Assad is being controlled by puppet masters in Washington can put their fears aside.
Needless to say, I jest, since it’s long been apparent that some people can’t see the words ‘CIA’ and ‘Syria’ in the same paragraph without automatically imputing ‘neocons,’ ‘Iraq,’ and ‘U.S. imperialism.’ To those who negatively deify American power there truly can be no evidence that the U.S. does not control the universe.
Meanwhile, David Sanger — a reporter who seems to remain unaware that news sources who are neither paid government officials nor political party apparatchiks do actually exist — lays out the concerns of those who want their concerns to be made known. That is, concerns about a U.S. effort to support Bashar al-Assad’s opponents that “has increasingly gone awry.”
This operation has gone awry, we are told, because weapons flowing into Syria, thanks to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are going to “hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster”.
It is not until the end of the article that Sanger reveals how thin the evidence actually is to support these claims.
In several towns along the Turkey-Syria border, rebel commanders can be found seeking weapons and meeting with shadowy intermediaries, in a chaotic atmosphere where the true identities and affiliations of any party can be extremely difficult to ascertain.
Late last month in the Turkish border town of Antakya, at least two men who had recently been in Syria said they had seen Islamist rebels buying weapons in large quantities and then burying them in caches, to be used after the collapse of the Assad government. But it was impossible to verify these accounts, and other rebels derided the reports as wildly implausible.
Moreover, the rebels often adapt their language and appearance in ways they hope will appeal to those distributing weapons. For instance, many rebels have grown the long, scraggly beards favored by hard-line Salafi Muslims after hearing that Qatar was more inclined to give weapons to Islamists.
The Saudis and Qataris are themselves relying on intermediaries — some of them Lebanese — who have struggled to make sense of the complex affiliations of the rebels they deal with.
“We’re trying to improve the process,” said one Arab official involved in the effort to provide small arms to the rebels. “It is a very complex situation in Syria, but we are learning.”
Perhaps this report could have been condensed.
Saudis and Qataris pay for guns going to men with beards in Syria. CIA doesn’t know who these men are. Romney promises that if he becomes president he’ll press the Arab leaders to send weapons to men without beards. Rebels in Syria await the U.S. presidential election result, ready to request additional shipments of razors.