Did Turkish-backed jihadis threaten to kill U.S. soldiers in Syria? Or was it a carefully crafted publicity stunt?

Michael Weiss reports: “Dogs!” the bearded fighters shouted.

“American agents!”

“No to the Christian coalition!”

“Down with America and all the countries that side with America!”


These were just some of the choice epithets hurled at U.S.-backed Syrian forces — and U.S. advisors among them — as their convoy passed through the border town of al-Rai in Aleppo province earlier this month.

An unnamed man in a black mask threatened, “We are going to slaughter you. You will not have a place among us. We will kill those who are fighting with you.”

A video of this incident — which pitted the shouting partisans of an anti-Assad Islamist rebel group known as Ahrar al-Sharqiya against the passing convoy of a rival rebel brigade backed by the U.S. — was posted on YouTube on Sept. 17. It quickly got picked up in both English and Arabic language media. And it seemed to show the humiliation of the United States and its chosen paladins in the war against ISIS.

The BBC, no less, wrote that “Free Syrian Army rebels” appeared “to chase U.S. special forces out of the northern Syrian town of al-Rai, calling them ‘infidels’ in Arabic.”

There have been so many embarrassments for America’s proxy warfare in Syria, and this looked like another one. Given the overheated U.S. political season, and at a time when the Syrian war is sinking into ever deeper circles of hell, this smelled like a potent symbol of Obama administration failure.

But a fortnight later, both U.S. Central Command and a rebel eyewitness in al-Rai have told The Daily Beast that, far from being run out of Dodge, the U.S. commandos were hardly even aware of the demonstration, much less threatened by it. And further analysis suggests it may have been a set-up with backing from Washington’s ostensible allies, the Turks.

According to the eyewitness, the entire spectacle was staged to brand an American-backed Sunni Arab militia as hirelings of a despised superpower. [Continue reading…]

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