It became clear recently that the West's former blueprint for Syria – a conversion of Aleppo into the country's Benghazi, a foothold for a sweeping offensive against the government forces – was irreversibly defeated. Having done the due editing on their tactic, the Syrian opposition's curators remote-controlling the process from Paris, Tel Aviv, London, and Washington switched to a combination of 1) constant pressure meant to push Syria deeper into chaos by terrorists attacks, subversion, information campaigns, and externally fueled sectarian strife plus 2) serious steps towards an undisguised intervention to be launched by NATO and a group of its Arab vassals. The point at the moment is that Syria's slide into a nightmare with no end in sight, perhaps culminating in a shocking episode like the seizure of the Syrian chemical warfare stockpiles by puppet international terrorists to add the final touch to the picture, should eventually provide a credible justification for an international military crackdown on Assad's regime.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague pressed the message on August 5 in response to the Syrian militants' taking hostage 48 Iranians, including women and children, that the country is sinking into a sectarian conflict and that the motivations driving the opposition groups across the spectrum mainly stem from their religious and ethnic rivalries. «It might only be a further collapse of the authority of the regime, bloodshed on an even greater scale…», said Hague. In the language of the Western politics, airing alarmist forecasts is a traditional form of going public with the actual plan. «In the absence of a peaceful solution we will step up our support for the opposition, continue to deliver humanitarian aid and continue to intensify our work to isolate the Assad regime, its finances and its members, to make life as difficult as possible for it to operate», pledged the British diplomacy chief (1).
Vivid illustrations of the current anti-Assad technologies pop up in the Western media. On August 5, The Sunday Times featured British photojournalist John Cantley's account of his captivity in the hands of the Syrian militants: in his words, those were a bunch of international Jihadists which counted in its ranks people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Great Britain, and Russia's Chechnya, and, oddly enough, no Syrians (2). It did not evade Cantley that 12 of the 30 in the crew were fluent in English, 9 of them – speaking with a distinct London accent. Great Britain' Foreign Office shyly explained in the connection that the security situation in Syria calls for energetic international action.
Roughly at the same time, The Daily Mail published a paper reporting that Great Britain was supplying advanced satellite phones to Syrian militants. The handsets are normally used by the British special forces, and, according to the paper, «the provision of training and equipment to the opposition means that British Special Forces are likely to be operating in Syria». Appropriately widening the political perspective, The Daily Mail said that «The supply of the latest generation of handsets is part of the Foreign Office’s mission to mould militias into a coalition capable of governing the country» (3).
The US media similarly spill curious information on how aid is being fed to the insurgents in Syria. Up to date, arms supplies to the Syrian opposition were not officially authorized in the US, but those being dished out by the US allies – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar – used to be an open secret. Seth Jones, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corp. and former senior adviser at U.S. Special Operations Command, wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal issue that «Al Qaeda in Syria (often operating as the "Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant") is using traffickers – some ideologically aligned, some motivated by money—to secure routes through Turkey and Iraq for foreign fighters, most of whom are from the Middle East and North Africa… Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has apparently sent small arms and light weapons – including rifles, light machine guns, and rocket propelled grenades—to its Syrian contingent. It has also sent explosives experts to augment the Syrian contingent's bomb-making capabilities, plus fighters to boost its ranks» (4).
The «death triangle» comprising Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar plays games in Syria in tight coordination with the CIA. The key roles in the concert are given to Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber bin Muhammad Al Thani, the premier and foreign minister of Qatar in one, and to House of Saud member Bandar bin Sultan, secretary general of the Saudi Arabia's national security council and intelligence agency chief. In fact, Prince Bandar, an ambassador to the US in 1983-2005 who is accordingly well-connected in Washington, is both a central figure in the Saudi establishment and a man with a reputation of a top foreign influencer in the US. He is known to have poured money into the Nicaraguan contras, the mercenary groups in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Libya, and Chechnya, and his current support for the Syrian terrorists comes as a logical extension of the record. Suspicion runs high that Bandar was instrumental in organizing the terrorist attack which took the lives of four senior Syrian officials in Damascus (5) last month.
While Saudi Arabia and Qatar at least nominally tend to stay in the shadow, Turkey picked the dirtiest part of the job vis-a-vis Syria, rendering outright assistance in the anti-Assad campaign, hosting the Syrian militants' camps, and maintaining their command center in Adana, at a distance of around 100 km from the Syrian border. The Turkish gift list to the Free Syrian Army is not limited to firearms but, according to NBC News, even featured a collection of 20 man-portable air-defense systems. An instruction penned by the US President seems to have placed the Adana center, conveniently located in the proximity of the Incirlik Air Base, under CIA oversight (6). The financial infusions into the Syrian opposition over the whole crisis period have estimatedly passed the $100m mark, though the fraction of the amount bankrolled in the daylight measures a modest $25m (7).
Starting this August, the CIA and other US agencies have the President's authorization to engage with the Free Syrian Army with the aim of ejecting Assad, meaning that the transactions are fully legitimized. In late July, the US Administration set up the Syrian Support Group (SSG) to which the US Department of Treasury promptly issued a license to nourish the Syrian opposition, to prop it up with information and logistics, and to offer it a range of further, otherwise illicit, services. The proportions of the financial package coupled to the plan are hitherto undisclosed, but the SSG already named nine Free Syrian Army committees to receive money for acquisitions and personnel pay.
Head of the non-profit Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) Mohammad Abdallah, a former Syrian opposition spokesman, praised the above measures as a way of upping the pressure on Assad, and Brian Sayers, a retired NATO officer who contributed appreciable lobbying to the SSG creation, explained that the arrangements would help boost the efficiency of arms supplies to Syria in comparison to what had been achieved by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He admitted that accounting for the end destination of every cent of the money thrown in would be problematic but expressed a hope that the Free Syrian Army would not forward any of the funding to marginal groups.
It is obvious at the time that the armed Syrian opposition disintegrates into an ever growing number of semi-autonomous formations, while its Wahhabi factions open about their Jihadism are gaining weight. The Free Syrian Army, largely run by defectors from the government forces, is already locked in a bitter dispute with the Syrian National Council, an assembly of Syrian dissenters long absent from their home country. The Army aligned itself with the SSG as a political front and appears to be ripping the financial benefits of the leap of faith. The dynamics, on the other hand, left the campaign's Arab sponsors divided as the SSG is backed by Saudi Arabia and the Syrian National Council lives on donations from Qatar. In the meantime, Syria's branch of the pervasive Muslim Brotherhood distances itself from both and is about to unleash its own armed groups in the country.
The multiplication of the brands of militants in Syria serves to reinforce the impression that the country is overwhelmed and, therefore, makes it easier for the West to sell what is happening as a full-blown civil war. The time is coming to call a spade a spade and to unmask those who inspire the Syrian bloodshed as the nation is trying to survive the clash with the global evil.