— The Erimtan Angle —

Turkey and the U.S. have been supporting the Syrian opposition since April 2011, and the U.S. Air Force Base at İncirlik plays a pivotal role in that scheme. That is the claim made by the notorious whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds. And now, the news agency United Press International cavalierly announces that the ‘CIA officers’ have joined ‘[a]llies in southern Turkey helping Syrian opposition fighters’.[1]

In fact, the report refers to a New York Times article. Eric Schmitt’s piece, appropriately entitled “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition”, purports to spill the beans on the U.S. support for Syrian opponents of President Assad. He writes that a “small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers”.[2]  Is this another one of those strategically leaked Obama administration secrets supposed to bolster the Democrat’s standing among his gun-toting electorate???

Now that their activities have been touted in the New York Times, the C.I.A. operatives in Turkeyare probably no longer “operating secretly”. Schmitt even adds detail to his scoop: these “C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkeyfor several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so”.[3]  Even though the article does not set out to prove thatAmerica and Turkey have been secretly fueling the unrest in Syria, the above-quoted admissions nevertheless show that a lot of footwork has been done behind the scenes of Syria’s ‘uprising’. The administration’s disclosure that “neighbors” are arming Syria’s opposition reads like an admission of Turkish, Saudi, Qatari, and Libyan involvement in concocting the violent brew that isSyria’s internal armed struggle. Of course, the concept of neighbourhood has to be taken in a very broad sense.

The UPI report prophetically adds that the “struggle inside Syria has the potential to intensify in coming months as powerful new weapons are flowing to both the Syrian government and opposition fighters”.[4]  The news agency takes the long view that could lead one to consider that the whole Arab Awakening has also been long in the making. I pointed out last year that the Egyptian revolution appeared to have been planned in 2008, that the U.S. State Department was scheming to shake up the Middle East in order to replace no longer useful regimes with new and more amenable systems.[5]  The failure of the recent nuclear negotiations in Moscow seems to indicate that Iran could still be still a viable target . . .

An anonymous Arab intelligence official who appears to be in the know said that “C.I.A. officers are there and they are trying to make new sources and recruit people”.[6]  It seems that the Obama administration is taking no chances when it comes to Syria . . . perhaps that lessons were learned in Libya after all. Schmitt does make it clear that “[s]pokesmen for the White House, State Department and C.I.A. would not comment on any intelligence operations supporting the Syrian rebels”.[7]

Prior to the full-scale invasion of Afghanistan, a C.I.A. team in the Hindu Kushprepared the ground as well, making contacts, establishing alliances and recruiting fighters. Last week, the Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Nour Malas already reported that “U.S. intelligence operatives and diplomats have stepped up their contacts with Syrian rebels in part to help organize their burgeoning military operations against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, according to senior U.S. officials. As part of the efforts, the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department—working with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and other allies—are helping the opposition Free Syrian Army develop logistical routes for moving supplies into Syria and providing communications training”.[viii]  It seems that President Obama’s best-laid plan for dealing with Syria and possibly Iran too is slowly falling into place . . .  As explained by , the Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Nour Malas the “U.S. in many ways is acting in Syria through proxies, primarily Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, say U.S. and Arab officials. Saudi Arabia is particularly fixated on overthrowing Mr. Assad, said Arab officials, viewing it as a way to settle scores with an arch foe and weaken its chief regional rival Iran. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are providing the funds for arms, Arab officials and Syrian opposition leaders say. The Obama administration hasn’t agreed to arm the FSA [the so-called Free Syrian Army], the U.S. officials stressed. Mrs. Clinton on Wednesday [, 13 June] denied charges by Syria and others that the U.S. has armed the rebels. The U.S.’s stepped-up links with the FSA are also part of an effort to gain a better understanding of the rebels’ capabilities and of the identities and allegiances of fighters spread in disparate groups across the country, the U.S. officials said. The U.S. officials remain wary of some rebels’ suspected ties to hard-line Islamists, including elements of al Qaeda. They acknowledged the FSA doesn’t represent all parts of the insurgency against the Assad regime”.[9]

The armed conflict in Syria is very much a proxy-war, pitting the U.S. and NATO against Russia, China, and their junior partner Iran. In this context, Russia’s naval base in Tartus recently gave President Putin the pretext to dispatch some armed comrades into the Mediterraneanand back again. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has now said that “The ship was carrying air defense systems, which can only be used to repel foreign aggression, and not against peaceful demonstrators, and yes — it was carrying three refurbished helicopters”.[10]  On the one hand, the Obama administration strategically leaked its not-so covert support for the Syrian opposition, and on the other, the Russians freely admitted their unwavering backing for Bashar al-Assad. Syria is the first battle-ground in the as-yet undeclared New Cold War.[11]


[2] Eric Schmitt, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition” The New York Times (21 June 2012). http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/cia-said-to-aid-in-steering-arms-to-syrian-rebels.html?pagewanted=all.

[3] Eric Schmitt, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition”.

[4] “CIA joins allies helping Syrian opposition”.

[5] C. Erimtan, “Behind the scenes of Egypt’s revolution” Hürriyet Daily News (27 February 2011). http://tiny.cc/fz7tf.

[6] Eric Schmitt, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition”.

[7] Eric Schmitt, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition”.

[8] Jay Solomon and Nour Malas, “U.S. Bolsters Ties to Fighters in Syria” The Wall Street Journal (13 June 2012). http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303410404577464763551149048.html?mod=googlenews_wsj.

[9] Jay Solomon and Nour Malas, “U.S. Bolsters Ties to Fighters inSyria”.

[10] Kirit Radia, “Russia Admits Attack Choppers Aboard Syria-Bound Ship” ABC News (21 June 2012). http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/russia-admits-attack-choppers-aboard-syria-bound-ship/story?id=16620312.

[11] C. Erimtan, “The Arab Awakening and the never-ending Cold War” Hürriyet Daily News (22 June 2011). http://tiny.cc/p7q3b.

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