U.S.’s Syria policy at crossroads as ‘rebels’ near collapse

Despite CIA coordination of training operations in Jordan and safe havens in Turkey and despite countless reports in the corporate media of the imminent surrender of a panicked Syrian government, the more than two-year intense effort to overthrow the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad is collapsing.

The Pentagon’s response to the humiliating defeats of forces that they have spent large amounts of funds recruiting, training and equipping is to float plans for a long-term war with the goal of partitioning Syria into nonviable parts. As the July 22 New York Times reported, Washington is preparing “the long-term reality of a divided Syria,” of which Assad would only control a “rump portion.”

In a July 23, 2013, letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Joint Chiefs chair, Gen. Martin Dempsey, outlined five escalating military options to overthrow the government of Syria. These already planned options include sending U.S. troops as “trainers”; strikes on Syria’s air defense, ground, missile defense and naval forces; and imposing “no-fly zones.” Other options included establishing buffer zones and sending in thousands of troops to “secure chemical weapons.”

Dempsey’s blunt letter acknowledged that all these military options risk wider war, tens of thousands of lives and long-term U.S. involvement. Most scenarios “could also average well over one billion dollars a month” in costs.

The many Pentagon plans are under intense discussion in Washington because the more than 1,200 bands of mercenaries funded and equipped by U.S. arms, supplied through Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and several other NATO countries are now in almost total disarray.

The effort to overturn the Syrian government predates the uprising in the Arab World known as the Arab Spring. According to the Washington Post of April 16, 2011, the U.S. had quietly funded right-wing Syrian opposition groups since at least 2005.

Despite all U.S.-NATO efforts to cobble together a unified military command, they were never able to go beyond developing a collection of  marauding bands. Despite their failures, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have given a green light to publicly arm these forces, while continuing the thinly veiled flow of U.S. arms via Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Opposition lacks program & support

Behind the opposition’s imminent defeat is its absence of popular support. The Free Syrian Army and the religious sectarian groups have been incapable of providing the social needs of the population in the areas they occupied, not even to sustain simple bread lines or organize basic medical needs.  They lack a program to meet the people’s minimal needs, and they make little effort to mobilize the population, except through fear, focused on intensifying sectarian differences.

Now there is a falling out among thieves as these divergent opposition and mercenary forces continue to suffer heavy defeats. They are increasingly up against armed civilian militias that coordinate their efforts with the Syrian army.

Even the corporate media report the extreme disarray of the reactionary forces that are largely uncoordinated bands, increasingly bogged down in local turf wars for lucrative control of towns and cities.

Mercenaries, privateers and criminal gangs from many countries have flooded into Syria to take part in the looting. They have no interest in providing social services to the areas they occupy. They look instead to grab equipment and cars that can be spirited over borders, cashing in on paychecks for fighters, kidnapping and ransoming business people.

Other forces flooding into Syria have a totally reactionary and religious agenda of intolerance and sectarian war that the Syrian population abhors. Because they can’t defeat the government, the competing groups are now selling their own weapons, looting weapons from other opposition bands, executing competing fighters and civilians, including children, to instill fear.

1,200 military gangs

David Shedd, deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described the calculation of 1,200 military bands. He told the Aspen Security Forum, meeting from July 17 to July 20 in Aspen, Colo., that extremist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which has publicly pledged allegiance to al-Qaida, have been the most successful in operations against government forces and that many groups could operate for years fueling a civil war, if they continue to receive funds and equipment.

The posting of widely publicized videos of bloody executions, along with decapitations, the eating of human hearts, the use of torture and increasing bombings of civilian targets such as schools and marketplaces have confirmed the thoroughly reactionary nature of these forces.

FSA drafts child soldiers

Top United Nations envoy Leila Zerrougui, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, reported to the U.N. that many children between the ages of 15 and 18 have been recruited from other countries and brought to Syria to fight, in violation of international conventions banning the recruitment of child soldiers. Videos have surfaced showing children in Syria forced to fight, some showing their participation in brutal atrocities.

Syrian rebels have sent children into combat and used boys as young as 14 to transport weapons and supplies, according to Human Rights Watch, June 22.

Of the 6.8 million people displaced or made into refugees, 70 percent are women and children. Over 3 million children are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

A U.S.-NATO effort at imposing a unified political coalition of a government in exile of well-financed expatriates living in comfort has met with similar failure. Contentious and disconnected individuals and groups have refused to even meet in the same room. At widely publicized international conferences hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry and earlier by Hillary Clinton, they were unable to compose, even on paper, a political program or even a statement of aims.

Although several NATO members granted political recognition to the grandly named Syrian National Council, the SNC was leaderless for months. The opposition political bloc is composed primarily of exiled politicians with little support inside Syria. The recent SNC president, Ghassan Hitto, was a U.S. citizen. His resignation was another setback. Ahmad al-Jarba, the SNC’s newly elected president, promoted by the Saudi monarchy, called the situation in Syria desperate.

People’s militias back gov’t

Throughout the country, local defense groups and people’s militias have helped to turn the tide. SANA, the Syrian Arab news agency, has highlighted efforts such as those of the Palestinian Popular Committees that cleared several neighborhoods of al-Yarmouk refugees camp, warning the armed terrorist groups to surrender or leave the camp.

Militias among the Kurds, Syria’s largest ethnic minority, provide greater control of their own areas and have fought to keep the rebel bands out, once seizing the leader of an armed group that had detained hundreds of Kurdish civilians. They released this leader and granted safe passage out of the region in return for the release of 300 detained Kurdish civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory group.

The militias are now organized under a structure called the National Defense Forces to defend their own neighborhoods. Many of the militias sprung up spontaneously to defend their areas against sectarian forces, criminal gangs, car bombs and kidnappings. A New York Times article on July 21 described the militias that patrol the “Old City” neighborhood of Damascus to protect a diversity of peoples who have existed in harmony for hundreds of years.

Government forces have rolled back rebel gains near Damascus, the capital, and in Aleppo, a major city close to the border with Turkey, and in central Homs province. Hezbollah militia forces from Lebanon aided in the complete defeat of rebels in al-Qasr, a strategic transit and logistics point near the Lebanese border that had been controlled by the opposition since the beginning of the war.

Washington’s goal in Syria was to pull down another country that had for decades attempted an independent economic and political course. The country had full literacy and the highest education standards and lowest infant mortality in the region.

Most important was that Syria was the only remaining country in the Arab world that was not drowning in debt to U.S. and Western banks, which to Wall Street is the greatest crime. Many of Syria’s key industries are still nationally owned.

To gain investment funds after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the U.S. wars in Iraq, the Syrian government had tried to reach an accommodation with Western corporate power by agreeing to privatize part of many industries and to cut basic subsidies. These decisions fueled resentments among the people at growing privilege.

Now under pressure of an imposed war economy and extreme sanctions from the U.S., European powers and the monarchies of the Gulf States, Syria has reorganized parts of the economy. Many of the economic decisions that increased privilege are being reversed.

With their national sovereignty at stake, the level of determination and coordination has increased.