Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 31, 2014

Syria: Pro-Nusra "Rebels" Turn Anti-Nusra "Rebels" Turn Dead

How a month can change the perspective ...

McClatchy, September 27 2014: Rebel-held towns in Syria protest US bombing of al-Qaida affiliate

The protests in rebel-held territories illustrated the confusion among Syrians over the aims of the U.S.-led coalition and the support that al-Qaida’s Nusra Front enjoys among rebel factions.

In Afamia, a town in western Hama province, demonstrators carried Nusra’s black flags, chanted anti-Assad slogans, called for the downfall of the Syrian Opposition Coalition — the U.S.-backed civilian organization that the United States recognizes as the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people — and condemned what they called “the coalition strikes against the mujahedeen,” or holy warriors.

McClatchy, October 29, 2014: Syria rebels plead for U.S. help as Nusra, a former friend, goes on the attack

Al Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, which has long been viewed by that country’s rebels as an ally in the battle to topple President Bashar Assad, has turned on them in recent days, forcing the beleaguered rebels into a three-front war that they say they are sure to lose unless the United States changes policy and sends them more weapons.
Commanders warned Wednesday that assaults this week by Nusra could cause the collapse of rebel front lines, which already were under stress from fighting the Islamic State and the Assad government.

The CIA and special forces in contact with those "moderate rebels" can now say "told you so" when they ask for more help. After the pro-Nusra demonstrations last month more material help is unlikely to come:

A third CIA-vetted commander said that the U.S.-led coalition had cut the flow of arms and ammunition to a trickle and painted a dire image of the outcome should this not change.

There are some nine different wars going on now between the various insurgent groups and between them and the government of Syria and its supporters. That chaos helps the Syrian army to gain ground.

But the chaos will shrink. The "Fee Syrian Army" is pretty much dead. The Nusra front is shrinking with many of its fighters and officials deserting and joining the Islamic State. In a few month the Islamic State will be the only group fighting against the Syrian (and Iraqi) government and Hizbullah and other pro-government militias. That battle will be epic.

The shiny, all new, to be U.S. trained "Fee Syrian Army" planned for now is unlikely to ever get off the ground.

"We're not going to be able to build that kind of credible force in enough time to make a difference," said a senior U.S. officer who is involved in military operations against the militants and who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. "We've watched the moderate opposition dwindle and dwindle and now there's very little left."

To find fighters and support from Turkey and Saudi Arabia Obama would have to promise to use the "new" FSA against the Syrian government. But destroying the Syrian government is likely a guarantee that the Islamic State will seize Damascus and the rest of Syria. The Obama administration seems to rightfully fear that and will, despite heavy pressure from some hawks and Pentagon brass, hopefully not go that way.

Posted by b on October 31, 2014 at 15:01 UTC | Permalink


A friend just returned from Turkey and she said that car gas was twice as expensive as in Europe. You bet some people near the Syrian borders are happy to buy it for cheap from IS

Posted by: Mina | Oct 31 2014 15:26 utc | 1

Like the way you think, b.

Posted by: MRW | Oct 31 2014 15:50 utc | 2

The US strategy was working fine to correct a mistake in the first half of this year. Iran's new ally Iraq, created at great expense by the US, was being bifurcated or perhaps entirely taken over by US-aided Iran enemy ISIS. Plus ISIS threatened US enemy Syria. What could go wrong with that?

Then came the fateful limo ride, and dumbo changed everything according to Politico.

The ride to the White House allowed Dempsey his first one-on-one with Obama in several weeks. As the two sat across from each other in the presidential limousine, Dempsey turned to his commander-in-chief. “We have a crisis in Iraq, Mr. President. . . ISIS is a real threat.”

“It’s that bad?” Obama asked, according to this person’s account. Dempsey was blunt. “Yes, sir,” he said, “it is.”

Posted by: Don Bacon | Oct 31 2014 16:41 utc | 3

I think the Yankees are going out of their way to make the ISIS problem seem more complex than it really is. The Ebola 'existential threat' beat-up helps to divert attention from it, when the State Dept is busy making up ISIS bullshit.

I'm now rusted on to the theory that the (existential) threat of ISIS was pulled out of someone's ass to draw attention from the fact that "Obama" wanted to get rid of Maliki because of the danger that he might sell too much of Dick Cheney's oil to non-Western interests and spend the revenue on Iraqis. There was also the danger that he might invite the Yankees to leave - by conducting a well-publicised referendum on the issue and refusing/repudiating a SOFA (which the 'new, improved' Iraqi govt fell over itself to approve in exchange for "help" with the ISIS Phantom Menace).

While all the ISIS-Iraq-Syria-Caliphate horseshit was grabbing headlines "Obama" gave Karzai a friendly push ("Here's 3 truckloads of cash. Now please piss off!") and it's odds-on that the New (improved) Afghan Govt will be as eager to sign a SOFA with the Yankees as Karzai wasn't. That'll be a big weight off "Obama's" mind because the only way it was going to get its troops out of AfPak, without a SOFA, would have involved crawling all the way to Moscow and begging Putin to "Let my people go (please)."

There are other discordant notes to the ISIS song, the most obvious being that "Obama" contradicted himself early on - saying that he expected to rid Syria of its ISIS infection within a year or so, but Iraq could take many years if not longer. You don't have to be Albert Einstein to deduce that when the World's Only Superpower has invaded the same country 3 times in a couple of decades, someone has lost the plot.

Syria is permanently off "Obama's" table for direct US Military intervention because the 1% have probably told him they're not ready to have ALL their navies and power stations Nuked by Vlad. And one only need recall that Obama, BBC and Saudi's "rebels" are as cowardly and lily-livered as their cowardly, lily-livered sponsors - albeit equally keen on killing undefended civilians and calling it War (or civil war).

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 31 2014 16:57 utc | 4

Oh, really? Lookie who is advising Chuck Hagel (R)

The Imploding U.S Strategy in the Islamic State War?

It is too early to say that the U.S. strategy against the Islamic State is imploding, but it is scarcely too soon to question whether this is possible. In fact, it is far from clear that the original U.S. strategy ever planned to deal with the complications that have arisen since President Obama officially announced a portion of what that strategy really had to be.

[Source: Anthony H. Cordesman - Oct 23, 2014]

Posted by: Oui | Oct 31 2014 17:13 utc | 5

pardon me for being a bit simplistic, but what part about meddling in others affairs thru military support (intervention) for 'moderate' or 'immoderate' terrorists groups passes others BS meter here? not mine..

they support some of these groups but then they have turn around and ''un support'' some of these same groups? bottom line - they have to meddle as that is what they do, even if obama has a sore stomach in it all, LOL... too bad one of his daughters isn't old enough to run an oil/gas company with designs on syria, or is that the next step we just haven't been told about?

sorry.. every time i hear about what the us is or isn't doing in others countries i get depressed..

Posted by: james | Oct 31 2014 17:48 utc | 6

@6 I think it's more of an attempt to chronicle blowback and predict how threats will grow or change as opposed to an endorsement. Yes, the policies of the current and previous administration lead to chaos, but their reactions now will also shape the next problem.

Also, it's kind of funny watching our "betters" publicly unwind.

For example, I was shocked by the religious fervor on display in Iraq and expected an uprising/insurrectionist group mimicking the Kurds from the 60's and 70's given their outward appearance of stability in Iraq.

Posted by: NotTimothyGeithner | Oct 31 2014 18:27 utc | 7

To add to the FUBAR situation the president has appointed the shamed John Allen as "Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL" which bypasses the State and Defense Departments. Particularly on the military side, this like all other US foreign policy moves being mostly military, Allen now bypasses Hagel, Dempsey and Austin and reports directly to Obama. In that sense (only) it's similar to Iraq 2.0 when Gerry Bremer reported directly to Bush.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Oct 31 2014 18:46 utc | 8

As the moon waxes, "In a few months the Islamic State will be the only group fighting against the Syrian (and Iraqi) government and Hizbullah and other pro-government militias. That battle will be epic."
So too,I have claimed since the much ballyhooed ISIS emerged into the public terror discourse.
Although, my take is that ISIS was created to consolidate all of the disparate 'rebel/jihadi' groups fighting Assad (and each other), while simultaneously doing wonders for suicide-junkie enrollment.
The war on Assad was fragmenting and going nowhere fast.....ISIS to the rescue!
There won't be any epic battle though. These clowns are as much spectacle as warriors and will be dispatched to the netherworld in large numbers - on a daily basis. Syria (and less so Iraq) will become the greatest meat-grinder in history.
Godspeed SAA!

Posted by: spinworthy | Oct 31 2014 20:49 utc | 9

What's next ? The US is going to support Assad ? How will that go down with the Israelis ?

Posted by: Willy2 | Oct 31 2014 22:42 utc | 10

To hold power ISIS will have to govern, which is difficult. Just ask Washington.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Oct 31 2014 23:01 utc | 11

The White House used again the "mantra" that Bashar Al Assad has lost the 'legitimacy' to rule Syria.
It seems that many Gulf ears wanted to hear that as it appears to everyone else that Bashar al Assad, considered legitimate or not, is here to stay to guarantee that the rest of Syria does not become part of the Caliphate.
So the mantra is only to re-assure the nervous Saudis that their goal of toppling arrogant Bashar al Assad who said there were 'half man' in 2006, is just postponed the next decade or so.

The other message to the terrified GCC is: If you want to be protected from the Sunnis that make ISIS, you will have to rely on Iraqi Shias, Western Christians, Kurds and Syrian Alawites because the Arab Sunni soldiers have shown not only to be reluctant to kill other Sunnis but they have shown they are inefficient and disunited.
Unless Saudi Arabia is ready to finally show what is its army worth, the Sunnis will bear another humiliation.

Posted by: Virgile | Nov 1 2014 1:14 utc | 12

This consolidation is good news. Now the anti-ISIL forces and Assad can focus their firepower on ISIL.

Posted by: really | Nov 1 2014 8:04 utc | 13

Idlib falls into the control of the Coalition ( Al Nusra-ISIS)
Jamal Marouf one of the 'vetted' moderates leader escapes to "save civilian' lives. Many fighters of his fighters join al Nusra.
The USA is still looking for 'moderates' that have become an endangered species.
In 4 years have the Sunni Syrian 'rebellion' calling for "democracy" morphed into Islamists calling for a "caliphate" or was it the undisclosed goal just at it started?
Bashar Al Assad may have been right all the way.

Posted by: Virgile | Nov 1 2014 14:51 utc | 14

LOL. If not for the "US bumbling" and "ME in CHAOS!" propaganda, one might well ask if the new FSA initiative failed or if an alternate plan as succeeded. While extreme and distasteful, ISIS seems to be much more capable and is largely directed against foes of US/US allies.

To those who understand the warped neolibcon mindset, such cynicism is not unwarranted.

It has been clear for a long time that FSA was not up to the task of toppling Assad. When USA bombing was stymied in Sept.2013 - a triumph of political ass-covering (in the face of determined Russian resistance) NOT democracy - a new plan was needed. What came next? Announcement of an Interim Agreement with Iran and the rise of ISIS - culminating in the seizure of Mosul.

It is a rather strange coincidence that ISIS seized Mosul (June 11th) at about the same time that it was clear that talks with Iran would fail to reach an agreement by the June 20 deadline (6 months after the Interim Agreement came into effect on January 20, 2014). Virtually overnight, ISIS gained hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and tons of weaponry.

Furthermore, despite the 'chaos' that they have unleashed, it strikes me that ISIS is extremely hierarchically and thus easy to control -IF- one has influence with the ISIS leader/leadership. It is widely believed that wealthy KSA and Gulf States citizens funded and nurtured these leaders and it is difficult to imagine that this continued over many years without the approval of these governments.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 1 2014 17:45 utc | 15

"We've watched the moderate opposition dwindle and dwindle and now there's very little left."

we won't be your trojan horse: sunni muslim militias decide they won't fight with is - or the us alliance -

Posted by: TikTok | Nov 1 2014 17:53 utc | 16

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