Why is Obama Changing the Date and Size of First CIA Death Squads to Enter Syria?

There is a very interesting point thrown in as a small tidbit in Monday’s New York Times story on Barack Obama securing the support of John McCain for a military strike on Syria:

Officials said that in the same conversation, which included Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, Mr. Obama indicated that a covert effort by the United States to arm and train Syrian rebels was beginning to yield results: the first 50-man cell of fighters, who have been trained by the C.I.A., was beginning to sneak into Syria.

Taken at face value, this version of the story would have us believe that the first group of 50 trained by the CIA was presumably still in the process of “sneaking” into Syria on Monday. But the timeline of US training for these fighters is much more complex than that. Some foul-mouthed blogger noted back in May that this training program had already been underway for some time and the LA Times caught up with her in June, disclosing that the program began at least as far back as November 2012 on US bases in Jordan and Turkey.

The LA Times article details that the training is carried out by both special operations troops and CIA personnel. That would put this program squarely within the US tradition of training and releasing death squads that seem to be as adept at killing innocent civilians as they are at killing military targets. We have seen details of their operation in Iraq and Afghanistan under David Petraeus’ vaunted COIN program. There is no information in the LA Times article regarding the death squads entering Syria at that time. Reading between the lines of the article suggests that the squads were in a holding pattern at that point, awaiting better weapons from the US.

In direct contradiction to Obama’s Monday statement to McCain and Graham on the timing of the entry of the first US-trained death squads into Syria, we have this report from the Jerusalem Post that quotes a story first reported in Le Figaro:

The first group of 300 handpicked Free Syrian Army soldiers crossed the border on August 17 into the Deraa region, and a second group was deployed on August 19, the paper reported.

The paper quoted a researcher at the French Institute for Strategic Analysis as saying the trained rebels group was passing through Ghouta, on their way to Damascus.

Okay, now this gets interesting. Obama claimed only the first group of 50 were entering, while Le Figaro claimed there were two groups, with the first one being 300 and the second one not specified by size. Further, note the dates and location: they entered on August 17 and 19 and they passed through Ghouta. The large number of deaths from a suspected chemical warfare agent occurred on August 21 in Ghouta. In fact, the second paragraph of the Jerusalem Post article notes:

Le Figaro reported that this is the reason behind the Assad regime’s alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus on Wednesday morning, as UN inspectors were allowed into the country to investigate allegations of WMD use.

Were these first groups of CIA-trained death squad members the target of the attack? Or could it be even worse than that? Vladimir Putin had some very interesting things to say in a wide-ranging interview today, but this bit stands out in relation to the death squad story:

“If it is determined that these rebels used weapons of mass destruction, what will the United States do with the rebels?” Mr. Putin asked. “What will the sponsors of the rebels do? Stop the supply of arms? Will they start fighting against the rebels?”

Whether they were the targets of an attack by Assad’s forces or whether they were the agents carrying out a false flag attack, US-trained death squads could well be at the center of the disputed use of chemical weapons. That would seem to be both a strong incentive and a huge tell for Obama to change both the date and the size of the entry of the first of these agents trained by the US. After all, even while reporting Obama’s leak to McCain and Graham on Monday, the New York Times noted that the training program is covert.

Except that it’s not just the US training them. Going back to the Jerusalem Post article:

The rebels were trained for several months in a training camp on the Jordanian-Syrian border by CIA operatives, as well as Jordanian and Israeli commandos, the paper said.

Oh my. That’s quite the international faculty for this training program. What new wonders await us as more graduates of the program pour into Syria?

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
32 replies
  1. der says:

    What if Assad’s military capture one or some of these secret ninjas, enhancely interrogates them and they or he spill the beans. Is that aiding the enemy? Ok, sounds facetious, the point is the same – again it doesn’t look well thought out other than bombs away and let god sort it out.

    Secret ninjas in VietNam, secret ninjas in Colombia, secret ninjas in Afghanistan, in Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Indonesia spreading democracy, peace and freedom. It’s worked and is working so well for our brilliant War Fighters. Banana Republic tactics to serve a diet of “Fruit Salad” and “Scrambled Eggs”. Our Best and Brightest, Psychopaths. Team America! And Larry Summers too!http://www.gregpalast.com/larry-summers-and-the-secret-end-game-memo/

    Shit IS fucked up and bullshit.

  2. x174 says:

    Mr. White–

    fantastic analysis of the available information. very emptywheelian. changing dates and numbers of purported war-related fact-based bombing justifications begs for more detailed parsing, cross-referencing and timelines. keep up the great work!

  3. GulfCoastPirate says:

    If foreign fighters are being trained in Jordan to infiltrate Syria in a civil war doesn’t this make Jordan a legitimate military target for Assad?

  4. klynn says:

    This is sick. This is a mess.

    I bet the program goes further back.

    It does explain our hurry and why we do not want to wait on the UN.

    Hope this gets picked up by many Jim. A fantastic job. Wonder if Putin has a mole at the training facility through the Israeli commandos? And, did Assad get his hands on something to make this look like the rebels did it? Putin likes to play with his prey like a cat. Take what he states in that context. (Although I was being sarcastic the other day about how this has the appearance of Sum Of All Fears II, a part of me was serious.) What kind of warhead delivered the CW? What do we have missing?)

  5. Jim White says:

    One more piece of the puzzle becomes a bit easier to understand in the context of the death squads being newly arrived at the time of the CW attack. Many have faulted Assad for continuing conventional shelling of the Ghouta area for several days after the chemical deaths. If he knew the death squads were in the area, that would give a strong incentive to continue the shelling to take them off the board, no matter who carried out the CW bit.

  6. klynn says:

    Now, if I were the President and knew the rebels munitions were clean, I would encourage the UN to work with the rebels to allow the UN in to inspect the rebel munitions. Show they do not have CW’s.

    Question is who framed who?

  7. klynn says:

    Jim, if Assad is framing the rebels, he has to continue to use conventional shelling. It’s the “I’m only using conventional shelling folks. I have to do this for my country to destroy what else could be out there waiting,” argument for, “The rebels may try to use more CW’s.” It’s part of the show if he is the one framing. If he has framed the rebels using CW’s that can be traced to sources in our supply chain or ally supply chain (i.e. Saudis), we have nothing to stand on unless we produce a timeline of missing inventory and what hands they may have fallen into…

  8. Snoopdido says:

    So who really is that Syrian military defector? Reuters says it’s Syrian Defense Minister General Ali Habib who supposedly was killed in 2012 – Former Syria defense minister defects in break with Assad – http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/04/us-syria-crisis-defection-idUSBRE9830O420130904?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=992637

    The story mentions this:

    “An officer in the opposition Free Syrian Army, who did not want to be identified, said the Habib appeared to have coordinated his defection with the United States.”

  9. Jeff Kaye says:

    Great work, Jim! Catching the government in lies and perfidy is as easy as casting out a net. But how few bother to do that. Thanks so much.

    Can the US war machine be held back when in its chomping enthusiasm, and surfeited with righteous hypocrisy, it gallops full speed toward yet another massive bloodletting? Lacking any true societal counterweight to the militarists, the spies, their Congressional gaggle, and corporate/financial backers, we know the tragic answer to that. The building of such a counter-organization to those who direct mass bloodlettings and start from falsehoods dire wars is on the political agenda, though it sits there like a maiden aunt invited to a rave.

    The back-down by the British was due to restlessness among their population, the mass of whom are laboring under neo-Thatcherite cutbacks and onerous surveillance and, once again, near-open class war. In the US, where “class” is an anathema, as the workers and small proprietors of the country believe that watching TV shows with the rich makes them somehow their spiritual and earthly equal, the credulity is wider, though still quite shallow. When that mask of naivete and self-serving blindness finally is pulled away, the frenzy of change will finally descend upon America in ways I cannot fully fathom, except I know it will be relentless, violent, and world-changing.

  10. Dredd says:

    Natinal war trance day approaches. Gotta deliver some shoot-em-up bang-bang for the bread and circus crowd. It may become a national government psychosis, if it hasn’t already.

    Jim White’s post shows that they are in a warmonger rut and can’t seem to find a way out.

  11. Frank33 says:

    Ace McCain did not get enough aces, when playing VIP Poker. Ha Ha. Seriously, what does the President have to do? He put Ninjas into Syria but McCain wants more bombing and more casualties. McCain enjoys bombing third world riff raff. The President is encouraging America’s enemies according to Crazy McCain. And it is catastrophic. And Worse, Crazy lost playing computer Poker.

    And the good news is, that gambling fool, McCain opposes the President’s wussy war plans. Tommorow, perhaps he will change his mind. He is so fickle.

    Obama used to play Poker, real Poker with money. He played against lobbyists in Illinois and Obama always won!

  12. Jessica says:

    This may be unrelated to the type of CIA operations discussed here, but it sparked my memory of an article Philip Giraldi wrote back in Dec 2011, reporting on a “finding” on Syria that the Pres signed. I guess “findings” authorize covert action or the like?

    Here’s the link: http://original.antiwar.com/giraldi/2011/12/07/washingtons-secret-wars/

    He opens:
    “Following the widely reported Iranian government plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington and alarming new reports of civilian deaths in Syria, the White House has issued several findings to the intelligence community authorizing stepped-up covert action against both Damascus and Tehran. A “finding” is top-level approval for secret operations considered to be particularly politically sensitive. Taken together, the recent findings, combined with the evidence of major intelligence operations being run in Lebanon, amount to a secret war against Iran and its allies in the Mideast.”

    It may be of no interest, I am not well versed on such matters to make that distinction, but I thought I’d mention it anyhow! :)

    Great piece as usual, Jim!

  13. Jessica says:

    @harpie – I caught that, too! But then in the comments, there are links to news a day later (or earlier) that he had not died. But also, that he’d not defected…? Sounds like the whole story – death, resurrection, defection and non-defection, deserve a thorough look by a detail-oriented journalist. They appear to be in short supply. In fairness, it’s hard to get a truthful answer from either side in this conflict, as is the deceptive nature of war, I suppose.

  14. JohnT says:

    From the last blockquote

    The rebels were trained for several months in a training camp on the Jordanian-Syrian border by CIA operatives, as well as Jordanian and Israeli commandos, the paper said.

    History Commons has some good info

    1973-1982: Israel and Jordan Support Muslim Brotherhood Terrorism Against Syria

    and

    Late 2006: State Department Document Reveals US Interest in Supporting Syrian Activists Who Oppose Assad

    http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=syria

  15. CTuttle says:

    This is certainly chilling… Kerry: Arab countries offered to pay for invasion

    Secretary of State John Kerry said at Wednesday’s hearing that Arab counties have offered to pay for the entirety of unseating President Bashar al-Assad if the United States took the lead militarily.

    “With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assess, the answer is profoundly yes,” Kerry said. “They have. That offer is on the table.”

    Asked by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) about how much those countries would contribute, Kerry said they have offered to pay for all of a full invasion.

    “In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we’ve done it previously in other places, they’ll carry that cost,” Kerry said. “That’s how dedicated they are at this. That’s not in the cards, and nobody’s talking about it, but they’re talking in serious ways about getting this done.

  16. alexd says:

    The CIA and US Army training rebel teams to infiltrate Syria? Wow, that sounds like some covert ops the US did in North Vietnam pre-Gulf of Tonkin and after WW2 in Ukraine. None of them ended well.

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @alexd: Latin America was probably the proving ground for such training, ops and policy implementation. What was good for United Fruit (or General Motors) was good for the United States. Over the decades, substitute the commodity du jour, from tobacco to oil.

    The School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, GA, was probably the best known, but not the first or last program through which such training took place. Much of the later, congressionally-funded training, for example, continued under programs nominally designed to teach “police methods” (see, eg, Dan Mitrione). As predictably implemented, those methods would make Mel Gibson’s vile The Passion of the Christ look like a picnic.

  18. C says:

    @klynn: Given that the U.S. was supporting the MEK under Bush I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this goes back at least a decade and was tied in with the same program.

  19. Vivek says:

    also check out boilingfrogspost.com for their coverage.
    for example:
    http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2013/08/29/bfp-syria-coverage-track-record-what-when-we-exposed-and-the-msm-quasi-alternative-culprits-who-fought-our-exposes/

    http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2013/09/01/debunking-the-u-s-government-assessment-of-the-syrian-governments-use-of-chemical-weapons-on-august-21-2013/

    affiliated with BFP is James Corbett: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCdaExnIpGs

    and we should keep in mind the excellent analyses by James Petras, who blogs at http://petras.lahaine.org
    This piece from August 2009 by Petras on the planned humanitarian crisis in Iraq is relevant: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-us-war-against-iraq-the-destruction-of-a-civilization/14870

    Too many people are afraid to discuss Zionism and the influence of Israel on US foreign policy.

    Gloves Come Off: Israel Lobby Goes All-In for Syrian Intervention, While New York Times Self-Censors
    http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2013/09/03/gloves-come-off-israel-lobby-goes-all-in-for-syrian-intervention-while-new-york-self-censors/

    Mark Bruzonsky to Abby Martin of Breaking The Set: “When it comes to matters relating to Israel, matters relating to the Middle East, their influence is almost total. They have such ways of manipulating the press and politicians and forcing people… And they’ve got many fall-back positions. Sometimes it appears they don’t get their first goal, but they’ve got two or three or four or five other goals that are all acceptable to them.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apSkhUKw4W0

    Another interview with Bruzonsky:

  20. westie says:

    @Bardi: Friggin Israeli’s are up to their eyeteeth in these False Flag CW attacks, bet the ranch on it. Also see every US Jewish organization has jumped on the Bomb Syria train as a path to Bomb Iran. Watch out they will fight till the last American dies!

  21. Kevin Schmidt says:

    If the US did not try to destabilize Syria, there would not have been a civil war.
    We have met the terrorists, and they are US.

  22. brian says:

    very interesting and likely…and president Assad is NOT framing(thats projection)any ‘rebel’s who as we know arent even syrian: but are foreign jihadis

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