With One Bombing Run Russia Gets the US to Acknowledge CIA’s “Covert” Regime Change Forces

For some time, a number of us have been tracking the collective forgetfulness about CIA’s acknowledged covert forces on the ground in Syria. I often point back to the day two years ago when Chuck Hagel confirmed our covert efforts in Syria in a congressional hearing, as well as Senate Foreign Relations Committee member frustration with their inability to get details on the acknowledged covert ops (that already numbered in the thousands, according to Tom Udall) there. Jim and I have written a slew of other posts about CIA’s covert forces there (one two three four five six seven are just a small sampling).

More recently, Adam Johnson caught NYT and Vox pretending CIA’s efforts don’t exist at all.

This past week, two pieces—one in the New York Timesdetailing the “finger pointing” over Obama’s “failed” Syria policy, and a Vox“explainer” of the Syrian civil war—did one better: They didn’t just omit the fact that the CIA has been arming, training and funding rebels since 2012, they heavily implied they had never done so.

To be fair, some intelligence reporters have done consistently good reporting on CIA’s covert war in Syria. But the policy people — especially the ones reporting how if Obama had supported “moderate” rebels sooner — usually pretend no one knows that Obama did support Qatar and Saudi-vetted liver-eating rebels sooner and they often turned out to be Islamists.

The selective ignorance about CIA’s covert operations in Syria seems to have been eliminated, however, with one Russian bombing run that targeted them.

Russia launched airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, catching U.S. and Western officials off guard and drawing new condemnation as evidence suggested Moscow wasn’t targeting extremist group Islamic State, but rather other opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

One of the airstrikes hit an area primarily held by rebels backed by the Central Intelligence Agency and allied spy services, U.S. officials said, catapulting the Syrian crisis to a new level of danger and uncertainty. Moscow’s entry means the world’s most powerful militaries—including the U.S., Britain and France—now are flying uncoordinated combat missions, heightening the risk of conflict in the skies over Syria.

Thus far, of course, US officials are insisting that the anti-Assad troops Russia targeted are wholly distinct from ISIS (even while they remain silent about whether they’re Islamic extremists).

Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and said he raised U.S. concerns about attacks that target regime opponents other than Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In Syria’s multi-sided war, Mr. Assad’s military—aided by Iran and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah—is fighting both Islamic State and opposition rebel groups, some of which are supported by the U.S. and its allies.


The U.S. and its allies were angry at the Russians on many scores: that they are supporting Mr. Assad; that they aren’t coordinating their actions with the existing, U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition; that they provided terse notice only an hour before their operations; that they demanded the U.S. coalition stay out of Syrian airspace; and that they struck in areas where anti-Assad rebels—not Islamic State—operate.

“It does appear that they were in areas where there probably were not ISIL forces, and that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach,” said Mr. Carter, the U.S. defense chief.

This attempt to distinguish ISIS from the CIA-backed rebels will quickly lead to an awkward place for the Administration and its allies, not least because making any distinction will require providing details on the vetting process used to select these forces, as well as addressing the evidence of cooperation with ISIS or traditional al Qaeda in the past. Plus, the more the US argues these groups that aren’t entirely distinct from al Qaeda are entirely distinct from ISIS, it will make the Administration’s claim that the 2001 AUMF against Al Qaeda authorizes it to fight ISIS (in related news, DOJ just denied USAT’s FOIA request for 3 OLC documents making that case) really wobbly. Any claim Russia makes that these anti-Assad forces are also Islamic extremists (and therefore entirely legitimate targets in the fight against ISIS) will be based on intelligence that is no more shitty than US intelligence that they’re not, especially given that CentCom admits on the record it can’t even trust (much less vet) the communications it is getting from rebels on the ground about their coordination with al Qaeda. It will devolve into a he-said-she-said about whose claims are more suspect, Assad’s or the Saudis’ who’ve been pushing for regime change long before the Arab Spring gave then an opportunity to push it along.

And all the while, any pretense that CIA’s involvement is covert will grow more and more laughable. Reporting like this — which claims Putin has “hijacked” Obama’s war on ISIS when the content only makes sense if Putin has more urgently hijacked Obama’s regime change efforts against Assad — will become more and more laughable.

Whatever Russia’s entry does for the tactical confrontation (I have no hopes it will do anything but make this conflict even bloodier, and possibly expand it into other countries), it has clarified a discussion the US has always tried to obscure. There are plenty of US backed forces on the ground — which may or may not be Islamic extremists (see Pat Lang on this point) — whose priority is toppling Bashar al-Assad, not defeating ISIS. While there will be some interesting fights about who they really are in coming days (and whether CIA has already acknowledged that it inflamed Islamists with its regime change efforts), American priorities will become increasingly clear.

Make no mistake: I am not defending Russia, Syria, our vetted “moderate” rebels, Saudi Arabia, or anyone else. It’s a volatile situation and none of the outside intervention seems to be helping. But one big reason we’ve been failing is because we’ve been lying publicly about the forces on the ground. Those lies just got a lot harder to sustain.

(As always on the Syrian quagmire, see Moon of Alabama’s latest.)

43 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    i would guess that, appart from aiding syria, the russian govetnment may feel it has a great deal to gain from trying to defang arab religious extremists. what is “dangerous” to the u.s. from thousands of miles and two oceans away is an existing internal problem for russia that could metasticize.

    • emptywheel says:

      Absolutely. I’m seeing fucking morons claim that Putin has never fought the War On Terror before, as if the US weren’t trying to rein him in in Chechnya in the 1990s, when a hard line against political Islam justified all sorts of human rights abuses (hmm, sounds familiar).

      Putin has always been more serious about fighting political Islam than any of our allies in the Middle East, which is why this intervention is going to be really awkward for the US.

      • orionATL says:

        whatever putin and his generals are up to, i expect it will not involve rash behavior.

        in addition to those internal worries, if i were he, i would be very concerned about turkey. it has been slowly slipping from attaturk’s secularism for, i don’t know, maybe 15 years. and then there’s that ring of -stans.

    • Jim White says:

      In a similar vein, it strikes me that the Saudis are doing some serious radicalizing of folks just across their border in Yemen. That can’t end well for them. Seems only right, though, that they should begin to feel some of the wrath that they have helped stir up around the globe for decades.

  2. TarheelDem says:

    Putin’s first move is going to be to secure the base at Tartus and any other locations that Russia intends to operate from. Thus the Latakia area air strikes. The second is to shore up Assad’s areas of control as a base territory from which to operate even as Russian power works on the nearest jihadi groups (Russia has no cross-purpose alliances). Only after securing western and central Syria will Russia help work to crush ISIS, except for possibly eliminating particular ISIS personnel (and those in their vicinity) who are threats on Russian territory.

    The big problem for US personnel is not becoming collateral damage of a Russian operation and the bloody shirt for a superpower confrontation. That will force operational coordination between the US and Russia whether the US military wants it or not. Unless the US military intends to take some very high risks of war with Russia.

    • emptywheel says:

      Great comment all around, but especially this: “(Russia has no cross-purpose alliances).” Our ineptitude is largely driven by justified distrust in our allies, a good deal of it earned in Libya.

      • joanneleon says:

        Cross purposes, inability to trust allies (I think that goes both ways btw) and Libya — there’s the real Benghazi story that the imbeciles in Congress will never dig into. Plus “rat line” gun running, co-opting popular uprisings, turning them into armed conflicts and all that.

        Tarheel, there’s some info out there about division of labor in this new Russia / Iran / Syria/ Hezb coalition. IIRC Iran and Hezb is going to work on the anti-ISIS operations in the northeast of Syria. Iran does have its own air force. I don’t know its capabilities. I wonder if this dividing of fighting territories will go into effect quickly or if they all depend on the Russians.

        Marcy, it’s a shame that we have to disclaim that just because we’re frustrated with and/or disagree with US foreign policy and bungled war strategies it doesn’t mean we’re pledging fealty to the opponents. But whenever things go sour, the Putinist, Kremlin troll, useful idiot accusations start flying, so we do have to disclaim.

        I feel a little bit relieved that things might straighten out some but in the end now, it’s more bombing. It might drag things out even longer. It also might drag it all to a negotiating table faster than it would have otherwise, obviously, the best outcome, assuming that the country stays secular and a stable govt. With the US/GCC/Israel plan we were running, there was no good outlook for the Syrians. Even if they went to the negotiating table, likelihood of installing a stable govt was slim. Syrian civilians were looking at a bad very long term outcome there.

        There are so many moving parts and trigger points for a much larger war and frankly, I think there are parties who desire that outcome.

        Most of all I hope this signals a backbone in the Obama administration and an abandonment of insane path they were on. A real hardline stance against the parties driving the insane, convoluted operations and alliances with factions who had conflicting goals and absolutely no concern for the millions of people they were ruining. I’m just not sure the stakeholders, deep state, etc will stand for this kind of humiliation. I think they won’t given the way things are run like organized crime and examples have to be set, etc. I’m seriously afraid of what they’ll do.

  3. wayoutwest says:

    The highest estimate I’ve seen of the number of CIA trained fighters in Syria is 10,000 and there is no estimate of how many remain alive. This number is a small fraction of the estimated 200,000+ rebels including IS active in the conflict. The fact that some of these rebels are trained or supplied by the US doesn’t mean that when Assad is gone they will bow to their Western masters and install a compliant satrap government in Syria.

    Successful CIA backed overthrow of governments such as Iran, Chile and even Ukraine depended on the US penetration and cooptation of powerful internal military and political forces who used their existing power to remove the target government. The US is trying and failing to tag along on a popular uprising and use it to influence the outcome.

    No one using a gun is moderate and trying to separate these forces with that Western branding PR is for internal consumption in the US they are all Sunni Muslin Islamists to lesser and greater degrees and any government they establish will probably reflect that fact.

    Trying to continue to impose failed Western concepts and impositions such as faux democracy, Western law, secularism and world capitalism on the Muslim world may be a fools errand because Political Islam is the predominate growing force in the ME.

    • emptywheel says:

      Not to mention, even if we succeeded in our stated strategy, which is to get rid of ISIS and then overthrow Assad, even if we succeeded in finding a moderate secularist to replace him, that person would immediately have to be just as ruthless as Assad (or Saddam) to stay in power.

      • Don Bacon says:

        I’m not up on “ruthless” ratings, but it is a fact that different sects have at least got along under Assad, an Alawite who was re-elected last year. Pat Lang has pointed out that a majority of the Syria Arab Army is Sunni, and certainly they must be dedicated to the country to have fought for so long with so many casualties inflicted by outside forces with major support from two of the three countries with the largest defense expenditures, US & KSA.
        And yes, finding a substitute would be difficult. H. Clinton fruitlessly devoted much of her miserable State “career” to finding a substitute for Assad. She came up with several, my favorite being Ghassan Hitto from Murphy, Texas. He lasted about four months and then Hill had to dig a little deeper.

        • wayoutwest says:

          I had to chuckle at your casual comment that Assad was reelected last year, as if he wasn’t an installed hereditary autocrat, it’s not democracy if the leader is installed before the elections, see Egypt for another example. People may appear to get along under minority dictators but sectarian hatred only grows under the calm surface.

          Pat Lang AKA Colonel Mustard writes many strange things but I doubt he mentioned that the Sunnis in the SAA are conscripts who have no choice but to follow orders of face summary execution as happened when they refused to kill peaceful protesters during the civil part of this drama. Assad recently admitted having trouble finding replacement Sunni soldiers to fill his army’s dwindling ranks as many young Sunni men are escaping the draft to avoid dedicating their lives and deaths to this bloody lisping torturer.

          Those who claim he must stay in power because his forces are the only ones capable of confronting the Islamic State, such as Russia and his Western sycophants, are ignoring the reality that in every major battle with the IS they have been routed.

          It seems that most of the Western and Russian discussion about what is best for Syria or the ME in general is actually what is best for foreigners, Russia’s base there and our hegemonic interests and Europe’s energy needs. The people of the ME are always a secondary, at best, concern.

          • Don Bacon says:

            I know as an adherent to democracy, you’ll be just thrilled to be able to vote for a Clinton or a Bush next year, and then sit back for eight years and let democracy do its thing. Personally, I don’t call that democracy, so Syria isn’t that far behind. Democracy is when one actually gets to vote on issues that matter, not just voting for one schmuck over another every eight years.
            What Lang actually wrote: “Baathi Syria always had a large number of Sunnis in its structure and business world. Mustafa Tlas, the former Defense Minister and General Hikmat Shihabi the long time commander of the military are good examples. They were both Sunni Arabs and as I wrote recently there are many, many Sunni Arabs in the Syrian Arab Army.”
            Again, the SAA has held on against huge odds for several years, against huge odds financed and otherwise supported by KSA and US, long after the State Dept’s Hof testified to Congress: “Our view is that this regime is the equivalent of dead man walking,” said Hof, the State Department’s pointman on Syria. –That was on Dec 14, 2011.

            • wayoutwest says:

              I quit trusting in parasitic leaders long ago but held my nose and joined the rubes in our patriotic march to oblivion through voting rituals, but no more.

              The irony of our present election extravaganza is that the reality star billionaire Trump is the only candidate offering a sane exit from Syria. Let the Russians have it and all the costs, pain and defeat will be theirs.

              Quislings and minions can be bought with offers of power, money or position by most any powerful State no matter if they are from the elite class or not and CM ruminations on that fact are meaningless, the fighting soldiers are conscripts who must submit to the Rulers authority.

              The SAA has held on against mostly ragtag divided rebels with massive foreign aid and arms along with thousands of Iranian forces, Hezbollah and Iraqi, Iranian and even Afghan militias to prop up the failing regime. Some of the rebel forces have organized and joined into the Army of Conquest a much more formidable force and the IS has control of half of the country so now the Russians are needed to prop up the failing regime.

          • bell says:

            sorry to see the wow contagion has spread to emptywheel.. prepare to be dumbed down and given the usa propaganda angle 24/7..

            • wayoutwest says:

              If you can’t compete in the Marketplace of Ideas or speak the truth perhaps you should refrain from advertising your limitations and lack of honesty.

              • orionATL says:


                “… If you can’t compete in the Marketplace of Ideas…”

                who writes your lines for you?

                or do you write your own material?

                • wayoutwest says:

                  You may have to change your name to Orion the Defender, of the feeble minded and senile if you keep this up. I stole the Colonel Mustard moniker from someone else who viewed Lang’s analysis as less than rigorous, just as I do, although I have also agreed with him occasionally. I don’t need to be affiliated to anything to have an opinion about someone or some topic and your assertion that I must seems a little paranoid. I’ve been commenting at Marcy’s site here and at FDL for about 6 years.

                  You won’t see me defending the way we select our parasitic leaders but your analogy with Assad is beyond a stretch, more like a deflection. I was merely responding to Don’s ridiculous assertion that Assad is an elected leader.

                  I guess I’ll have to add snark tags to my comments when I brush off piss-ant attacks, so you won’t be confused.

                  • Evangelista says:

                    By your criterion, wayoutwest, that ” if the leader is installed before the elections” the election is not an election, or “democratic”, whatever that means, Barack Obama was not elected last term, nor was GW his second term, or Clinton his second, etc., ad two-termum.

                    May I suggest that the question is not for you, or me, or Obama, or the Syrians ex-Syria, but or the Syrians in Syria who participated in the election there.

                  • orionATL says:

                    you are accquiring a reputation as quite a ducker and dodger, wayoutinrightfield.

                    the issue you raised in #16 was related to assad as an autocratic leader. i made a related point about american leaders in the context of their elevation to supreme power.

                    you ducked that issue. this is not your first time responding evasively.

                    you have not been comenting at empytywheel for six years. period. if you have been commenting at firefoglake fine, but don’t keep stretching things and dodging. firedoglake commenters as a group were, well …

                    your intellectual signature here is as @25:

                    “…If you can’t compete in the Marketplace of Ideas…”

                    as for your inane critique of pat lang, this says it all:

                    “…I stole the Colonel Mustard moniker from someone else who viewed Lang’s analysis as less than rigorous, just as I do,…”

                    my sense is you are a bullshit artist who couldn’t tell rigorous analysis from your ass with both hands.

                • bell says:

                  wow is a troll from moa… wow came over here thanks a link that b offered.. whoever pays for their commentary doesn’t realize they have the opposite effect!

          • orionATL says:

            “I had to chuckle at your casual comment that Assad was reelected last year, as if he wasn’t an installed hereditary autocrat, it’s not democracy if the leader is installed before the elections,”

            really? someone forced you to laugh? how droll.

            – would not george w. bush, whose father george h.w. bush was president and whose grandfather was a u.s. senator, and who was nominated strictly on the basis of his name and provenance, not be an example of an american “installed hereditary autocrat”, most especially given the election fraud associated with g.w. bush’s “victory” over v-p gore ?

            – would not j.e.b. bush, were he elected president, be yet another example of an “installed bush hereditary autocrat”?

            this comment, “… Pat Lang AKA Colonel Mustard writes many strange things..”, has the spoor of a troll about it. i’ve read pat lang for a decade and i think he makes sense far more often then not.

            i’d love to know what affiliation prompted you to target this weblog.

  4. Don Bacon says:


    On Thursday, the commander of the Liwa Suqour al-Jabal rebel group that has received CIA training reportedly said that one of the group’s training camps in the Idlib province was hit by 20 missiles in continued Russian attacks. Echoing the commander’s comments, US Sen. John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNN that he had confirmed that Russian airstrikes were aimed at the CIA-backed fighters, not IS.
    “Their initial strikes were against the individuals and the groups that have been funded and trained by our CIA, in a credible flaunting of any kind of cooperation or effort to conceal what Putin’s priority is – and that is, of course, to prop up (Syrian President) Bashar Assad,” McCain said. The Free Syrian Army also said that one of its commanders, Iyad al-Deek, was killed on Wednesday by a Russian bomb dropped in Homs.

    Flaunting of any kind of cooperation — imagine that! Like Russia would cooperate with the CIA to destroy their own foreign insurgents? McCain is so upset he can’t even think straight.

  5. Jonf says:

    Great comments and post here. I am particularly keen on the idea of Russia protecting its base at Tartus. It reminds me of Sevastopol. Why would anyone think they could force Russia out of either base? If we installed another “democratic” dictator in Assads place, would Russia feel secure in Tartus? And John McCains rant is unhelpful. Is this the kind of policy General Petraeous suggests? We need to follow a foreign policy that makes sense and avoid duplicity. One might suggest that Russia has helped clarify the situation there.

    • orionATL says:

      “One might suggest that Russia has helped clarify the situation there.”

      that same thought occurred to me. so much so that one wonders if they were tacitly invited to the party with the thought of later negotiations re withdrawal/policing in mind.

  6. Mandla says:

    It is just wishful thinking that with Assad gone, there would be peace in Syria. Those who think so,are just living in a fool’s paradise. The experience of Libya should have taught us by now that the different armed groups are very likely going to be fighting against each other if Assad was to be toppled. Gaddafi is no more. But, is there any peace to talk about in Libya? Not that I know of.

  7. lefty665 says:

    The Iraqi Prime Minister has announced that he would welcome a Russian proposal for air strikes in Iraq. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iraqi-prime-minister-says-he-would-welcome-russian-airstrikes/2015/10/01/4177cf3c-684b-11e5-8325-a42b5a459b1e_story.html US policy OBE, and E proceeding rapidly.
    Lavrov’s comment was illuminating “If it walks like a terrorist, fights like a terrorist…. it’s a terrorist”. Pretty effectively trivializes the convoluted US attempts to distinguish between “our terrorists” and all those other terrorists. Also works if you substitute “neocon” for “terrorist” when talking about O/Hillary/Kerry.
    Also reports from Turks and Kurds that US is preventing them from attacking clearly visible ISIL supply lines.
    Somebody please tell me again why it was such a good idea for us to take sides in a Wahhabist Sunni fight with Shias that has been going on for a thousand years?
    Good stuff EW et al, I especially like wayoutwest “Trying to continue to impose failed Western concepts … on the Muslim world may be a fools errand.” and Don Bacon “McCain is so upset he can’t even think straight.” Sort of a chronic state for McCain isn’t it?.

  8. Ron says:

    I say we demand the CIA-backed rebel leaders sign on to a document promising to establish a secular government. If we don’t get enough signatures, we switch sides.

    • Don Bacon says:

      The problem with trusting “moderate” rebel leaders is that they don’t last very long, it’s turned out. Our guys never fight as well as their guys. It’s like the US is jinxed — but it keeps on trying. Takes a beating, but keeps on ticking. Unfortunately. –example
      Lots of US TOW anti-tank missiles have gone to rebel units, one way or the other.
      Apr 27, 2014
      U.S.-made TOW antitank missiles were provided to Harakat Hazm — or Movement of Steadfastness — who were chosen to receive the weapons because of their moderate views.
      Mar 2, 2015
      The US-backed Hazm Movement, or Harkat Hazm, has officially disbanded after suffering a major defeat by al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria.

  9. joanneleon says:

    P.S. What is it with the formatting and spacing in these comments? Even if you leave two lines between paragraphs they still clump together. The site doesn’t format them into paragraphs or if not that, put some line breaks in between to get the white apace. Maybe it’s a CSS styling issue.

  10. joanneleon says:

    One last thing. I know this is way out there but I can’t help but think about the Kennedy-Krushchev back channel communications. I know it’s probably wishful thinking but for some reason I want to ascribe good intentions to Obama (frustrated by same kind of bad guys Kennedy had to deal with). Each time I go into this “hope” territory, I get let down, so I don’t know why I keep doing it. I’m also holding onto the fact that Kerry did that BCCI investigation so many years ago. Then again he also went out and did dog & pony shows for the 2013 Syria regime change operation that didn’t happen. Ugh.

  11. Evangelista says:

    A couple of points: One, the Shiite — Sunni divde is not as wide, or as acrimonious as United States neo-con and Zionist propaganda image it. The acrimony inducing divde is between radical elements, political and religious, and the moderate and Prophet-Muhammed-following of Islam. Muhammad the Prophet of Islam unified fractured and fractious ‘tribes’ with his new religion, to create a unified ‘tribe’, which was to all and in each part, and eachindividual, to look out for each and all others. This bringing peace and stability was the cause for Islam’s rapid spread and success. Hence, a major rule of Islam is ‘No fighting within Islam’. Defensive fighting is, of course, the exception, and extends to ‘defending the faith’, which is the component Islamic Puritans, like Da-Esh, defend their aggressions as. That defense would work in Iraq, where Sunni dominance was overthrown, if Iraqi Shiites could be shown to have instigated the aliens to invade and wreck the government, but does not play where the aggression is not salable as a redress, where it is to establish a Puritan Islamic State, and is against tolerant Islams attempting to follow the Prophet’s examples and (Allah’s) orders. Thus, the Islamic supporters of Da-Esh are on shakey ethical footing within Islam and are being weakened in Islam by their support Puritan aggression against fellow Muslims. This means Da-Esh is radical in itself, its non-coerced support being radicalized, mostly young, and angry Muslims, not the mainstream of any denomination. For reference recall, or check back to, the Taliban in Afghanistan, before their ouster by a “Western Coalition” after they cut opium production to zero in ‘Islamisizing’ the nation, when they were under threat from the West for their ‘extremism’, and that they called for, and organized, an all-Islam clerical conference to review what, within the context of and in keeping with Islam they could and should do. The Taliban could not stop the West attacking, but what they did was buy themselves a full measure of credibility in the Islamic world, which the West didn’t, and doesn’t recognize, but which is still paying them dividends.

    Point Two, The United States’ operations in Syria have been ‘divide and conquer’ purposed, to force the Syrian State’s forces to maintain defenses on two fronts, one against Islamic State, the other against ‘CIA-and-State’ backed forces. The USA’s bombing efforts have been ‘ineffective’ only in stopping Da-Esh, which ineffectiveness has been effective in maintaining a ‘balance’, so Syrian forces remained divided, unable to establish a maintenance line on one front to concentrate on the other. Russia has just wrecked this duplicity, along with bringing its mechanics to light.

    My guess is that Russian forces knew exactly what they were doing, and exactly what was going on, for having good intelligence, for being not hated in the region and so having not onlySyrian, but Iranian and Hesbollah, if not Lebanese, intelligence source allies, quite unlike the USA, which is in something of the same position Adolph Hitler was in in World War II, trying to get intelligence from Britain.

  12. orionATL says:

    “..My guess is that Russian forces knew exactly what they were doing, and exactly what was going on, for having good intelligence, for being not hated in the region and so having not onlySyrian, but Iranian and Hesbollah, if not Lebanese, intelligence source allies, quite unlike the USA, which is in something of the same position Adolph Hitler was in in World War II, trying to get intelligence from Britain…”

    do you work for the cia inspector general’s office? if not, you shoud :)

    my guess, too, is the russians knew exacty what they were doing.

    i may have to eat these words, but russian history generally shows a nation disinclined to offensive war, unlike the english, their american cousins, their german cousins, and the spanish (well, in times of beowulf, there were the danes and the swedes) **

    ** see “grendel” and the badly negected political novel “freddie’s book (king gustav and the devil)”.

  13. scribe says:

    I have to think this strike was a backhanded way of Obama getting rid of some of Petraeus’ mistakes – the rebels we’ve been supporting have been notoriously ineffective and more concerned with issues other than Assad, etc.
    So he brought in a golem.

  14. Les says:

    The strikes happen to be near the Russian bases in the north where the Syrian government is battling the rebel coalition which includes Jabhat Nusra and Nusra Front. Tartus is the Russian naval base. There are a couple of military airbases to the north of Tartus. See the map enclosed.


    Striking IS given the current battle lines wouldn’t make sense until the Syrian government recaptured territory.

  15. wayoutwest says:

    There is some irony in the fact that immediately after assuming the presidency of the UN Security Council Russia begins a foreign bombing campaign under the rubric of R2P a minority dictator from his own people. The supposed legal justification for this cowardly bombing is that the dictator requested help in killing his own citizens which seems to me to resemble a certain Dark Side mentality now used to support Russia’s joining the War on Terrorists or anyone they call terrorists much like the US.

    A civilian in one of the Russian bombed towns reported that the attack came without warning due to the high altitude of the jets and this may account for the civilian casualties he also reported but they are all terrorists now or supporters of terrorists.

    Putin’s actions may have made some people rejoice because it makes the US look weak but the blowback from another Russian incursion into the Muslim world will be felt for decades.

  16. Les says:

    The CIA-backed terrorists have ethnically cleansed much of Syria. Half the population has fled the country. The territory they now hold is mostly populated by Sunnis. According to a recent IPS article, the locals are required to pledge their allegiance to Islamic State or told to leave. Other than retribution against collaborators with the governments in Baghdad or Damascus, they report life to be quite normal. None of this Caliphate nonsense that we see in the propaganda broadcast in the US to incite support for US and NATO intervention.

  17. Ilsa says:

    I wonder what you feel are the similarities and differences between the OSS (the predecessor to the CIA ) working with communist (leaning) Free French before the (Allied) invasion of France in WWII… or their use of Japanese soldiers at the end of WWII to control Indo-China till the vacuum could be filled by China and SEAC (Britain)… which led to France eventually taking back over.
    the CIA has a long history of supporting regime change in unsavory parts of the world.
    Also, with groups like CANVAS supporting regime change via non-violence, was there any chance that the United States made a mistake by backing the wrong “regime changers”?

  18. Procopius says:

    OK, I’m as baffled as anyone as to what can be done now. The U.S. position is so conflicted, inconsistent, and self-destructive that eventually things will either get better by themselves or just explode. But I wanted to comment on President Obama’s expressed distaste for allowing “a vile dictator to remain in place just because the alternative is worse.” Just a few names that popped up in my memory and a quick check of Google — I think I could find many more if I tried: Fulgencio Batista, Papa Doc Duvalier, Anastasio Somoza Garcia and his sons, Luis Somoza Debayle and Anastasio Somoza Debayle, Jorge Ubico, Carlos Castillo Armas, Augusto Pinochet, Suharto, Sukarno, Ferdinand Marcos, Francisco Franco, Antonio de Olveira Salazar. There are several from South and Central America and from Eastern Europe I don’t remember, these were just the most widely known. Also, too, I’m skeptical of news reports, and I don’t really know how bad Assad is, but it seems quite likely that ISIS is, indeed, worse.

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