President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert* program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad,” the Washington Post first reported last week, immediately adding that it was “a move long sought by Russia.”
This insinuation that the policy change was simply a concession to Russia belies the recent history of U.S. involvement — and failure — in Syria.
President Barack Obama had intervened.
“Calling” for regime change.
In 2012, Reuters disclosed that the president had signed “a secret* order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government.” In 2013, after accusing the Assad regime of using chemical weapons, Obama announced the U.S. would provide direct military aid to rebel groups.
But Obama’s execution seemed more designed to make it look like the U.S. was trying really hard than actually toppling Mr. Assad.**
This may have been a good thing, though, seeing that some of the best-organized rebel groups in Syria are aligned with al-Qaeda and ISIS.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has introduced “The Stop Arming Terrorists Act”*** to prevent American weaponry and material from being handed to terrorists. She cheered Trump’s move, explaining to Tucker Carlson on Fox News that “providing direct and indirect” aid to the “very same terrorist group that attacked us on 9/11” made no sense.
Also lacking in sense is the Obama Administrations claim that the congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which specifically authorizes action against al-Qaeda, also covered the attack upon Assad’s regime. Surely arming rebel groups aligned with al-Qaeda couldn’t be justified under such an AUMF.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* It was not very covert. And not secret.
** In 2015, the Administration abandoned a separate $500 million program to put together a moderate rebel force opposed to both ISIS and the Syrian Government of Basher al-Assad after training only 4 or 5 soldiers. The BBC suggested much of the problem was indecisiveness, observing that, “US President Barack Obama never seemed to want a train-and-equip programme for Syrian rebels.”
*** The Senate bill is SB 532, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky).