Any Spooks Left in the CIA Attic? Aiding the Syrian Army Defectors

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 6 months ago

I just want to know.

General Petraeus.  Once you get settled in over at the C.I.A., can you check around the closets or under the desks at Langley and see if there are any covert ops people left?   I know we are too high-tech for that sort of thing nowadays, but every so often a job comes up that just can’t be done by the drones or the snooping satellites or wire intercepts.

The Washington Post publishes this article concerning the rising numbers of Syrian soldiers defecting to the opposition:

WADI KHALED, Lebanon — A group of defectors calling themselves the Free Syrian Army is attempting the first effort to organize an armed challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, signaling what some hope and others fear may be a new phase in what has been an overwhelmingly peaceful Syrian protest movement.

For now, the shadowy entity seems mostly to consist of some big ambitions, a Facebook page and a relatively small number of defected soldiers and officers who have taken refuge on the borderlands of Turkey and Lebanon or among civilians in Syria’s cities.

Many of its claims appear exaggerated or fanciful, such as its boasts to have shot down a helicopter near Damascus this month and to have mustered a force of 10,000 to take on the Syrian military.

But it is clear that defections from the Syrian military have been accelerating in recent weeks, as have levels of violence in those areas where the defections have occurred.

“It is the beginning of armed rebellion,” said Gen. Riad Asaad, the dissident army’s leader, who defected from the air force in July and took refuge in Turkey.

The article goes to great lengths to point out that the group does not have much clout at the moment but also notes:

There are nonetheless signs that the Free Syrian Army is expanding and organizing as reports of violent encounters increase. The group has announced the formation of 12 battalions around the country that regularly post claims on the group’s Facebook page, including bombings against military buses and ambushes at checkpoints.

This type of reporting is to be taken with more than a grain of salt, particularly in light of the lack of any reporters inside of Syria verifying the claims  (Calling Geraldo:  report to your choice of border crossings into Syria).  At the same time, it is only natural that protesters who are regularly attacked, beaten, tortured and killed will want to take up arms and at least try to defend themselves.   Given that the Assad Regime has been a major supplier of insurgents and armaments into Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and actively does the bidding of Iran in Lebanon, the U.S. has a keen interest in seeing him toppled.

What perfect justice for the U.S. to return the favor to Assad tenfold by infiltrating weapons into Syria from western Iraq.

But does the U.S. even have that capability?  And if we do, would this Administration actually follow through?

How does the U.S. influence the future of Syria?  At some point, when the Assad Regime continues to kill and torture its citizens, the U.S. must do more than just offer a rhetorical bone to the opposition.    Connections are made and relationships formed by providing material assistance (even if covert) to the opposition groups in Syria who at least have a willingness to work with the U.S.   How do we know that we will not be supplying weapons and training to Islamist militants?

That requires actual intelligence officers and human sources inside Syria.

General Petraeus, do you have anyone like that around the office?



  • Sando

    I’ll bet General Petraeus has or can find the necessary people for the job. I’m sure he even has the will to act. But does his boss? Nope….

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  • TS Alfabet

    Oh for the days when the world was simpler…so black and white. Back in the 70′s and 80′s when an uprising by the people against a brutal regime supported by the Soviets would automatically garner at least some covert aid from the U.S. Back then we had a clear idea of whom we were fighting: the Evil Empire. Communism. Authoritarianism. Despotism.

    But things are so complicated now, right? Afterall, it’s not like we have any clear enemies in the world now. No one who is plotting attacks against us or seeking to dominate the world. No despotic regimes that I can see. No dictatorships that might be trying to develop nukes or biological weapons for instance.

    Didn’t the Administration say not too long ago that President-for-life Assad was a “reformer” ? What are those people protesting about? I don’t get it. He’s a regular sweetheart. Let’s focus our energies on more important things like half billion dollar loans for solar energy companies, or what about that high-speed train thingy?

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Sando, I’m not so sure. Glen, another great observation. Thanks for your hard work.

    It occurs to me that we have three problems. The first of course is the fact that we have absolutely no strategic vision at the White House (as Sando observes). The policy-making machine at the W.H. seems to be run by idealistic college sophomores who believe that the power of talky-talk will spread peace and utopia through the land.

    The second problem is that we have lost much of our HUMINT resources. This occurred under Bill Clinton’s watch, and continued to this very day. We have turned the CIA into a gigantic electronic overwatch bureaucracy. Unwieldy at best, inaccurate and misleading at worst.

    The final problem is that our continued harrassment of the Bush-era interrogators (and threats with prosecution) have turned the CIA employees and their contractors against (a) interrogations, (b) incarceration, (c) covert operations. They are too afraid that two, or five, or ten years from now when they are sitting sipping coffee in their homes in Bethesda or White Flint, Federal Marshals are going to take them off in cuffs for their “illegal” activities, never to see their families again.

    This is the CIA we’ve created.

    Have a nice day and sleep well.

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You are currently reading "Any Spooks Left in the CIA Attic? Aiding the Syrian Army Defectors", entry #7638 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) CIA,Iran,Iraq,Islamists,Lebanon,Petraeus,Syria and was published September 26th, 2011 by Glen Tschirgi.

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