Thursday, November 13, 2014

US efforts to arm moderate rebels in Syria run aground in a vicious cycle of mutual mistrust and defections

Following the defeat inflicted on the US backed rebel groups by Jabhat Al Nusra in northern Syria, rebel commanders interviewed by the Telegraph admit rebel defections to ISIS.

The important thing to notice here is how the strict vetting of groups and control over arms supplies, driven by the fear of US weapons falling into ISIS hands, leaves these groups underequipped to fight either Islamist rivals or the Assad regime. This demoralizes the rebels, leading to defections with some fighters joining ISIS which they see as the only force capable of defeating the Syrian regime.

The defections, in their turn, lead to more caution and vetting on the part of the rebel Western sponsors, making the cycle of vetting and mistrust to proceed in an escalating manner towards a total paralysis of the US plan to create a credible rebel force.

# The Telegraph
By Ruth Sherlock () {

Date = 11 Nov 2014


Even when they received weapons heavier than rifles, they came encumbered with bureaucracy.

"We decide on the mission that we want to do. Then we apply to operations room for the weapons. If they agree with our military plan, some weapons arrive,” said a commander with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed.

"If we receive TOW anti-tank missiles, we have to film every time we use one to prove that we haven't sold it on."

The conditions are imposed because of America’s long-standing fear that weapons provided to the “moderate” rebels will end up in the hands of jihadists.


Abu Majid, another rebel leader, who has been receiving western support for six months, said it had not prevented his recent defeat by Jabhat al-Nusra and that he was losing faith. More than 1,000 men, half his brigade's strength, had left in despair, many defecting to Isil.

"This level of military support does not allow us to advance,” he said. “We can barely hold our own positions.

"The biggest weapons they give us are anti-tank missiles, and even then it’s rarely more than a dozen in one go. The amount we get is random. Sometimes we request support and it comes but it's less than we need. At other times nothing comes at all."


Defection to the jihadists has now been going on for years. Mahmoud, a former prisoner of the regime who used to work for the FSA, now runs safe houses in Turkey for foreign fighters looking to join Jabhat al-Nusra and Isil.

He said he wasn't an extremist, just practical. "Many of my friends are doing the same now," he said. "Isil is the only solution for us. If Obama had given support to the FSA things would have been different.

"The most important thing now though is to remove the regime and Isil are the strongest group. I will do whatever it takes."

Source = }