The Conversation

The US Strategy In Syria - Degrade Assad, Bolster Opposition, Curb jihadists

Michael Kelley, writing for Business Insider argues that the US actually has a long term strategy in Syria that is "starting to work." The plan of attack according to Pentagon officials should we go to war, would be to "deter and degrade" President Bashar al-Assad's security forces while aiding the moderate rebel fighters and curbing the Jihadists.

The key would be hitting various Damascus headquarters as well as some of the regime's six operable airports.

These airports are the "regime's nervous system," defected Air Force Colonel Hassan Hamada told Der Spiegel.

Last week we detailed here how doing so could curb Assad's relentless bombing of civilians, the flow of supplies from Iran and Russia, and the resupplying of Syrian troops in various areas.

The less obvious, and more long-term, part of the plan involves providing vetted parts of the opposition with advanced weaponry, training them with Western advisors, and curbing the funding for jihadist groups.

The U.S. hasn't yet armed moderate fighters, but Saudi Arabia has.


Interpreter Magazine Editor-in-Chief Michael D. Weiss, who also covers Syria extensively, told Business Insider that the Saudi weapons had made it to East Ghouta, i.e., the site of the August 21 chemical weapons attack.

Last week Weiss reported that Saudi Arabia has been working closely with Jordan, the U.S., U.K., and France to "set up and run an undisclosed joint operations center in Jordan to train vetted Syrian rebels in tactical warfare methods, intelligence, counterintelligence, and weapons application."

About 1,000 trainees have graduated from the program so far, according to Weiss, and one Syrian interviewed said his brother's martial skills improved immensely after finishing the program.

Furthermore, The New York Times reports that Obama told senators "the first 50-man cell of fighters, who have been trained by the C.I.A., was beginning to sneak into Syria."

Lastly, something must be done to stem the flow of money to dominant jihadist groups, which Weiss calls "a scandal, but an easily remedied one."

This money comes primarily from Kuwait and Qatar, and Weiss writes that the U.S. Treasury Department can and should pressure Gulf countries " to eliminate whatever private or quasi-state fundraising mechanisms al Qaeda and other non-FSA-aligned extremist groups in Syria exploit to keep themselves in cash and bullets."

I question the supposition that the money flow to Jihadi rebels would be so "easily remedied." If so, why hasn't it been done, already?  

And whether or not we are able to thwart the jihadists, there is still a risk that a more dangerous regime based on Islamic law would rise out of the ashes of the overthrown Baathist regime.


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