FPI / April 26, 2022
Who really is running U.S. foreign policy these days?
The same Obama administration operatives responsible for the Benghazi disaster and who targeted Syria with one of the most expensive covert wars in history are now directing Joe Biden's multi-billion dollar proxy war with Russia, this time in Ukraine.
You don't hear much about Syria from Biden, who was part of the Obama team that pumped multiple billions of dollars into arming and training Al Qaida and other jihadists to overthrow Syrian leader Bashar Assad.
"As in Syria, the U.S. is flooding a chaotic war zone with weapons in a dangerous proxy conflict against Russia, raising the threat of military confrontation between the world's top nuclear powers," Aaron Maté noted in an April 20 analysis on substack.com.
"Their efforts to remake the Middle East via regime change, not just in Syria but earlier in Libya, led to the deaths of Americans – including Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. officials in Benghazi in 2012; the slaughter of countless civilians; the creation of millions of refugees; and ultimately, Russia's entry into the Syrian battlefield," he wrote.
Susan Rice, then the National Security Advisor, is now Biden's Domestic Policy Council Director which is a "joke" according to former Trump acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell. "[T]here’s no question that she’s running domestic and foreign policy," he said in a Fox News interview in January 2021.
Jake Sullivan, then a top deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, stated in a February 2012 email: "AQ [Al Qaida] is on our side in Syria."
Sullivan, the current national security adviser, is one of several officials who ran the Syria proxy war under Obama to now occupy a senior post under Biden. The group includes Secretary of State Antony Blinken, climate czar John Kerry, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, NSC Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk, and State Department Counselor Derek Chollet.
One of the rare occasions Biden spoke about Syria came after the Feb. 3, 2022 U.S. military raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi and several of his family members.
Biden boasted that the late-night Special Forces operation in Syria's Idlib province was a "testament to America’s reach and capability to take out terrorist threats no matter where they hide around the world."
What Biden failed to mention, as did virtually all legacy media accounts of the killing, "was the critical role that top members of his administration played during the Obama years in creating the Al Qaida-controlled hideout where ISIS head Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, as well as his slain predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, found their final refuge," Maté noted.
Top Obama officials, who are now a part of Team Biden, "made it American policy to enable and arm terrorist groups that attracted jihadi fighters from across the globe. This regime change campaign, undertaken one decade after Al Qaida attacked the U.S. on 9/11, helped a sworn U.S. enemy establish the Idlib safe haven that it still controls today," Maté wrote.
And what have they done lately? Only run Team Biden's proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. Since Russia's invasion on Feb. 24, the Biden administration has given Ukraine $3.4 billion in military equipment (presumably, this doesn't count Biden's latest $800 million installment announced on Thursday).
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, as of April 22, U.S. security assistance committed to Ukraine includes:
• Over 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems;
• Over 5,500 Javelin anti-armor systems;
• Over 14,000 other anti-armor systems;
• Over 700 Switchblade Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
• 90 155mm Howitzers and 183,000 155mm artillery rounds;
• 72 Tactical Vehicles to tow 155mm Howitzers;
• 16 Mi-17 helicopters;
• Hundreds of Armored High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles;
• 200 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers;
• Over 7,000 small arms;
• Over 50,000,000 rounds of ammunition;
• 75,000 sets of body armor and helmets;
• 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems;
• Laser-guided rocket systems;
• Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems;
• Unmanned Coastal Defense Vessels;
• 14 counter-artillery radars;
• Four counter-mortar radars;
• Two air surveillance radars;
• M18A1 Claymore anti-personnel munitions;
• C-4 explosives and demolition equipment for obstacle clearing;
• Tactical secure communications systems;
• Night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, optics, and laser rangefinders;
• Commercial satellite imagery services;
• Explosive ordnance disposal protective gear;
• Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protective equipment;
• Medical supplies to include first aid kits.
As WorldTribune.com reported on Friday, Team Biden has also earmarked $500 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars to pay the salaries and pensions of Ukraine officials.
As many of the same officials handle the unfolding situation in Ukraine today, the Obama-Biden team's record in Syria resonates.
Delaware Democrat Sen. Chris Coons told CBS News on April 17: "I deeply worry that what’s going to happen next is that we will see Ukraine turn into Syria."
Maté contacted the Obama-Biden principals through their current U.S. government agencies and none offered comment on their policy of supporting an Al Qaida-dominated insurgency in Syria.
It was that U.S. support of Al Qaida in Syria that drew Russia into the conflict.
The Obama administration "did not need media accounts to learn that jihadists dominated the Syrian insurgency on the receiving end of a CIA supply chain," Maté noted.
An August 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report, which was disseminated widely among U.S. officials, noted that "Salafi[s], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al Qaida in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency." Al Qaida, the report stressed, "supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning." Their aim was to create a "Salafist principality in eastern Syria" – an early warning of the ISIS caliphate that would be established two years later.
Gen. Michael Flynn, who headed the DIA at the time, later recalled that his staff "got enormous pushback" from the Obama White House: "I felt that they did not want to hear the truth." In 2015, one year after Flynn was forced out by Obama, dozens of Pentagon intelligence analysts signed on to a complaint alleging that top Pentagon intelligence officials were "cooking the books" to paint a rosier picture of the jihadi presence in Syria. (The Pentagon later cleared CENTCOM commanders of wrongdoing.)
The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the main CIA-backed insurgent force, also informed Obama officials of the jihadi dominance in their ranks. "From the reports we get from the doctors," FSA officials told the State Department in November 2012, "most of the injured and dead FSA are Jabhat al-Nusra, due to their courage and [the fact they are] always at the front line."
Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) is Al Qaida's franchise in Syria.
Charles Lister, a Gulf state-funded analyst in close contact with Syrian insurgent groups wrote in March 2015: "[W]hile rarely acknowledged explicitly in public, the vast majority of the Syrian insurgency has coordinated closely with Al Qaida since mid-2012 – and to great effect on the battlefield." As one Free Syrian Army leader told The New York Times: "No FSA faction in the north can operate without al-Nusra’s approval."
According to David McCloskey, a former CIA analyst who covered Syria in the war's early years, U.S. officials knew that "Al Qaida affiliated groups and Salafi jihadist groups were the primary engine of the insurgency." This, McCloskey says, was "a tremendously problematic aspect of the conflict."
Meanwhile, designating al-Nusra as a terror organization "allowed the Obama administration to publicly claim that it opposed Al Qaida's Syria branch while continuing to covertly arm the insurgency that it dominated," Maté wrote.
Three months after adding al-Nusra to the terrorism list, the U.S. and its allies "dramatically stepped up weapons supplies to Syrian rebels" to help "rebels to try and seize Damascus," the Associated Press reported in March 2013.
While Blinken, then deputy national security adviser, publicly insisted that the U.S. was only supporting Syria's "moderate opposition," it was then-Vice President Biden who blurted out in another in a long line of classic gaffes that, in the Syrian insurgency, "there was no moderate middle." Instead, Biden admitted (he would later apologize) that U.S. "allies" in Syria "poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad." Those weapons were supplied, Biden said, to "al-Nusra, and Al Qaida and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world."
Even after Biden let the cat out of the bag, the Obama-Biden team did not end the CIA program that was aiding the Al Qaida-dominated insurgency in Syria. In fact, Obama expanded it.
"In April 2013, the president signed an order that amended the CIA's covert war, codenamed Timber Sycamore, to allow direct U.S. arming and training," Maté noted. "After tapping Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar to fund its arms pipeline for insurgents inside Syria, Obama's order allowed the CIA to directly furnish U.S.-made weapons."
Maté added: "Just as with the regime change campaign in Libya, a key architect of this operation was Hillary Clinton."
The New York Times reported in 2017 that the Obama-Biden proxy war in Syria proved to be "one of the costliest covert action programs" in CIA history. Documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed a budget of nearly $1 billion per year, or around $1 of every $15 in CIA spending.
But Al Qaida is "not the only sectarian death squad that managed to establish a safe haven in the chaos of the Syria proxy war," Maté wrote. "Starting in 2013, al-Nusra's sister-turned-rival group, ISIS, seized considerable territory of its own. As with Al Qaida, ISIS' land-grab in Syria received a significant backdoor assist from Washington."
In a leaked 2016 conversation with Syrian opposition activists, then-Secretary of State John Kerry explained the U.S. rationale for letting ISIS advance: "Daesh [ISIS] was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus and so forth. And we know that this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage, that Assad would then negotiate" his way out of power.
As Maté noted: "In short, the U.S. was leveraging ISIS's growth to impose regime change on Syrian President Bashar Assad."
The U.S. strategy of "watching" ISIS's advance in Syria, Kerry also admitted, directly caused Russia's 2015 entry into the conflict. The threat of an ISIS takeover, Kerry said, is "why Russia went in. Because they didn’t want a Daesh (ISIS) government."
Russia's military intervention in Syria "prevented the ISIS government in Damascus that Kerry and fellow Obama administration principals had been willing to risk," Maté wrote. "Pulverizing Russian airstrikes also dealt a fatal blow to the Al Qaida-dominated insurgency that the Obama team had spent billions of dollars to support."
President Donald Trump ended the Obama-Biden proxy war, but his "efforts to further extricate the U.S. from Syria by withdrawing troops were thwarted by senior officials who shared the preceding administration's regime change goals," Maté noted.
"When President Trump said 'I want everybody out of Syria,' the top brass at Pentagon and State had aneurysms," Christopher Miller, the Acting Secretary of Defense during Trump's last months in office, recalls.
Jim Jeffrey, Trump's envoy for Syria, admitted to deceiving the president in order to keep in place "a lot more than" the 200 U.S. troops that Trump had reluctantly agreed to. "We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there," Jeffrey told Defense One. Those "shell games" have put U.S. soldiers in harm's way, including four service members recently wounded in a rocket attack on their base in northeastern Syria.
Free Press International