Moderates – what moderates?

Before the carnage ... Aleppo at night

Before the carnage … Aleppo at night

SOME US foreign policy analysts concede it is time for a “ruthless” look at whether CIA-backed fighters in Syria can be considered “moderate”, the Washington Post reports

A senior US official told the Post this week, the battlefield performance of CIA-trained fighters had not improved, and conceded “they’re increasingly dominated by extremists”.

The official, who the newspaper said spoke on condition of anonymity, was reacting to the Obama administration again stone-walling Plan B – a proposal backed by CIA boss John Brennan and Defence Secretary Ashton Carter to ramp up the scale and firepower of weapons the US is delivering to forces opposed to the Syrian Government.

The Post reported the plan had been returned to the too-hard basket during a meeting President Obama held with his national security team in Washington.

It is not the first time senior US officials have all-but conceded the the central argument advanced by Bashar al-Assad’s Government in Damascus – that it is engaged in a fight to the finish with jihadi terrorists.

Last September, the general charged with spending $US500m to train a “moderate” Syrian force, told a Senate armed services committee the CIA program could only put “a handful” of moderates into combat.

How many?

“We’re talking four or five,” General Lloyd Austin, commander of US Central Command, told incredulous committee members.

And, an under-reported factor in the failure of last month’s US-Russia brokered ceasefire was the inability, or unwillingness, of US-funded rebels to disentangle themselves from hardcore terrorists holding east Aleppo.

Jabhat al-Nusra is the Al-Quaeda franchise in Syria. Rebadged JFS, courtesy of a flurry of recent press releases, its fighters are far and away the dominant rebel group in the long-suffering city.

It was a central tenet of the ceasefire that so-called “moderate” rebels had to cut ties with the Al-Quaeda front. The idea, in theory at least, was that the US, Russia and Syria could then concentrate their efforts on defeating the acknowledged terrorists.

The problem, as had been widely predicted, was that US-aligned rebels were unable or unwilling to do this.

This fundamental failure, further strengthened the argument that, effectively, there are no “moderate” rebels operating in Syria. However, it appeared to be largely forgotten after US forces, with Australian and British support, attacked Syrian soldiers observing the ceasefire, sending at least 70 of them back to their families in body bags.

This is worth a look…

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