Monday July 24, 2017
The news hits headlines. The Washington Post (WP) reports that President Trump has decided to discontinue the CIA’s covert program to arm and train "moderate" Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, according to US officials. The program was authorized by Trump’s predecessor in 2013. The move is described by media as a major concession to Russia. "This is a momentous decision," the WP cites an unnamed official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secret program, "Putin won in Syria." Ned Price, a former CIA officer who served as senior director of the National Security Council under President Barack Obama, thinks "The White House appears content to kowtow to Moscow on any number of fronts — including in Syria." Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted that "if true – and I hope it’s not – it would be a complete capitulation to Assad, Russia, and Iran." But is it really a concession or a big policy change?
At first glance, the plans to oust the Assad government in Syria are shelved and there is nothing left but airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) militants and the Defense Department run train-and-equip program to support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) dominated by Kurds. With the de-escalation zones coming into effect, the US is gradually reducing its involvement in the Syrian cauldron. But a deeper look into the matter leads to quite different conclusions.
The suspension of the CIA program is much ado about nothing, it was inefficient anyway. In fact, it does not change anything because the Pentagon program is in place. The US is not curtailing its involvement. To the contrary, it is increasing its military presence in Syria, and also in Iraq, by leaps and bounds.