Al Nusra makes gains in Syria with US support

The United States is fighting in Syria by proxy. A big problem with our proxies is that they might win. Photo: Bashar al-Assad/ AP

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2013 — In an effort to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad without launching another Middle-Eastern intervetion, President Obama has opted to fight the Syrian President cold-war style. 

In August, Obama brought his case for intervention in the Syrian Civil War on behalf of the opposition groups to the American people and the world. In response to Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians, Obama called on the world to respond to the man who had crossed “the red line” and attacked his own people.


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Not many Americans or foreign leaders were convinced of the evidence on which Obama based his charges, and fewer were ready to launch a military response. 

The cold-war style of warfare involves the use of proxies. Obama is using the Syrian opposition as his proxies to punish Assad. By sending aid — both lethal and non-lethal — Obama tells the world that he stands behind the Syrian opposition movement. In 2012 Obama recognized the legitimacy of the Syrian opposition in an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters.

“We’ve made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime.”

In August 2013, Obama made the decision to arm the Syrian Opposition forces. Reports had been pouring in for months that these forces were largely comprised of radical Islamist fighters, so it was necessary to counter them. In September, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “I just don’t agree that a majority are al Qaeda and the bad guys. That’s not true. There are about 70,000 to 100,000 oppositionists … Maybe 15 percent to 25 percent might be in one group or another who are what we would deem to be bad guys.”


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To be on the safe side, on September 16, Obama waived a federal statute making it illegal to offer material support to known terrorist organizations. In a determination to the Secretary of State, Obama wrote:

“By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including sections 40(g) and 40A(b) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), I hereby:

  • determine that the transaction, encompassing the provision of defense articles and defense services to vetted members of the Syrian opposition; organizations implementing U.S. Department of State or USAID programs inside or related to Syria; and international organizations necessary for the conduct of their operations inside or related to Syria, or to prevent the preparation, use, or proliferation of Syria’s chemical weapons, is essential to the national security interests of the United States;
  • waive the prohibitions in sections 40 and 40A of the AECA related to such a transaction; and
  • delegate to the Secretary of State the responsibility under section 40(g)(2) of the AECA to consult with and submit reports to the Congress for proposed exports, 15 days prior to authorizing them to proceed, that are necessary for and within the scope of this waiver determination and the transaction referred to herein.”

The AECA is the Arms Export Control Act of 1976. The president has the power to waive the AECA provisions against arming known terrorist organizations if it “is essential to the national security interests of the United States.” However there is nothing in place that forces him to prove that it is in the best interest of the United States, and as a result the AECA is in place until it becomes a hindrance.

When the law of the land can be swept aside by the word of the president, with no hard evidence to lend support to his claims, he no longer acts in the best interest of the nation but instead in his own best interest. Like President Bush with the Patriot Act and the DHS, Obama has sought to fundamentally transform the manner in which the United States is governed.

If Obama decides to waive the law to supply arms to known terrorists, who is there to stop him? The AECA clearly states that the president and secretary of state are required to put programs into place that track the end use of any material support sent to any organization overseas. In fact, they are required by this law, in the case of a waiver, to submit to the Speaker of the House and the Chairman on the Committee of Foreign Relations in the Senate a report of what was sent over and where it was sent. Obama has not been relieved of that obligation.

It was reported this week that because of territorial gains made by radical Islamist fighters in the northern part of Syria, the White House has announced that it will no longer be sending material aid to the Syrian Opposition in the area. This does not necessarily mean that lethal aid to the region will stop, just the material used to combat chemical weapon attacks. Instead, the story cites an unnamed American intelligence official who expresses the concern of the Supreme Military Council, the main Syrian Opposition group, that aid for the non-Jihadist rebel groups will dry up.

But should it dry up?

The Syrian Civil War is a disaster, and not just from a humanitarian standpoint. The secular rebel groups, such as the Supreme Military Council (SMC) led by General Selim Idriss, are in danger of being swamped by the Jihadists and the money behind them coming from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. There has been infighting amongst rebels, but they seek at a base level the same thing: They want to see Assad out of power, and they want to see a new government.

However, the governments that the groups want to see aren’t the same. So, the SMC can either disband, or it can fight the Jihadists, which would only serve to give Assad the advantage. He would just have to wait out a civil war inside a civil war and annihilate the last one standing. Or they could see that they have a somewhat common goal, and they will join forces. By doing so, the Western powers and the United States would be directly supporting a Jihadist campaign to overthrow a secular government. This is closer to happening, considering recent events.

But according to John Kerry, there aren’t that many Jihadists out there to begin with. Just 25 percent of the 100,000 opposition fighters are truly Jihadist, right? That 25 percent managed to take actual territory in northern Syria. That 25 percent is just waiting for more “aid” so they can keep making gains.

Is the White House is surprised by this? It is as if they were saying, “Well we had no idea that when we waived the restriction against arming terrorist organizations that this stuff would fall into the hands of a terrorist organization.”

The organization responsible for the territorial gains in the North is the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda linked jihadist organization. Al-Nusra is basically an al-Qaeda franchise set up in Syria to be their representation to the Syrian Opposition.

This is not the greatest problem that the U.S. faces in continuing to arm Syrian rebels. On November 22, 2013, various rebel groups within the Syrian Opposition formed the Islamic Front. Their numbers are estimated at around 75,000 fighters from seven rebel groups. Their goal? To install an Islamic State in Syria and institute Sharia law.

The United States government knowingly contributed to the territorial gains of radical Islamists allied to our gravest enemy in an effort to hijack the Syrian Revolution and install Sharia Law in a very rich and very powerful country. In an effort to thwart the fear of the public that the U.S. would be supporting radical Jihadists, the secretary of state made a statement that he was certain that only 25 percent of the rebels were Jihadists. There are roughly a  hundred eighty thousand Syrian Rebels, and as of now an estimated one hundred thousan of those rebels fall under the command of the Islamic Front.

The United States has forgotten the lessons of 9/11. We have put our own troops fighting al-Qaeda around the World in danger of being shot at with American funded weapons, and we have contributed to the rise of power of Jihadist rebels in Syria by failing to see them as a threat and by failing to understand the consequences of a Syria run by organizations loyal to al-Qaeda. It is that failure to understand, and the perceived importance with which Obama labeled support to these groups “in the best interest of the United States of America” which proves that neither the President nor his people know what is best for the American people or how to go about achieving it. 


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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a B.A. from Catholic University in DC in American History, with a concentration on guerrilla warfare on American soil. He has an M.A. in US History from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, with a concentration on Cold War insurgency. He believes that all news and all information should be taken with a grain of salt, and implores people everywhere to seek news stories everywhere. 

Higgins is also a fervent believer in the traditional role of media, in terms of acting as a balanced check on government policies and individuals regardless of party affiliation. But in the end, he believes that no matter how heated an issue is, there is nothing that can't be discussed over a smoke and some whiskey. 

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