U.S. Pursued Secret Contacts With Assad Regime for Years


Assad and US Under-secretary for political affairs, William Burns. Trust the US? Sure can!

The Wall St Journal this week reported that the US Obama Administration began tying to instigate the overthrow of Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria in 2011. They didn’t say that this is what started the civil war in that country, but we may like to draw that conclusion. The WSJ article goes on to say that when the US’s attempts to precipitate an overthrow from within came to nothing, they began to support the rebels in 2012. Again there is no mention of military support – but how have those rebels managed to maintain the war for four years without running out of bullets, rockets etc? There is no way Turkey is rich enough to have provided military supplies at that level.

On the other hand, the USA, in 2010, had completed the biggest arms sale ever when they provided a $60 billion package to their Saudi Arabian friends. More recently, in 2014, they sold $11 billion worth of attack helicopters and missiles to Qatar. Both of these Arab states have been major suppliers of arms to the Syrian rebels. Who’s going to tell me the Obama Administration didn’t know where that stuff was going?

Effort to limit violence and get president to relinquish power failed

By Nour Malas and Carol E Lee Dec. 23, 2015

The Obama administration pursued secret communications with elements of Syria’s regime over several years in a failed attempt to limit violence and get President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power, according to U.S. and Arab officials.


Bringing peace to the Middle east

Early on, the U.S. looked for cracks in the regime it could exploit to encourage a military coup, but found few.

The efforts reflect how President Barack Obama’s administration has grappled to understand and interact with an opaque Middle East dictatorship run for 45 years by the Assad family.

Unlike the secret White House back channel to Iran, however, the Syria effort never gained momentum and communication was limited. 

This account is based on interviews with more than two dozen people, including current and former U.S. officials, Arab officials and diplomats. Most of these contacts haven’t been previously reported.


Whose bombs? And with whose approval?

In 2011, as the regime began to crack down on protests and soldiers began to peel away from the army, U.S. intelligence officials identified officers from Mr. Assad’s minority Alawite sect who potentially could lead a regime change, according to former U.S. officials and current European officials.

“The White House’s policy in 2011 was to get to the point of a transition in Syria by finding cracks in the regime and offering incentives for people to abandon Assad,” a former senior administration official said.

But regime cohesiveness held, and the crackdown continued.
 In August 2011, Mr. Obama publicly called for Mr. Assad to step down. The administration’s core message never strayed from the U.S. line that Mr. Assad ultimately has to step down. But instead of persuading Mr. Assad to exit, the covert communications may have fed his sense of legitimacy and impunity.

That helped fuel the current wrangling among world powers over the Syrian leader’s future in any settlement. It also hampered the effort to consolidate the international fight against Islamic State.


Syrian refugee family on Istanbul street

By the summer of 2012, the White House strategy of orchestrating regime change had failed. The U.S. moved to support the rebels.

The rise of Islamic State in 2013 caught the U.S. administration off guard. Mr. Assad found in it a better opening to position himself as a partner in a fight against terror consuming the region, and rippling to the West.

By 2014, when the U.S. expanded airstrikes against the militants from Iraq to Syria, State Department officials were making phone calls to their counterparts at the Syrian foreign ministry to make sure Damascus steered clear of U.S. jets in Syrian skies, U.S. officials and others familiar the communications said.

Today, when Washington wants to notify Damascus where it is deploying U.S.-trained Syrian fighters to battle Islamic State so the fighters aren’t mistaken for rebels, Samantha Power, the U.S. envoy to the U.N., dispatches a deputy to talk to the Syrian envoy, Bashar Jaafari, these people said.

The White House says the notifications are not collaboration with the regime. But Mr. Assad has used them to his advantage. Read the whole article


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