Obama Signed Secret Order Supporting Rebels, al Qaeda in Syria

A US government source has acknowledged that the US is collaborating in a secret ‘nerve center’ operated by Turkey and its allies to support Syrian ‘rebels’, including al Qaeda and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. As our readers have seen in these columns throughout the last year, the US has been supporting the overthrow of the Assad government since long before the uprising began, and the presence of al Qaeda forces in Syria to help the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood overthrow the government has been known for ma ny months. This new revelation is one more indication of America’s secret role in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ and our support for the new Islamist governments over the former secular leaders. – Editor

According to the source, Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing US support for Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow the Assad government, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

Obama’s order, approved earlier this year and known as an intelligence finding broadly permits the CIA and other US agencies to provide support that could help the rebels oust President Bashar al-Assad.

This and other developments point to growing support for Assad’s armed opponents – which has intensified following last month’s failure by the UN security council to agree on tougher sanctions against the Damascus government.

The White House is for now apparently stopping short of arming the rebels directly, even though some US allies are.

But US and European officials have said that there have been noticeable improvements in the coherence and effectiveness of Syrian rebel groups in the past few weeks. That represents a significant change in assessments of the rebels by western officials, who previously characterized Assad’s opponents as a disorganized, chaotic, rabble.

Precisely when Obama signed the secret intelligence authorization, an action not previously reported, could not be determined.

The full extent of support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment.

A government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the US was collaborating with a secret command centre operated by Turkey and its allies.

Last week, Reuters reported that, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Turkey had established a secret base near the Syrian border to help direct military and communications support to Assad’s opponents.

This “nerve center” is in Adana, a city about 60 miles (100km) from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, an American air base where US military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.

Turkey’s government has been demanding Assad’s departure with growing vehemence. Turkish authorities are said by current and former US government officials to be increasingly involved in providing Syrian rebels with training and possibly equipment.

European government sources said wealthy families in Saudi Arabia and Qatar were providing significant financing to the rebels. Senior officials of the Saudi and Qatari governments have publicly called for Assad’s departure.

On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen surface-to-air missiles. Syrian government armed forces have employed air power more extensively in recent days.

NBC said the shoulder-fired missiles, also known as Manpads, had been delivered to the rebels via Turkey.

On Wednesday, however, Bassam al-Dada, a political adviser to the Free Syrian Army, denied the NBC report, telling the Arabic-language TV network al-Arabiya that the group had “not obtained any such weapons at all”. US government sources said they could not confirm the Manpads deliveries, but could not rule them out either.

Current and former US and European officials previously said that weapons supplies, which were being organized and financed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, were largely limited to guns and a few anti-tank weapons, such as bazookas.

Indications are that US agencies have not been involved in providing weapons to Assad’s opponents. In order to do so, Obama would have to approve a supplement, known as a memorandum of notification, to his initial broad intelligence finding.

Further such memorandums would have to be signed by him to authorize other specific clandestine operations to support Syrian rebels.

Reuters first reported last week that the White House had crafted a directive authorizing greater US covert assistance to rebels. It was unclear at that time whether Obama had signed it.

Separately from the president’s secret order, the Obama administration has said it is providing some backing for Assad’s opponents.

The state department said on Wednesday the US government had set aside a total of $25m (£16m) for “non-lethal” assistance to the Syrian opposition. A US official said that was mostly for communications equipment, including encrypted radios.

The state department also says the US has set aside $64m in humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, including contributions to the World Food Program, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other aid agencies.

Also on Wednesday, the US treasury confirmed it had granted authorization to the Syrian Support Group, Washington representative of the Free Syrian Army, to conduct financial transactions on the rebel group’s behalf. The authorization was first reported on Friday by al-Monitor, a Middle East news website.

Last year, when Libyan rebels began organizing themselves to challenge the rule of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Obama signed an initial “finding” broadly authorizing secret US backing for them. But the president moved cautiously in authorizing specific measures to support them.

Some US lawmakers, such as the Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized Obama for moving too slowly to assist the Syrian rebels and have suggested the US government become directly involved in arming Assad’s opponents.

Other lawmakers have suggested caution, saying too little is known about the many rebel groups.

Recent news reports from the region have suggested that the influence and numbers of Islamist militants, some of them connected to al-Qaida, or its affiliates, have been growing among Assad’s opponents.

US and European officials say that, so far, intelligence agencies do not believe the militants’ role in the anti-Assad opposition is dominant.

Read the origianl article here.

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Posted in Flashpoint, Headline, Middle East

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