Syria: CIA-armed rebels vs. Pentagon-armed rebels?
That's the delicious claim in the Los Angeles Times headline of March 26: "CIA-armed militias are shooting at Pentagon-armed ones in Syria." Obviously, it is getting lots of circulation on Facebook, with its imputation of imperial incompetence. This refers to the fighting between the Kurdish YPG militia and FSA-aligned factions at Azaz and elsewhere in Aleppo governorate. There is no doubt that the Pentagon has aided the YPG. As the story notes, there are some 50 Pentagon special operations troops embedded with the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The story doesn't mention widespread reports that the Pentagon has established an air-base ar Rmeilan, Hasakah governorate, to coordinate aid to the SDF. But we have questioned how much (if any) CIA aid has reached the FSA—and especially the Islamist factions at Azaz. There the article is short on specifics, asking us to accept that these factions are "CIA-armed" on tautological grounds. If everyone says it, it must be true.
The article contains a seemingly inadvertant clue as to who is more significantly backing the factions fighting the Kurds at Azaz. A fighter with the Suqour al-Jabal Brigade, a group "with links to the CIA," is quoted as saying: "The MOM knows we fight them." This, we are told, refers "to the joint operations center in southern Turkey, which is known as MOM from the acronym of its name in Turkish, Musterek Operasyon Merkezi."
Is it the CIA or Turkey that is primarily backing these factions?
"We'll fight all who aim to divide Syria or harm its people," the fighter is also quoted as saying. This clearly refers to the Syrian Kurds' recent formal declaration of autonomy in their northern region of Rojava—and points to the obvious convergence of interest between these Islamist and Arab-supremacist factions and their patron in Ankara.
Encouragingly, the New York Times in a March 21 editorial takes heart in "The Kurds' Push for Self-Rule in Syria." They conclude: "The Syrian Kurds say they are not seeking total independence, only a democratic region in which they, Arabs and other ethnic groups can live together. This may be an idea worth building on as part of a political solution to end the war and the slaughter of civilians."
But there is one nearly insurmountable obstacle to an exit from the Syrian crisis based on regional autonomy: Washington's continued fealty to its NATO ally on Syria's northern flank... Let's hope the US reckoning with Turkey is coming. It is increasingly unavoidable.