‘US weapons will absolutely end up in the wrong hands again’
Obama’s decision to lift restrictions on aiding “moderate” militant groups in the hope that they will fight ISIS will only empower terrorists, prolong the Syrian conflict and inevitably undermine Russia-US negotiations, geopolitical analyst Patrick Henningsen told RT.
RT: How might Obama’s waiving of current restrictions on assistance to forces in Syria affect the situation on the ground? Is it likely to help or worsen the situation?
Patrick Henningsen: To me, if you read the language of the executive action, this memorandum, signed by the president, the language says to lift restrictions on weapons for people fighting ... against terrorism. That’s what the language says in there. But if you listen to comments, like by State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau, she is saying, “even if Aleppo falls, certainly the war is not over.” And that’s a quote.
What we see here is a convenient misappropriation of language, putting this under the banner of fighting terrorism. This follows on [from] a sort of fantasy concept that’s been pushed out as a talking point for the last year and a half, that if we train and equip the “moderate opposition” they will fight [Islamic State (IS formerly ISIS/ISIL)]. This has been basically a bait-and-switch from the beginning. And all of this is an extension of that.
They want to open the floodgates basically for trafficking weapons to religious extremists and militants and terrorist groups – internationally recognized terrorist groups. That’s the reality everyone knows is going to happen, but it’s all being done still under this kind of false pretense of the fight against ISIS, this idea that somehow moderate rebels, if they even exist, will turn their weapons and fight against ISIS.
And we know from the facts on the ground, from the beginning that simply has not been the case. This is to arm the opposition to fight the Syrian government and to fight Russian forces. This is a desperate move on the part of the lame duck president, in my opinion.
RT: What about the timing? Why now? Is it because Aleppo's so close to falling?
PH: Absolutely. There’s a pattern of behavior here, whenever these serious negotiations between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov, or multilateral discussions in venues like Geneva, or New York, or London, or Paris, then Washington always does something to undermine that. We’ve seen that with various ceasefire agreements. So John Kerry is making peace over the table with Lavrov, and then under the table there’s some underhanded action going on in Washington. That’s exactly what we’re seeing here.
This is also designed to gum up any bilateral negotiations or any agreements between the US and Russia. This is intentional, the timing of that is intentional and it is not meant to further any negotiations, or further any peace settlements. It’s meant to put, basically a wedge in the middle of it, and to extend the conflict longer, because clearly this is the conflict where the United States and its coalition have been on the losing side of from the very beginning.
RT: If we look back through the entire history of this long war, US weapons have been known to end up in the hands of terrorists. Can it happen again?
PH: It will absolutely happen. When the media comment on this in the West, they are totally oblivious or they conveniently omit the reality, that Operation Timber Sycamore, for instance, where the US supplied tons and tons of weapons over the course of years to the rebel factions and terrorist groups. And this was paid for by Saudi Arabia, but the operation was done by the CIA. Even the New York Times admitted this.
So we have this train and equip program that was [a] disguise for arming basically terrorist groups. Then the most dominant faction of them all would be Al-Nusra front, who took command in terms of militants in places like East Aleppo. And you have Ahrar as-Sham, you have Nuraddin as-Zinki, you have Jaesh al-Fateh, and all these other spin-off groups, that have rebranded, but they are basically Al-Nusra front.
There is no “moderate” opposition that the US still claims it is supplying weapons to, supposedly in a fight against ISIS. ISIS militants are outnumbered by a huge amount If you add up Al-Nusra, Nuraddin as-Zinki, Jaesh al-Fateh, Jaesh al-Islam and all these armies of conquest etc. Endless amounts of groups, I think they vastly outnumber so-called branded ISIS fighters. But ISIS is the talking point, that is the brand that the US foreign policy is basically huddling around in order to justify its military presence and covert military activity in Syria.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.