'Trump decision to end CIA covert ops in Syria will be severely attacked by Neocons'
A Washington Post article published on Wednesday says that, according to US officials, Donald Trump decided to phase out the covert CIA program to arm and train rebels in Syria in favor of working with Russia.
However, the White House has declined to confirm the details.
RT: If this report is accurate and Trump decided to shut down CIA training of rebels in Syria, how might that affect the situation on the ground?
Rick Sterling: It’ll be a significant step. One thing that should be pointed out is that the US, through the CIA, or the Defense Department, the arming of extremist groups is illegal under international law. It has been a tremendous waste of money; between 2014 – 2015, $500 million of US taxpayer funds were spent to train a grand total of 54 so-called moderate rebels, most of whom immediately turned the weapons over and joined Al-Nusra or Al-Qaeda. That has been the real effect of it. The money and the training the CIA has provided has primarily helped Al-Qaeda. So stopping that will be a very good thing.
RT: Assuming it's true, why do you think the White House would decline to confirm the report?
RS: I think that is indicative of the battle underway over US foreign policy. Already in the Washington Post report today, the people they quote, such as Charles Lister, are very negative on it. Lister says something like Trump’s falling into a “Russian trap.” They basically want to prolong the conflict in Syria. Lister works at the Middle East Institute, which receives significant funding from military industrial corporations, such as Raytheon. They don’t want the war and the conflict to end – they want to prolong it and even escalate it. This move from people who are little more rational in government is something that needs to be supported strongly. It is a positive step, but it is going to come under severe attack now. Trump is going to come under attack, and the decision may be undermined or sabotaged. So that is something else we need to be looking out for and hopefully guarding against.
RT: This isn't the first time US officials and the president have issued conflicting messages. Why isn't there a common line coming out of Washington?
RS: The mainstream media, unfortunately, has had a campaign attacking Trump’s foreign policy. The only time they cheered Trump was when he launched the missile attacks on April 6. As it subsequently turned out that US intelligence knew the Syrian government did not launch chemical weapons in the town of Khan Shaykhun – that is according to Seymour Hersh…. Hersh is one of the foremost, most well-known and regarded investigative journalist from the US, his findings have been basically censored from the mainstream media. So most people don’t know about them.
Trump went to Mike Pompeo, the CIA Director and asked him point blank right after the event happened on April 4 – find out who is responsible. Pompeo came back and said: “It was the Syrian government.” That was Trump’s basis for launching the attacks. Subsequently, it’s come out that US intelligence knew the Syrian government was not responsible. So there is the CIA – they basically supplied the rationale for Trump to launch the attacks that killed 14 people, including nine civilians. That is the only time Trump has been really hailed and given credit in the US mainstream media. This plan now, or the news the CIA Train and Equip Program is being shut down, that is a very good thing. We can expect it to be severely attacked by neoconservatives, who want to prolong and even escalate the conflict much against the interests of the American people, and obviously supremely against the interests of the people of Syria and the region.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.