How is this for a sappy human interest story: Financial Times just did a feature story on Syrian rebel, once a “fixer” bringing in CIA weapons, but now living out a sad and useless (but far less bloody) existence outside his country that he can never return to.
Oh, the old glory days:
There was a time when “Abu Ahmad”, a bulky man with a heavy limp, held court in the smoke-filled cafés of southern Turkey. Fellow Syrian opposition leaders looked to him for help; foreign intelligence officers sought his opinion. When he crossed into Syria, he brought bags filled with hundred-dollar bills to hand out to rebel fighters. His comrades received US-approved anti-tank missiles, discreetly delivered at the border.
Some rebels called him the CIA’s man in Syria. Now, he struggles to get his calls returned. “We used to joke, ‘If you want something from Barack Obama, call Abu Ahmad,’” another CIA-backed rebel commander recalls. “If someone in the opposition wanted to meet the Americans, they went to him. Now, guys like us, we’re headed to the rubbish bin of history.”
This should be no surprise. The US was always heavily involved in propping up the rebellion:
“People have this perception the Americans weren’t very involved [in Syria]. But that’s not true — they were, and to a minuscule level of detail for a while in places like Aleppo when [the CIA programme] started,” a regional diplomat says. “The problem with American policy in Syria was in some ways the same as it always was: all tactics, no strategy . . . It was a mess.”
That was then, however. Today the CIA has no further use of Abu Ahmad:
On some days, Abu Ahmad thinks of leaving the region behind altogether. But that isn’t easy. Germany rejected him over his past ties to a rebel group that has since been accused of war crimes.
Last year, he says, he asked some American officials to help him move to the US. They told him to register first with the UN as a refugee. He never heard back, and Trump’s recent executive order makes it increasingly unlikely that he would now be accepted into the US.
He called up his old CIA contacts to see who could help. “They told me, ‘We’re sorry, that is a State Department issue,’” he says. “‘These are separate departments.’”
The immediate downfall of this Abu Ahmad guy was caused when he was imprisoned by Turkey to spite the Americans. Nonetheless, there is a definite feel that the US (read CIA) is winding down its backing of the rebels.
After the Russians entered in 2015 Americans gradually came to resign themselves to the fact they may no longer overthrow the Syrian government. That being the case it’s now time for the US to do what it does best: bolt and hang out its clients to dry.