There's no hatred like hatred between rival bureaucracies
Several weeks ago the Syrian army backed by Russian air force launched an offensive on the outskirts of Aleppo intended to cut the narrow passage from the main territory held by the rebels into eastern, rebel-held Aleppo.
After a few initial successes, however, the advance stalled and the front line settled once again without the rebels' link being cut. The problem attacking forces discovered was that the are was just too heavily mined. The rebels' passage into north Aleppo is so small they've been able to cover nearly every inch of it with all sort of traps and deny the area to an otherwise stronger opponent.
After the offensive was called off the rebels were afforded a further respite as Russians again ceased their air strikes against them at the behest of the White House.
This is all over now. Americans failed to follow up their pleas for cessation of bombing against rebels with real pressure against them to separate from al-Qaeda so the Russians are back in action around Aleppo. Specifically in action against the rebel passage into the city.
In the past week something like half to two thirds of all Russian air strikes in Syria have been against rebel forces in this tiny corridor. This is all the more remarkable considering the Russians are simultaneously supporting an ongoing Syrian army offensive into Raqqa province.
Reuters is reporting that Russian bombardment has been so intense that it has resulted in the Aleppo rebels being effectively cut off from the outside world as the passage has become too dangerous to actually traverse. In other words, the Russians have realized that two can play the area denial game. Rebels can deny the area to Syrian loyalists with booby traps covered by infantry, and the Russian and Syrian air force can deny the area to rebels with around the clock airstrikes directed by observers on the ground.
The best part of all of this is the ruckus this is causing in Washington.
Two Department of Defense officials told The Daily Beast that they are not eager to support the rebels in the city of Aleppo because they’re seen as being affiliated with al Qaeda in Syria, or Jabhat al Nusra.
This is infuriating the CIA which has sponsored the anti-Assad rebels to no end:
The CIA, which supports those rebel groups, rejects that claim, saying alliances of convenience in the face of a mounting Russian-led offensive have created marriages of battlefield necessity, not ideology.
“It is a strange thing that DoD hall chatter mimics Russian propaganda,” one U.S. official, who supports the intelligence community position, wryly noted to Pentagon claims that the opposition and Nusra are one in the same.
One definitely gets the feeling the Pentagon is pleased that al-Qaeda, and especially the CIA, is getting a smackdown in Aleppo. Particularly during a time when Pentagon's own efforts in backing the Syrian Kurds is enjoying wild success. (With the support of US special forces and under US air cover the Kurds have recently made great gains in northern Syria and encircled Manbij -- the second largest city ISIS holds in Syria.)
US military after all, Jason Ditz over at Antiwar.com reminds us, is an entity which definitely has it in for CIA's wildest and most destabilizing schemes:
Still, the CIA and Pentagon are both heavily involved in their respective wars, and eagerly undercutting one another in advancement of their respective goals.
Back in December, Sy Hersh reported that the Joint Chiefs had been sending intelligence to several nations, including Germany, on the condition that it be forwarded to Syria, with an eye toward undermining a CIA arms smuggling campaign that they described as “co-opted” by Turkey, and which saw the US arms for “moderates” going to al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The CIA's view of Syria truly couldn't be more warped, idiotic, irresponsible or self-serving:
The intelligence community, which backed opposition forces in Aleppo, believes ISIS cannot be defeated as long as Assad is in power. The terror group, they say, thrives in unstable territories. And only local forces—like the ones backed by the CIA—can mitigate that threat.
“The status of the opposition is resilient in the face of horrendous attacks by the Syrian and Russian forces,” a U.S. intelligence official explained to The Daily Beast. “The defeat of Assad is a necessary precondition to ultimately defeat [ISIS]. As long as there is a failed leader in Damascus and a failed state in Syria, [ISIS] will have a place to operate from.
“You can’t deal with ISIS if you have a failed state,” the U.S. official observed.
Conveniently the CIA believes the only people who can bring stability to Syria are the CIA and the CIA-backed Islamist thugs. Convenient for the CIA, but the rest of the world will be surprised to learn that 'stability' and 'the CIA' can be used in the same sentence. For the 7 billion people not on its payroll the agency is more readily associated with sponsoring coups, massacres, terrorists and smuggling dope.
Indeed, the story of the rise of ISIS is 180 degrees opposite from the one peddled by the CIA (and State Department). It was US efforts to destabilize the Baath regime in Syria and fan the flames of Syria conflict that led to the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq both. At the time the US poured weapons into Syria but supposedly this would in no way decisively aid ISIS (then still ISI but usually referred to as Al-Qaeda in Iraq) because as Obama explained the group was 'JV league'.
As it was ISI took the weapons and money it acquired in Syria to carve out a state for itself in eastern Syria and used that as a springbord to conquer half of Iraq.
It was CIA's attempts to make Syria into a failed state which led to the rise of ISIS, and it has only been for Syrian resistance to the US which has prevented the country from crumbling into a fragmented, head-choppers central akin to the post-intervention Libya.
It's extremely disingenuous of the CIA to say ISIS can not be beaten while Assad is still in power when A) ISIS is being rolled back on multiple fronts albeit Assad is still very much entrenched in Damascus and when B) Assad is, along with the Kurds and Baghdad, the principal power rolling back ISIS -- something the CIA is empathically not involved in.
With Pentagon's own war on Assad largely abandoned (after numerous fiascos) we're seeing a curious situation where when it comes to how they view the war the US military which is fighting ISIS is closer to Assad and the Russians who are doing the same, than the CIA which is fighting Assad but not ISIS.
It's a conclusion that American super-patriots and those religiously anti-American will find equally difficult to accept but it's one that rings true nonetheless.