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12 September 2013

Let's Catch Up With Those 'Moderate' Syrian Rebels That Obama, Kerry & McCain Are Still Trumpeting!


Who's a 'Moderate' Rebel in Syria? Check the Handwritten Receipts:  The government has little oversight over whether US-funded supplies are falling prey to corruption—or into the hands of extremists.

By Dana Liebelson

In recent weeks, the Obama administration and hawks favoring a strike on Syria have called for the continued support of supposedly moderate rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad's regime. The United States has been sending millions of dollars in nonlethal aid to the rebels since February, and in June President Obama authorized secretly supplying weapons to opposition fighters. But with hundreds of Syrian rebel groups battling the regime—ranging from the relatively moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) to the Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front—can the administration ensure that US aid is not winding up in the wrong hands? A system designed to monitor the disbursement of nonlethal supplies to the rebels is supposed to make sure assistance goes only to vetted fighters—but, according to government oversight experts, it relies on too much good faith.

The Syrian Support Group, a US-based nonprofit that is the only organization the Obama administration has authorized to hand out nonlethal US-funded supplies to the rebels, insists it keeps track of who's receiving this assistance based on handwritten receipts provided by rebel commanders in the field. According to Dan Layman, a spokesman for the group, this level of oversight is sufficient to guarantee US assistance is going to the right rebels and is being used appropriately. "What we're getting from [FSA commanders] in receipts directly reflects what's been given out and to whom, I'm very confident," he says. "The government regularly asks us for updates and new receipts, often faster than we can produce them." Layman doesn't know if or how the US government verifies these receipts.

Khalid Saleh, the spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, the chief political body representing the US-backed rebel forces, says countries supporting the rebels are doing audits of the delivery of lethal and nonlethal supplies, but he adds that he "cannot comment on which countries are performing the audits." The State Department did not respond to questions from Mother Jones. 

"This spring, one militia leader affiliated with the FSA—his brigade has since been kicked out—was filmed eating a dead soldier's heart."

In 2012, Brian Sayers, then the Washington lobbyist for the Syrian Support Group, told McClatchy that "obviously, it's always going to be difficult to say who's the end user for every cent, every dollar, but we don't see that the military councils will provide funds to the fringe groups." Relying on local commanders to guarantee US assistance is managed effectively could lead to "massive corruption," warns Aki Peritz, a senior policy adviser for Third Way and a former CIA counterterrorism analyst. Peritz notes that the supplies being handed out by the Syrian Support Group can be sold for cash or traded for weapons and ammunition.

Charles Tiefer, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and a former commissioner for the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, says that in war zones, "it's in a commander's interest to give exaggerated numbers. We often see situations where a commander starts out with, say, three brigades, and then drops to one brigade, and continues to faithfully give receipts for the other two missing units. We call them 'ghost employees.'" He adds, "I think Syria is the Wild, Wild West as far as knowing who is doing what."

Here's how the nonlethal aid system works. On April 30, the Syrian Support Group began receiving State Department contracts, worth about $12 million so far, to deliver supplies—including MREs, combat casualty bags, and surgical equipment—directly to Syria's Supreme Military Council, the group that runs the Free Syrian Army and commands more than 560 military brigades. The US-based Syrian Support Group transports the supplies to the main Supreme Military Council warehouses*, and from there the the SMC takes over distribution. (The Syrian Support Group has also donated about $300,000 to $500,000 in cash to the rebels, but that money comes from private donors, not the US government.)

Saleh, the spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, says that "the concern that lethal and nonlethal aid not fall into the wrong hands is shared by our coalition." He says that every FSA brigade must meet certain conditions, including abiding by the FSA's constitution, not having children or foreigners in their units, and accepting regular audits by the Supreme Military Council and countries providing aid.

The FSA's top general, Salim Idriss, and his senior commanders are technically responsible for vetting the hundreds of FSA military brigades receiving US-underwritten supplies, but some of this work falls to province-level military councils and lower-level commanders at field offices around the war-torn country. "A commander from a particular area will authorize a group of soldiers to go to a Supreme Military Council warehouse, and then write a detailed receipt saying this unit picked up three crates of MRE rations from the warehouse," Layman explains. The receipts are signed by the commander of the unit picking up the supplies and the local warehouse director, who is also under the command of the Supreme Military Council. Layman notes that his organization confers with senior commanders daily and has a staffer in Syria (a former Pentagon employee) who is responsible for oversight.

"The field-level offices talk directly to the Supreme Military Council staff, and the staff figures out exactly how much aid a certain brigade needs from the warehouse based on its size and combat activity," Layman adds. "We'll often see receipts that say a group has received only three or four cartons of MREs, so I don't believe there's any abuse of access to supplies."

Tiefer, the former Commission on Wartime Contracting commissioner, says ensuring proper oversight requires more "than just fiddling with a receipt system." He recommends that the US government establish an oversight body to monitor State Department aid to Syria, or assign this oversight responsibility to an existing inspector general.

Given the makeup of the Syrian opposition forces, there is a good chance that some US assistance could find its way into the wrong hands. There are up to 150,000 rebel fighters in Syria, some of whom are not affiliated with FSA, and at least 16 percent of the rebels are considered "radical," according to the Syrian Support Group's own estimate. "When I worked at the [CIA's] counterterrorism center, for Iraq we estimated that Al Qaeda made up 8 percent of the insurgency," says Peritz. "This is way worse—this means there are at least 15,000 extremists in Syria." 

US assistance ending up with radical elements of the opposition is not the only problem; this aid could also reach rebels committing atrocities. Last week, the New York Times posted a video of what it reported to be FSA-armed rebels executing shirtless prisoners. The Syrian Support Group issued a statement disputing the Times report, claiming the rebels in the video were from a non-SMC affiliated outfit that did not receive any supplies or funding from the Supreme Military Council.

This spring, one militia leader affiliated with the FSA—his brigade has since been kicked out—was filmed eating a dead soldier's heart. "This stuff happens rarely, but it's unfortunate," Layman says. "With the guy who was eating a heart, he was part of a moderate faction…We work with Idriss and let him know that he needs to prevent these things."

FSA supporters maintain that it can be hard for Americans to distinguish between radical and moderate rebels—and contend the current vetting process should be trusted. There's "quite a bit of nuance in these forces," says Yaser Tabbara, executive director of the Syrian American Council, a group advocating on behalf of the Syrian opposition. "Some of these forces have a religious undertone, they are practicing Muslims, but that does not necessarily make them extremists or against a civil Democratic order."

Sure, whatever you say, Yaser Tabbara!  Too bad no one is buying that anymore.

This, is from the leader of the ‘moderate’ force that you want us to believe: 

ISRAEL IS AN ENEMY COUNTRY. I SAY THIS LOUD AND CLEAR. It occupies Syrian lands. The FSA will not change its position regarding that country before it withdraws from the Syrian lands, and recognizes the legitimate rights of the Arab Palestinian people.’ 

– Brigadier General Salim Idris, Chief of Staff of the US-backed Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army

General Idris is one of McCain’s close ‘friends' and a so-called 'moderate.'

Moving on down 'Moderate' Lane...

Witness to a Syrian Execution: ‘I Saw a Scene of Utter Cruelty’ 

From Time mag:

'The man was brought in to the square. His eyes were blindfolded. I began shooting pictures, one after the other. It was to be the fourth execution that day I would photograph. I was feeling awful; several times I had been on the verge of throwing up. But I kept it under control because as a journalist I knew I had to document this, as I had the three previous beheadings I had photographed that day, in three other locations outside Aleppo.

The crowd began cheering. Everyone was happy. I knew that if I tried to intervene I would be taken away, and that the executions would go ahead. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to change what was happening and I might put myself in danger.

I saw a scene of utter cruelty: a human being treated in a way that no human being should ever be treated. But it seems to me that in two and a half years, the war has degraded people’s humanity. On this day the people at the execution had no control over their feelings, their desires, their anger. It was impossible to stop them.

I don’t know how old the victim was but he was young. He was forced to his knees. The rebels around him read out his crimes from a sheet of paper. They stood around him. The young man was on his knees on the ground, his hands tied. He seemed frozen.

Two rebels whispered something into his ear and the young man replied in an innocent and sad manner, but I couldn’t understand what he said because I don’t speak Arabic.

At the moment of execution the rebels grasped his throat. The young man put up a struggle. Three or four rebels pinned him down. The man tried to protect his throat with his hands, which were still tied together. He tried to resist but they were stronger than he was and they cut his throat. They raised his head into the air. People waved their guns and cheered. Everyone was happy that the execution had gone ahead.

That scene in Syria, that moment, was like a scene from the Middle Ages, the kind of thing you read about in history books. The war in Syria has reached the point where a person can be mercilessly killed in front of hundreds of people—who enjoy the spectacle.

As a human being I would never have wished to see what I saw. But as a journalist I have a camera and a responsibility. I have a responsibility to share what I saw that day. That’s why I am making this statement and that’s why I took the photographs. I will close this chapter soon and try never to remember it.

And, Obama, Kerry, and McVain are ARMING these people. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

At least, they didn't die from chemical weapons or something!

‘In the village of Estreba they massacred all the residents and burnt down their houses. In the village of al-Khratta almost all the 37 locals were killed. Only ten people were able to escape.

 A total of twelve Alawite villages were subjected to this horrendous attack. That was a true slaughterhouse. People were mutilated and beheaded. There is even a video that shows a girl being dismembered alive – alive! – by a frame saw. The final death toll exceeded 400, with 150 to 200 people taken hostage. Later some of the hostages were killed, their deaths filmed.’

Two Men Allegedly Overheard Incredibly Explosive Skype Conversation While Being Held Hostage in Syria

• In August, Belgian teacher Pierre Piccinin and Italian journalist Domenico Quiric were reportedly abducted in Syria by armed men in pickup trucks, possibly with the Free Syrian Army. 

• The men were released on Sunday and have been speaking out about their horrific experience. 

• Both men claim they overheard an English-language Skype conversation suggesting Syrian rebels are behind chemical attack. 

• 62-year-old journalist Domenico Quiric says radical Islamists want to topple Assad and extend global caliphate.

Syrian Rebels: BIBLES are ‘More Dangerous Than Chemical Weapons’…

A video apparently made by Islamic rebels in Syria shows a large collection of confiscated Bibles and biblical materials, such as the Book of John, that it describes as “more dangerous than chemical weapons.” 

The video appeared yesterday, just as reports from Syria said Islamic rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s army were “liberating” villages and forcing Christians there to convert to Islam or die. 

Christians reportedly were being abducted and executed, although there were conflicting reports.

The new video of the confiscated Bibles was posted by Eretz Zen, who describes himself as a secular Syrian who opposes “having my country turned into a Taliban-like state.”

The video shows stacks of Arabic language Bibles and other books. A sign is posted with the warning: “O nation of Muhammad, wake up. For there are things even more dangerous than chemical weapons. Beware the Christianization campaigns.” 

According to the Eretz Zen site, the footage was taken Sept. 3 in the Syrian town of Jarablus on the Turkish border.

A voice on the video says, “They exploit the needs of Syrian citizens in order to spread Christian thought.” 

The narrator also describes a small bag of communion wafers as a “pork meat derivative,” which is supplied “to fool the gullible children with.”

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