Trump Cancels a Failed CIA Operation—It’s Gotta Be the Russians!

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 July 22, 2017|
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When the Washington Post puts five reporters on a story, it must be important, right? Over the course of the last two days, the Post reported on President Trump’s decision to officially kill “an ineffective and largely defunct” covert CIA program to recruit, train and arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria.

We learned about this program three years ago, when it emerged that while the CIA had appropriated around $500 million for this effort, the agency had been able to find only about 60 Syrian fighters deemed “moderate” enough to train and arm. Of these 60, the CIA was able to account for only five at the end of the effort, the rest having melded into various murderous militias—including ISIS—slaughtering each other in Syria. That discovery marked the effective end of the failed program.

Yet the rebels are not happy with Trump’s decision, according to the Post. “We definitely feel betrayed… It feels like we are being abandoned,” said General Tlass al-Salameh of Osoud al-Sharqiya of the Free Syrian Army, channeling his inner James Comey.

The Post is sympathetic. It struggled to find an explanation for the decision. Many might have thought that you needn’t look far to account for why we’ve stopped pouring money down a rat hole. But there’s something else going on, says the Post. Something that, for the Post, explains everything that happens in Trump’s America: Russia.

The Post’s investigative team found an anonymous “official” to pronounce that “Putin won in Syria.”

True, there’d long been talk of ending the program, but not “for free,” said a former official. “To give [the program] away without getting anything in return would be foolish.” President Trump should have negotiated. “C’mon Vlad, what will you give to end this defunct and ineffective program?”

If you don’t do something for me, I’ll continue to hit myself on the head with this hammer.

“A huge strategic mistake,” said a former Obama official who’d only just a few moments ago more accurately described it as “a nod to reality.” Some of his aides wanted Obama to supply the rebels with serious anti-aircraft weapons, but he demurred, not wanting “to be pulled into a conflict with Russia.” Indeed, a conflict with Russia would not sit well with Obama’s Iranian allies.

It’s complicated, you see. Obama didn’t want the rebels to win. “The Obama policy was, in fact, designed to provoke a battlefield stalemate—which the administration hoped would lead to a negotiated end to the conflict.” This might explain why the CIA trainees were forbidden to fight Assad loyalists, and to limit their fight to ISIS, a prohibition that caused many of them to defect to other militias. And a “negotiated end” contemplates that Assad might be permitted to stay.

So the rebels weren’t permitted to rebel.

Obama was in a bind. On the one hand, Americans were urging him to defeat Assad and put an end to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. On the other, the Iranians were not predisposed to having their man in Damascus taken out. Indeed, that would jeopardize the nuclear deal, and with it Obama’s legacy. Best, then, to pretend to be doing something while doing nothing at all. Except spending our money foolishly.

Someone whose business it is to investigate such matters on the ground told me a couple of years ago that what he saw in Syria was American personnel being moved from one location to another and then back again. “It’s like they’re trying to look like they’re doing something,” he said.

This is how a Potemkin president wages a Potemkin war. You have to be trained in the higher stupidity of liberalism to think that any of this makes sense.

What’s this all about, then? Why does it require input from five reporters, including Heba Habib all the way from Stockholm, and Zakaria Zakaria from Istanbul? And no one from Syria?

In reality, there’s no story. In 2013, the CIA established a covert program to find, train, and arm moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. The program flopped, “fizzled out amid battlefield losses and concerns about extremism within rebel ranks,” but was allowed to linger on the books. It didn’t do anything for us except draw us into an unwinnable Middle East quagmire, with the goal of trying to make a feckless president look like he was doing something.

But if Trump formally ended a stupid and ill-conceived program, it must be a “huge strategic mistake.” And, as always, the Washington Post sees the dark hand of Russia shaping our policies.

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About the Author:

Esther Goldberg
Esther Goldberg is a lawyer living in Alexandra, Virginia.
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41 Comments

  1. hamburgertoday2017 July 22, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    WaPo is populated by intellectually lazy ideologues. Thank God for AG and Breitbart and Drudge!

    • Demerise July 24, 2017 at 10:00 am

      Amen.

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    • orygone July 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      yep, they are the best at putting out the fake news you all soak up

      • hamburgertoday2017 July 24, 2017 at 12:40 pm

        Troll.

  2. 57nomad July 22, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    This program was Obama and Clinton’s genius move. The title of this article is Rebels Hand Over Weapons to al Qaeda.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/sep/22/us-trained-rebels-syria-hand-over-weapons-al-qaeda/

  3. McSwag July 23, 2017 at 2:39 am

    The only people who want to get rid of Assad are Israelis/Jew neocons and their lackeys.

  4. RJones July 23, 2017 at 5:12 am

    As a proud everTrumper, please allow me to be one of the first to comment on jonah Goldberg’s column…First of all, we do not embrace Trump nearly as much as we completely, utterly, and decidedly reject you. From a conservative leadership perspective you and your fellow travelers, especially at NR, are failures. It is recognition and acceptance of this failure that has led us to embrace an admittedly imperfect leader. The degree to which Trump or any leader is imperfect can be taken as a measure of the degree to which we now reject you.

    Why is our disgust with you so vehement? Simply because we trusted you. You were our putative leaders, the ones we turned to whenever politicians, who we thought had to live in the real world, let us down. We trusted you to shed light where it was needed, to correct politicians who needed correcting, and to keep our country off the path of craziness that democrats surely would lead us, and did lead us in some measure under Obama. What we learned before and after the election is that you deceived us all along. What you preached and what you practiced are two separate things. You are hypocrites and liars.

    Our suspicions were initially aroused in a couple of ways: Susan Rice went of TV and told bald-faced lies directLy to the American people. No consequences. Then, in the next presidential debate, the *moderator* incorrectly corrects our candidate. Little anger, no consequence, debates continue to a losing conclusion for our side. No anger, no changes. Republicans continue merrily down the path of collaborating with the media. I.e., we are pummeled daily. Our “leaders” have no problem with that.

    Then, we learn the IRS is illegally picking on Tea Party groups. Amazing how those dem led inquisitions can be so weighty, but the republican led ones are a joke. Here we have high level govt officials destroying disk drives with evidence that may have led to Obama himself. But, no, these hearings are a complete fizzle.

    Need I go on? Really? Okay. Let’s talk about a bit about Hillary. Blatant mishandling of classified information at a time when cybersecurity is a constant concern and during which time the Chinese had stolen detailed personal background, to include admissions of infidelity, homosexuality, improprieties of various flavor, of 20+ million people. No outrage, no concern, no effective hearings. No concern that Hillary herself could be subject to extortion by anyone who may have stolen her email, which would have been ridiculously easy to have done.

    And then we learn about destruction of email and selling of government favors to foreigners via the Clinton Foundation. All run of the mill government misdeeds apparently. And then abusing the intelligence apparatus and the Russia nonsense.

    There is no need for delving into real issues of concern to Americans like global warming, the economy, the sprawl and growth of government. We can certainly see where it was headed under your leadership.

    So, Mr Goldberg, FU and your conservative concern for morality and decent governance. You are a failure and good riddance to you.

    • Cybergeezer2 July 23, 2017 at 7:16 am

      Nice!
      Now, just get this posted on a JONAH Goldberg article where it can do some good.

      • D4x July 23, 2017 at 3:50 pm

        One good laugh deserves another:

        “A Chinese man and his Jewish friend were walking along one day when the Jewish man whirled and slugged the Chinese man and knocked him down.

        “What was that for?” the Chinese man asked.

        “That was for Pearl Harbor!” the Jewish man said.

        “Pearl Harbor? That was the Japanese. I’m Chinese.”

        “Chinese, Japanese, you are all the same!”

        “Oh!”

        They continued walking and after a while the Chinese man whirled and knocked the Jewish man to the ground.

        “What was that for?” the Jewish man asked.

        “That was for the Titanic!”

        “The Titanic? That was an iceberg.”

        “Iceberg, Goldberg, you are all the same.”
        http://www.servant.org/writings/humor/h_mfarj.php

        • Cybergeezer2 July 23, 2017 at 4:29 pm

          I love that one!
          Did Jackie Mason or Milton Berle ever do that one?

          • D4x July 23, 2017 at 6:04 pm

            I have no idea. For some reason, I never remember comedians or jokes. But, when I saw that critique of Jonah, my eyes glazed over. Your reply was a well-needed laugh, so I went googling for a Goldberg joke. That one IS funny, and appropriate.

            Best read today, explains so much:

            “Fusion GPS Illuminates the Brave New World of Manufactured News for Hire:News of the News: How the new sausage gets made” By Lee Smith July 21, 2017 • 2:00 PM

            http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/241381/news-of-the-news
            At PJM, I suggested the Senate Judiciary Committee read it for the record during their Fusion GPS hearing on July 26 (Wednesday as I recall)

          • jack dobson July 23, 2017 at 6:28 pm

            While the rant to which we have replied was wildly and hilariously misdirected, the substance of much of it was true. So let’s use scare quotes around “hearing’ as in Fusion GPS “hearing.” That part he got right.

          • D4x July 23, 2017 at 7:25 pm

            Good to know. I only started a slow conversion to GOP in 2006, and have NOT been following members of Congress in this ‘2016 election cycle’, as to who, besides Sasse, is neverTrump, or who is a ‘globalist’.

            By accident, I wound up in Manhattan in 1978, then the close-in suburbs, and then an outer borough for the Bloomberg era. Have to avoid the trauma of seeing what has happened to the Democrats.

            However, following New York real estate WAS a serious hobby until 2010 (too bad I moved at exactly the wrong time). Russian oligarchs paying cash >$1,000/sqft fuelled the ‘luxury’ market. That is far more likely to turn up than fill-in duplexes in Brighton Beach.

            I might tune in when Louise Sunshine testifies 🙂

          • jack dobson July 23, 2017 at 8:49 pm

            Tough break on the real estate timing.

            To be clear, Sen. Burr was anything but Never Trump during the campaign. He helped Trump and rode his coattails to re-election (the Republican governor narrowly lost). Since that time, Sen. Burr has allowed the Democrats to run amok on his committee and hasn’t lifted a finger to stop this coup attempt. Rep. Gowdy was and is a gasbag who thought Sen. Rubio was a certain ticket to another principled Republican defeat. Rep. Gowdy talks and talks and does exactly nothing when evidence of IC and FBI wrongdoing and crimes emerge; he’s a fan boi. Both Burr and Gowdy’s recent actions typify the cowardly Republicanism the public has rejected time and time again. Maybe there’s hope they will summons the strength to stop this madness and perhaps deal with the actual crimes the Democrats committed against the American people.

            Louise Sunshine probably has too many Democratic ties to be subjected to harsh questions but we thought the same about Jared.

    • Bailey Reynolds July 24, 2017 at 7:46 am

      Well said, RJones. You nailed it.

    • Man w/o a Name July 24, 2017 at 10:37 am

      It is a different Goldberg. Hey, it is easy to mix ’em up.

  5. Cybergeezer2 July 23, 2017 at 6:42 am

    So; Why doesn’t the Washington Post take up this job?
    WaPo journalists are such well trained and effective subversives of America, these “moderate rebels” can assist WaPo in their quest for regime change in the United States.

  6. jack dobson July 23, 2017 at 11:25 am

    The WaPo is beyond parody now and the editorial staff suffers various mental impairments. As for the IC, I have started to seriously consider for the first time that (a) it deliberately lied about the Iraq WMD program rather than merely screwed up horribly; and (b) assassinated Kennedy over his purported intent to leave Vietnam. The former is more likely than the latter but the point is I didn’t previously consider the agency to be actually evil. Fortunately, it also is utterly incompetent and staffed by idiotic buffoons so the latest domestic coup attempt more likely than not will fail and some of the Deep State could face the gallows.

    • Dave781 July 24, 2017 at 5:33 am

      So anyone who tells the truth about Trump is evil and should be hanged for telling the truth?

      • Jon Phillips July 24, 2017 at 5:41 am

        127 leaks in 128 days is not telling the truth. It’s actually a felony regardless of what moral high ground you think you hold.

    • Bailey Reynolds July 24, 2017 at 7:42 am

      I’ve actually begun to start re-thinking the whole Watergate thing… b/c of all the Deep State criminality I’ve seen since 2001 (and through today w/Trump). They (alongside their stenographers in the MSM) are literally attempting a coup to overthrow our duly elected president. I think they took Nixon out similarly. It was more than possible back then b/c of their lock on the MSM at the time. These people shouldn’t just be purged from Officialdom; they should be sent to GITMO for the rest of their lives. They are traitors.

  7. E. T. Bass July 24, 2017 at 4:54 am

    Whether it be his Apology Tour, the precipitous withdrawal from Iraq against military advice, his support of the MB in Egypt, his open distain for Israel, turning Libya into a lawless haven for terrorists, his feckless behavior on Syria, his capitulation to Iran – including paying them ransom – is there anything 0bama did that didn’t actually help these Islamic savages establish their fledgling caliphate ( The one that the US is now leading the effort to destroy) ?

  8. wheezer July 24, 2017 at 5:20 am

    Trump cedes Syria to Putin. Hillary would have started a proxy war by now. Who’s right? -You be the judge.

  9. longlance July 24, 2017 at 5:37 am

    Washington Post, New York Times, CNN: all greater dangers to USA than Russia, Iran & ISIS combined.

    • mrdaveno1 July 24, 2017 at 5:41 am

      Good thing NY Times doesn’t have nukes…Oh, wait.

      • Tech July 24, 2017 at 11:30 am

        They have rhetorical nukes in their snooty high-mindedness that makes sense only to them.

  10. MAGA Big League July 24, 2017 at 6:04 am

    What the author writes makes no sense. Not sure what’s available out there, but a CIA program to fight Assad is what we are talking about. There is apparently a second program designed to fight ISIS. That is NOT what we are talking about.

    A program to arm rebels against Assad is the epitome of stupid and immoral, and since they were fighting with Al Qaeda, probably treasonous. Congressional caveats and legislative mumbo jumbo aside. These caveats should be immediately challenged in court as unconstitutional by victims of terrorism like the Benghazi families. The Secretary of State cannot Constitutionally sanction treason for any purpose, that’s why it’s in the constitution so that executive branch types can’t do that sort of thing.

  11. fahagen July 24, 2017 at 6:44 am

    If anyone has collided with Russia to ensure a Putin win in Syria, it was Obama.

    • Matt Dillon July 24, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      No the Russian’s colluded with Putin, why? Because the NYT and Wapo says so.

  12. Iain MacAllester July 24, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Obama has blood on his hands. By arming these Islamic Scumbags, he caused even more death in Syria…all for his twisted vendetta.

  13. Janice Quinn July 24, 2017 at 7:24 am

    Cash for Clunkers: Syria Edition.

  14. Bailey Reynolds July 24, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Something that wasn’t even mentioned in this article – all the while Obama and the Deep State were playing these horrific games and blowing sh!t tons of our tax money supporting terrorists, our courageous men and women in uniform were being maimed and killed for what? Do these azzholes ever even think of THEM? Of course not, they are nothing but a number to these elites.

  15. Man w/o a Name July 24, 2017 at 10:08 am

    >>the CIA had appropriated around $500 million for this effort, the agency had been able to find only about 60 Syrian fighters deemed “moderate” enough to train and arm. Of these 60, the CIA was able to account for only five at the end of the effort… the rebels are not happy with Trump’s decision, according to the Post.

    At a price of $80+ million for one “moderate rebel” revels must be very unhappy about termination of this program.
    I say, we could build Terminator or Bionic Man at this price. Or we could bribe Assad himself with this sum. Why do we have to use some lousy rebels, if we are willing to pay this money?

  16. RPDC July 24, 2017 at 10:40 am

    This undertaking is much older than the author seems to believe. We began funding the Syrian rebels in 2006, and arming them in 2007. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-syria-wikileaks-idUSTRE73H0E720110418

  17. Matt Dillon July 24, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    What a world America finds itself in where the liberals and their lackeys in the Wapo and the Obama administration become the neo- conservative, war mongering sociopaths. I’m still hitting myself in he head, with a hammer, for campaigning for Obama in 2008; yes we can, remember that one.

  18. Calie Stephens July 24, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    This the kind of operation that McCain would have championed. McCain, Graham and most of the demos have supported spending millions to depose despots, only to result in leaving the countries more unstable after our “help”. Thousands of American boys and hundreds of thousands of civilians are dead due to our actions.
    Is Iran better off since we withdrew our support of the Shah, is Iraq better off since we removed Sadaam, is Egypt better off since we betrayed our friend Mubarek and is Libya better off since we helped kill Quadaffi? The answer to all of the above is NO.
    Thirty years of bad policies of interference has resulted in a Middle East more unstable than ever. Was it worth the lost lives and the bankrupting of our nation? NO!!!

    • Ironwrkr July 25, 2017 at 10:56 am

      Exactly. McCain and Graham love their pet jihadists and have childlike faith in our military’s ability to change the world.

  19. MrLynn July 24, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    Paul Mirengoff over at PowerLine criticizes this piece and suggests that instead of “cutting off” the hands of the ‘rebels’, we should “untie” them. Instead, he says, President Trump has just capitulated to Putin, which is the opposite of “American Greatness:”

    What, then, did Donald Trump the great deal maker receive from Russia in exchange for shutting down the program? As far as I can tell, all he got was a cease fire — one that serves Russia’s interests and that, the minute it no longer does, will be breached, just as past cease fires have been.

    This isn’t America “winning so much we may even get tired of winning.” Nor does it strike me as American greatness.

    My response, posted in the comments there:

    I don’t know that whether Esther Goldberg represents the ‘official’ views of the American Greatness proprietors or not, but doubtless they are somewhat consonant. Concerning the CIA-backed ‘rebels’, she writes:

    “We learned about this program three years ago, when it emerged that while the CIA had appropriated around $500 million for this effort, the agency had been able to find only about 60 Syrian fighters deemed “moderate” enough to train and arm. Of these 60, the CIA was able to account for only five at the end of the effort, the rest having melded into various murderous militias—including ISIS—slaughtering each other in Syria. That discovery marked the effective end of the failed program.”

    This was presumably a ‘covert’ operation, though with typical CIA ineptitude, it was well-publicized in the press. What did DOD and commanders in the region think of it? My impression is that was an outrageously expensive laughing-stock, and probably responsible for the rumored shipments of US weapons from Libya that got four Americans killed there. You have to ask how a so-called ‘great power’ can end up sponsoring such ham-handed foolishness. And what was the aim? To fight ISIS? To depose Assad? All it seemed to accomplish was to give trained fighters and fancy weapons to various Islamist groups.

    The Obama administration clearly did not know what to do about Syria, and never wanted to ask the Israelis, who have vested interests in what happens. My guess is that they’d be happier with Assad, whom they know, than with Al Queda/Nusra or ISIS, and they’d rather not have Iran next door. Netanyahu might even view Russia as a stabilizing force, and IMO he’d be right. So might President Trump. So yes, shutting down the ridiculous CIA ‘rebels’ and letting Putin keep Assad in power, controlling territory that might otherwise fall into Iran’s hands, is probably the best option.

    It’s a hell of a lot better than anything Obama came up with.

    /L. E. Joiner (Walking Creek World)

  20. RAM500 July 26, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Too many conservative writers took the WAPO’s bait.

  21. Barry July 27, 2017 at 11:52 am

    But how are we going to train the other 7 rebels now that this billion dollar program is being dismantled?
    PS-Does the US pay its soldiers in gold bullion? Because that would make sense here. Otherwise, did we spend hundreds of millions on bribing Turkish and Jordanian and Syrian officials and others to set up camps where Americans gathered around six guys and taught them Morse Code? Seriously?

Comments are closed.