Potential Game Changer In Syria: Trump Abandons Failed CIA Program


President Donald Trump appears to be charting a coherent executive foreign policy that is the prerogative of every incumbent president, despite widespread opposition by the mainstream media, Congress, the Republican and Democratic establishments, and U.S. intelligence agencies, which have been at odds with President Trump since he proposed pragmatic cooperation with Russia in resolving key global and regional conflicts. Unfortunately this positive development, which could lead to a breakthrough and foster the conditions necessary for inclusive intra-Syrian talks and secure peace in the country was accompanied with the usual vitriol castigations of the mainstream media, the neocons, and hawkish factions of the Republican and Democratic party, who view the joint Russian-US ceasefire initiatives in Syria as being a concession to Russia or evidence of ‘collusion’ with Vladimir Putin. Yet, in spite of these obstacles, the ceasefire in south west Syria has held for over two weeks with a marked decrease in fighting between the Syrian government and the armed ‘moderate’ opposition, the arrival of Russian military police in the assigned de-escalation zones, and the setup of a monitoring centre in Amman to oversee the Russian-American-Jordanian implementation of the ceasefire. But, by far, one of the most promising developments, which has rattled the mainstream media, the ideologues, and war hawks in Washington as reported by the Washington Post, is the decision by the Trump administration to abandon Obama’s flagship policy of arming, training, and funding the ‘moderate Syrian opposition’ to topple Assad through the $1 billion a year CIA Timber Sycamore program. The CIA Timber Sycamore program, since it began in 2013 has been exposed as a destabilizing policy that actively empowered Al-Qaeda, its affiliated groups and a motley of FSA factions who on many documented occasions mostly defected or transferred their US weapons and funds to ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The recent jihadist infighting in Idlib province that saw Al-Qaeda.

Yet, in spite of these obstacles, the ceasefire in south west Syria has held for over two weeks with a marked decrease in fighting between the Syrian government and the armed ‘moderate’ opposition, the arrival of Russian military police in the assigned de-escalation zones, and the setup of a monitoring centre in Amman to oversee the Russian-American-Jordanian implementation of the ceasefire. But, by far, one of the most promising developments, which has rattled the mainstream media, the ideologues, and war hawks in Washington as reported by the Washington Post, is the decision by the Trump administration to abandon Obama’s flagship policy of arming, training, and funding the ‘moderate Syrian opposition’ to topple Assad through the $1 billion a year CIA Timber Sycamore program. The CIA Timber Sycamore program, since it began in 2013 has been exposed as a destabilising policy that actively empowered Al-Qaeda, its affiliated groups and a motley of FSA factions who on many documented occasions mostly defected or transferred their US weapons and funds to ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The recent jihadist infighting in Idlib province that saw Al-Qaeda (

But, by far, one of the most promising developments, which has rattled the mainstream media, the ideologues, and war hawks in Washington as reported by the Washington Post, is the decision by the Trump administration to abandon Obama’s flagship policy of arming, training, and funding the ‘moderate Syrian opposition’ to topple Assad through the $1 billion a year CIA Timber Sycamore program. The CIA Timber Sycamore program, since it began in 2013, has been exposed as a destabilizing policy that actively empowered Al-Qaeda, its affiliated groups, and a motley of FSA factions, who on many documented occasions defected or transferred their U.S. weapons and funds to ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile, the recent jihadist infighting in the Idlib province that saw Al-Qaeda (HTS) cement its position as the supreme anti-Assad opposition, complemented by mass defections to its ranks by Ahrar al Sham and the FSA, is a case in point, which demonstrates the inseparability and symbiotic relationship the so-called moderate rebels have with the jihadists. The two former FSA commanders Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi and Salim Idriss, who have corresponded and met with former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and Senator John McCain, have admitted on Arabic channels in 2013 that they maintain close Senatorial cooperation with their ‘brothers’ in ISIS and Al-Nusra, and suffer from no ideological rift. Apart from potentially escalating a domestic conflict and unleashing a wave of sectarian violence and bloodshed, this policy by the CIA and Pentagon has been regarded as a costly failure with the Syrian government and its allies to reclaim many territories. As well, U.S. officials have admitted that they have successfully vetted only five moderate Syrian rebels since the inception of the program.

Unfortunately, among the foreign policy commentariat, Congress, and neoconservative factions in Washington, this is seen as a victory for Putin and their geopolitical enemy, Iran. Thus, there has not been a pragmatic scaling back of less successful U.S. foreign policies. As such, this leaves the U.S. in a precarious quagmire surrounded by hostile forces with a strategic advantage and whose intervention in the Syrian conflict, unlike the U.S., is legitimate, according to international law. However, if Trump is allowed the flexibility to carry out these well-intentioned policies in coordination with Russia and stay the course with the non-interventionist platform he ran his campaign on, this may lead to a significant decrease in armed hostilities, disable the fighting power and foreign supplies to Al-Nusra Front and allied jihadist groups, and enable the Syrian Arab Army and its allies to focus on defeating ISIS in central and eastern Syria. To expand, the terrorist group, ISIS, is fighting a war of attrition and survival in the face of a rejuvenated Syrian government, which is in close border cooperation with neighbouring Iraq and is seeking to restore complete sovereignty over its territory.

Additionally, with the termination of the CIA-Pentagon program to arm the fledgling FSA jihadist factions in the border town of Al Tanf, without an international mandate or reasonable pretext, such as assisting an incompetent FSA in fighting ISIS, the U.S. will have little choice, but to withdraw from its surrounding pocket in Homs and cede border control back to the internationally recognized Syrian government. Trump’s reversal of Obama’s policy has already materialized into some pertinent battlefield realities, such as the Kurdish-dominated SDF at the behest of the U.S.–led coalition kicking out the Quwwat al-Nukhba sub-group of the FSA from further operations to liberate Raqqa. By ditching these jihadist mercenaries that the U.S. hoped to fully control, the Trump administration is signalling that all its future investments are directed exclusively to supporting the Kurds. Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama administration official concedes that this recent development is “probably a nod to reality”. Contrary to the popular belief parroted by the mainstream media, US think tanks and ardent anti-Russian hawks, this decision was not a precondition to Russian-American cooperation in Syria, though it remained a contentious issue that hindered

Meanwhile, Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama administration official, concedes that this recent development is “probably a nod to reality.” Contrary to the popular belief parroted by the mainstream media, U.S. think tanks, and anti-Russian hawks, this decision was not a precondition to Russian-American cooperation in Syria. However, while this remains to be a contentious issue that continues to hinder cooperation, a decision was reached well before the Putin-Trump G20 meeting. Indeed, U.S. Army General Raymond Thomas, Head of the Special Operations Command at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado said the decision was “based on [an] assessment of the program” and was done in close consultation with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor, McMaster.

As well, two U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity with Reuters, also pointed out that the covert CIA program had produced little success. The fact that the Russians, for a long time warned and advised the U.S. against the arming of radical insurgent groups to overthrow the secular Syrian government, should be a reflection that the key players in this regional conflict have come to a united understanding that only through sincere de-escalation initiatives can peace be achieved in Syria, irrespective of the protestations of Israel and political elites in Washington.

Moreover, within the last two days, the Syrian government and the Russian military, at a meeting facilitated by Egypt in Cairo, signed an agreement with Syrian opposition representatives for a ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta. Another potential safe zone is possible with talks between Russian reconciliation teams and rebel groups attempting to broker a strict ceasefire in the northern Hama countryside, which could reopen the vital Homs-Hama Highway so that commerce can once again resume in this region. If successful, these ceasefires that would be closely monitored by the key guarantors in the Astana process, as well as the U.S., could suspend the violence in the war torn country and ensure the provision of humanitarian aid to all those affected and lead to a political settlement that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and the self-determination of its people.