The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that “having failed to advance regime-change in Syria through two rounds of talks in Geneva, the Obama administration is stepping up its funding and arming of “Islamist” and mercenary militias.”
According to the daily, “Washington is turning toward direct military intervention.”
In what marks a sharp escalation of the US-backed war for regime-change, the Saudi monarchy is shipping more sophisticated weaponry, including shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, to the so-called “rebels,” while the US itself is paying salaries to an entire “rebel” front in southern Syria near the Jordanian border.
The offer of the new weapons came at a January 30 meeting in Amman, Jordan between “rebels” and agents of both US and Saudi intelligence, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed diplomats and “opposition figures.”
“At the meeting, US and Gulf officials said they were disappointed with the Syrian government’s refusal to discuss al- Assad’s ouster at the talks and suggested a military push was needed to force a political solution to the three-year war,” the Journal reported.
The aim is apparently to arm and organize an offensive to seize control of the southern suburbs of Damascus in order to subject the capital to military attack.
An unnamed US official told the Journal, “There hasn’t been a change on our view” regarding the missiles. Such declarations provide the Obama administration with rather less than plausible deniability, given that, according the Journal’s account, the promise to provide the Chinese-made portable missiles, known as Manpads, as well as anti-tank missiles, was made at the meeting between US and Saudi intelligence operatives and “rebel” leaders.
The same meeting was used to transfer US funds to pay salaries to what are effectively Western-controlled mercenaries fighting to bring down the Syrian regime. At least $3 million was paid out at the January 30 meeting and at another meeting held at the end of last year.
Jordan has been turned into a permanent base for this intervention. The Journal report describes a “military operations room” in Amman that is staffed by “officials from the 11 countries that form the Friends of Syria group, including the US, Saudi Arabia, France and the UK.”
Obama flew to California Friday for confidential discussions with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at Sunnylands, the former Annenberg Estate. He promised the Hashemite monarch $1 billion in loan guarantees as well as the renewal of a memorandum of understanding that provides the kingdom with $600 million in US financial and military aid. In return, Washington wants a free hand in using Jordanian soil as a launching pad for aggression against Syria.
US officials have acknowledged that the Obama administration has initiated intense discussions on a shift in its policy toward Syria. Last Friday, speaking in Beijing, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Obama had “asked all of us to think about various options that may or may not exist.”
On the same day, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the War Department had drawn up a range of plans for military intervention. “There’s an interest in coming up with other options in Syria moving forward,” he said, while declining to spell out what actions were under discussion.