CIA activities in Syria since the 1950s have included coup attempts and assassination plots, and in more recent years, extraordinary renditions, a paramilitary strike, and funding and military training of forces opposed to the current government.
The CIA: Torture Is Our Trade.
Attempted regime change, 1956–1957The CIA made plans to overthrow the Syrian government because it would not cooperate with Western anticommunism. Early in 1956, the plan called for use of the Iraqi army; it then shifted its focus to agents with Syria itself.
Operation Straggle, 1956National Security Council member Wilbur Crane Eveland, CIA official Archibald Roosevelt, and Michail Bey Ilyan, former Syrian minister, met in Damascus on 1 July 1956 to discuss a US-backed 'anticommunist' takeover of the country. They made a plan, scheduled for enactment on 25 October 1956, in which the military would
take control of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Hamah. The frontier posts with Jordan, Iraq,and Lebanon would also be captured in order to seal Syria's borders until the radio stations announced that a new government had taken over under Colonel Kabbani, who would place armored units at key positions throughout Damascus. Once control had been established, Ilyan would inform the civilians he'd selected that they were to form a new government, but in order to avoid leaks none of them would be told until just a week before the coup.The CIA backed this plan (known as "Operation Straggle") with 500,000 Syrian pounds (worth about $167,000) and the promise to support the new government. Although Secretary of State John Foster Dulles publicly opposed a coup, privately he had consulted with the CIA and recommended the plan to President Eisenhower.
The plan was postponed for five days, during which time Israel invaded Egypt. Ilyan told Eveland he could not succeed in overthrowing the Syrian government during a war of Israeli aggression. On 31 October, John Foster Dulles informed his brother Allen Dulles, the Director of the CIA: "Re Straggle our people feel that conditions are such that it would be a mistake to try to pull it off". Eveland speculated that this coincidence had been engineered by the British in order to defuse US criticism of the invasion of Egypt.
Operation Wappen, 1957DCI Allen Dulles continued to file reports about the dangers of Communism in Syria. The CIA planned for another coup, code-named "Operation Wappen" and organized by Kermit Roosevelt. Syrian military officers were paid off in anticipation. Bribes reportedly totaled $3,000,000.
The coup failed when some of these officers revealed the plan to the Syrian intelligence service. They turned in the CIA bribe money and identified the officers who had tendered it. Robert Molloy, Francis Jeton, and Howard Stone were all deported. The US State Department denied Syrian accusations of a coup attempt, banned Syria's ambassador to the US, and withdrew its own ambassador from Syria. The New York Times backed the US government's claim and suggested that the story had been fabricated for political purposes.
After the coup attempt was exposed, the US government and media began describing Syria as a "Soviet satellite". One intelligence report suggested that the USSR had delivered "not more than 123 Migs" to the country. Reporter Kennett Love later said that "there were indeed 'not more than 123 Migs'. There were none." In September 1957, the US deployed a fleet to the Mediterranean, armed several of Syria's neighbors, and incited Turkey to deploy 50,000 troops to its border. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles suggested that the US sought to invoke the "Eisenhower Doctrine" of retaliating against provocations, and this intention was later confirmed in a military report. No Arab state would describe Syria as a provocateur, and these military deployments were withdrawn.
Assassination plot, 1957Explicit documents from September 1957 reveal a plot, including collaboration with the British intelligence service MI6 in a plot, to assassinate three Syrian officials in Damascus. These targets were: Abdel Hamid al-Sarraj, head of military intelligence; Afif al-Bizri, army chief of staff; and Khalid Bakdash, leader of the Syrian Communist Party—all figures who had gained politically from exposure of "the American plot". Details about this conspiracy were revealed by a "Working Group Report" uncovered in 2003 among the papers of British Defence Minister Duncan Sandys:
Once a political decision is reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS [MI6] will attempt, to mount minor sabotage and coup de main incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals.
The two services should consult, as appropriate, to avoid any overlapping or interference with each other's activities... Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus; the operation should not be overdone; and to the extent possible care should be taken to avoid causing key leaders of the Syrian regime to take additional personal protection measures.In the "Preferred Plan" drafted by the Working Group Report, the US and UK intelligence agencies would fund a "Free Syria Committee" and supply weapons to paramilitary groups including the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria would be "made to appear as the sponsor of plots, sabotage and violence directed against neighbouring governments". These provocations would serve as the pretext for an outside invasion, led theoretically by the Kingdom of Iraq.
The Working Group Report stated that it would be "impossible to exaggerate the importance of the psychological warfare aspects of the present exercise", meaning that it would be necessary to convince people in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt that a state of emergency was at hand.
Radio transmitters were deployed and the CIA prepared to send advisors to allied countries. The plan was developed quickly and re-used elements of the CIA's 1954 coup in Guatemala as well as its 1953 effort in Iran.
The "Preferred Plan" was aborted after renewed diplomatic engagement by Saudi Arabia and Iraq, followed by direct military support to Syria from Egypt, made a regional war seem unlikely. However, the Syria Working Group provided a model for other CIA interventions— most immediately, in Indonesia.
Response to treaty, 1983In 1983, President Assad of Syria signed a peace and friendship treaty with the Soviet Union and some have suggested that the coincidental uprising by the Muslim brotherhood in Syria was a CIA operation to overthrow Assad for his pro-Soviet policies.
Extraordinary rendition, 2001–2003The CIA used Syria as an illicit base of operations to torture ghost detainees, as part of a program known as extraordinary rendition. This program was established in the mid-1990s and expanded in the 2000s.
One target of this program, Syrian-born Canadian Maher Arar, was detained in New York and sent to Syria, where he was interrogated and tortured. Arar, a telecommunications engineer who has been a Canadian citizen since 1991, was asked to confess his connections to al-Qaeda and to terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Arar was held for more than a year; after his release, he sued the U.S. government. According to a U.S. Judge (and confirmed by Canadian investigators):
During his first twelve days in Syrian detention, Arar was interrogated for eighteen hours per day and was physically and psychologically tortured. He was beaten on his palms, hips, and lower back with a two-inch-thick electric cable. His captors also used their fists to beat him on his stomach, his face, and the back of his neck. He was subjected to excruciating pain and pleaded with his captors to stop, but they would not. He was placed in a room where he could hear the screams of other detainees being tortured and was told that he, too, would be placed in a spine-breaking "chair,” hung upside down in a "tire" for beatings, and subjected to electric shocks. To lessen his exposure to the torture, Arar falsely confessed, among other things, to having trained with terrorists in Afghanistan, even though he had never been to Afghanistan and had never been involved in terrorist activity.
Arar alleges that his interrogation in Syria was coordinated and planned by U.S. officials, who sent the Syrians a dossier containing specific questions. As evidence of this, Arar notes that the interrogations in the United States and Syria contained identical questions, including a specific question about his relationship with a particular individual wanted for terrorism. In return, the Syrian officials supplied U.S. officials with all information extracted from Arar; plaintiff cites a statement by one Syrian official who has publicly stated that the Syrian government shared information with the United States that it extracted from Arar. See Complaint Ex. E (January 21, 2004 transcript of CBS's Sixty Minutes II: “His Year In Hell”).The U.S. initially invoked the “state secrets privilege”. When legal proceedings began anyway, the Ashcroft Justice Department was ridiculed for arguing that Arar was in fact a member of Al Qaeda. The Canadian government has apologized to Arar but the U.S. has not admitted wrongdoing.
Journalist Stephen Grey has identified eight other people tortured on behalf of the CIA at the same prison ("Palestine Branch") in Syria. The CIA imprisoned a German businessman, Mohammad Haydr Zammar, and transferred him from Morocco to the Syrian prison. They subsequently offered German intelligence officials the opportunity to submit questions for Zammar, and asked Germany to overlook Syria's human rights abuses because of cooperation in the War on Terror.
According to a 2013 report by the Open Society Foundation, Syria was one of the "most common destinations for rendered suspects" under the program. Former CIA agent Robert Baer described the policy to the New Statesman: "If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear – never to see them again – you send them to Egypt".
Paramilitary raids, 2004–2008On Sunday, 26 October 2008, the CIA conducted a paramilitary raid on the town of Sukkariyeh in eastern Syria. The raid involved "about two dozen U.S. commandos in specially equipped Black Hawk helicopters", according to reporters for the New York Times. The U.S. said it had killed an Iraqi who was supplying insurgents from across the Syrian border.
Syria accused the U.S. of committing "terrorist aggression" and said that eight civilians had been killed. The US responded that all people killed in the raid were "militants". The Syrian government closed an American cultural center and the US-sponsored Damascus Community School in response. The incident also led to a mass rally in Damascus in which protestors criticized the raid. (The Syrian government supported the rally but deployed riot police to protect the US buildings from angry protestors.)
Following the raid, the Times revealed the existence of a secret 2004 military order authorizing actions by the CIA and the Special Forces in 15–20 countries, including Syria. U.S. officials acknowledged that they had conducted other raids in Syria since 2004, but did not provide details.
War, 2011–2013Wikileaks has reported that the US government has been covertly funding the Syrian opposition. Special Activities Division teams are speculated to have been deployed to Syria during the uprising to ascertain rebel groups, leadership and potential supply routes.
In early September 2013, President Obama told U.S. Senators that the CIA had trained the first 50-man insurgent element and that they had been inserted into Syria. The deployment of this unit and the supplying of weapons may be the first tangible measure of support since the U.S. stated they would begin providing assistance to the opposition.
There’s no way to overstate the Obama administration’s destructive and nihilistic role in Syria. Along with its Gulf allies, the US has funded, armed and trained the bulk of the jihadi hoodlums that have ripped the state apart and killed nearly one quarter of a million people. Now that Putin has decided to put an end to Washington’s savage proxy war, the administration is planning to add more fuel to the fire by air-dropping pallets of ammunition and weapons to their fighters in central and eastern Syria. The editors of the New York Times derided the program as “hallucinatory.” Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“…the White House on Friday unveiled a plan that is even more incoherent and fraught with risk.
The Pentagon will stop putting rebel fighters through training in neighboring countries, a program that was designed to ensure that fighters were properly vetted before they could get their hands on American weapons and ammunition. The new plan will simply funnel weapons through rebel leaders who are already in the fight and appear to be making some headway…..
Washington’s experience in Syria and other recent wars shows that proxy fighters are usually fickle and that weapons thrust into a war with no real oversight often end up having disastrous effects……..The initial plan was dubious. The new one is hallucinatory.” (“An Incoherent Syria War Strategy“, New York Times editorial Board)
Remember, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. Saudi Arabia law is sharia, Islamic law and the Quran. No political parties or elections are allowed. Yet Saudi Arabia wants a political solution. Disposing of the elected president of Syria, Assad.
The Islamic State is pushing into new towns along the northern outskirts of Aleppo and Assad regime troops backed by hundreds of Iranian troops are pinching rebels in the city. The introduction the new foreign troops is the first overt deployment of Iranian combat forces of the civil war. “There are mobilizations by the regime in most parts of Aleppo,” a Syrian rebel commander told Reuters.
The Saudi-led intervention force in Yemen is deterring vessels from delivering humanitarian aid, according to a new report from the U.S. Navy that cited a warning broadcast to all commercial ships off the Yemeni coast. Fighting between Houthi rebels and the pro-government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition continues: Airstrikes in Taiz and Bayda province killed 22 women and children.
Turkey has said that they are prepared to send ground forces into Syria if the United States provided cover and support. And would create no-fly zones. That would be the beginning of Armageddon.
The real reason for this conflict in Syria is because Assad will not let Saudi Arabia build their pipeline through Syria. Right now Russia is the largest energy supplier for Europe. And Saudi Arabia wants to build a pipeline through Syria and Turkey to supply Europe with natural gas which would take away Europe's dependence on Russian energy.
The US wants this pipeline to happen because it will make Russia financially weaker and also Saudi Arabia is a big ally to the US. This is also the reason for the lack of US involvement with fighting ISIS in Syria. The US was hoping that ISIS would take out Assad.
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