The Rebels: We Need Intel More Than Arms

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Fighters loyal to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) pose with their weapons. Their advocate in Washington says they need better intelligence more than additional weapons.

It took Twitter five years to hire a Washington lobbyist. That was quick compared to Apple, which took 25 years to begin paying someone to represent its interests in the capital.

Violence had been raging in Syria for 14 months before the Free Syrian Army, the largest force in opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, hired Brian Sayers to represent their interests in Washington. Of course, their needs are much more dire.

By United Nations estimates some 10,000 people have died since the Arab Spring reached Damascus and the violence has only increased in recent months with arms flowing in to both sides (as Simon Shuster explores from Moscow in this week’s print edition, and here). But, while Moscow arms Assad’s regime – though they’ve pledged no new sales, some $4 billion in contracts are outstanding – the opposition is not seeking the same from the U.S.

The FSA is getting plenty of arms and cash from the Qatari, Saudi Arabian and, to a lesser extent, the Emirati governments, according to U.S. sources. What they want from Washington is a smarter way to use these weapons. “Everyone says, just give them a bunch of weapons. Well, rocket propelled grenades are fine but ultimately what they need is intelligence support in order to bring down the regime,” says Sayers, “because ultimately the regime has more sophisticated weaponry. The FSA has nowhere near that kind of capacity. And so here’s where the U.S. could do a huge amount of support and it could be done very covertly.”

Currently, the U.S. is only providing Syrian political groups – not armed ones like the FSA –humanitarian aid, communications equipment and training. The State Department is carefully vetting these opposition groups to ensure they have no terrorist links. The U.S. stamp of approval then opens the floodgates for other countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to provide lethal aid as well.

Some say that’s not nearly enough. “If the U.S. is only going to be a facilitator of arms flows into the country, that’s not enough to be stabilize things, to end the violence,” says Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian dissident who has been in exile in Washington since 2005. “In fact, it only makes things worse.”

Adbulhamid wants Washington and NATO to impose a no-fly zone as they did over Libya and Iraq. But U.S. officials say there is little chance of that happening given Assad’s advanced anti-aircraft weaponry. “The notion that we could pursue a military intervention and that would make the situation go away would not be one we’d sign on to,” says Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser.

“There’s not an option that would make the situation better,” he says. “Not just because of the lack of a United Nations mandate, but because of the nature of the conflict. In Libya, you had huge swathes of the country that could be cordoned off by air power. Not so in Syria…Also there’s not a simple process where we could pick one group and arm them and that would tip the scales.”

All of which is why Sayers is starting with what he considers a reasonable request for intelligence. “We’re not going to have boots on the ground, we’ve already said that, NATO’s not going to get involved,” says Sayers, who until recently was a political officer at NATO in Brussels. “We’re not even going to support a no-fly zone. So in order to have a no-kill zone it’s got to be the FSA who does it but they’re going to have to have intelligence support to do this.”

Most analysts in Washington believe Russia is giving Assad similar intelligence. Russia, like the U.S., does have a policy of providing satellite data to its allies when they need it, says Konstantin Sivkov, a Russian military strategist. “The Russian state does engage in this practice,” he says. But he could “not confirm or deny” that Russia has done this in Syria, because such cooperation constitutes state secrets. Syria’s other two main allies, Iran and Hezbollah, which is based in Syria, certainly are giving Assad everything they can. So, Sayers argues, giving the opposition similar capabilities only levels the playing field.

The U.S. did something similar in Libya towards the end of the Qaddafi regime. The first step towards handing over intelligence is the vetting process State is already engaged in: is this a trusted source who won’t give the information to al Qaeda?

The second step is to train them to handle the intelligence. “Over time the people that were in there advising and assisting the Libyans were giving them that kind of information,” says Jeff White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency director who is now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “I’ve heard from people trying to help the Syrians, that they’re trying to move that way, training them on the process of packaging information.”

For a President who has invested more in covert operations than any of his predecessors, giving Syria opposition groups this kind of intelligence might be the most appealing way to help them defend themselves and limit the violence while the political process plays out.

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Assad has all the heavy weaponry including tanks and planes.  Arm the opposition with Intel and arms and give the Sunni Muslims, the majority of Syria, a chance at survival...


What intelligence? they are fighting a guerilla war for haven's sake. What we have seen so far they are doing a good job in planting all kind of home made devices. Their next objective must be to attack air force bases and blow up as many planes as they can. These guys have to go on the offensive and not wait for Assad to slaughter them. The moment they will intensify the offensive the regime will lose control, that's how South Vietnam lost the war. They have all intelligence they need from their defectors, they know where the goods are.


Pure propaganda the rebel mercenary's and their CIA advisers have top notch CIA supplied intelligence.

No matter how much Main stream media try's to promote this invasion the citizens are not falling for the charade. Syria and Russia had become to close  for USA comfort , so Syria must be destroyed so that American capitalist can loot and exploit the country for profit.    


The Syrian civil war is not about preventing that Russia makes any friends anywhere. Stirring up, organizing and arming Syrian insurgents is part of a broader, djoow-concocted campaign to get rid of all strong leaders in the Middle East, to plunge their peoples into chaos and manageability.

Especially now,

1) after the Palestinians formally asked the U.N.O. to recognize their State and already got this recognition from 130 countries (!)


2) before the second Muslim state gets the nuke (Shiite Iran, after Pakistan, which will trigger a nuke race especially among the Sunni Arabs. There goes “israel's” neighbourhood, LOL !)

The Western secret services are subverting all non-monarchical Arab states first (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, even Iran), massively using Facebook and other social networks to destabilize their dreadfully ingenuine masses, but you can bet your jollies that all the Arab monarchies (Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) will fall next. If you watch with attention, you can already detect several, dispersed, preceding, opinion-forming (“planted”) articles in the U.S. mainstream Press that defend the overthrow of Arab monarchies, especially of Saudi Arabia.

Iraq and Afghanistan were simply the most glaring part of this anti-Muslim campaign, because these two countries were politically most isolated = easy targets (easy?).

And the IMBECILIC Arab monarchies even continue to be loyal to the treacherous West, like Tunisia's Ben Ali and Egypt's Mubarak were to their bitter end, even fighting fellow Muslims to Zionism's exclusive benefit...!

The good news is that this broad offensive against Syria and the Arab World isn't working out as devised, potentially (hopefully) even backfiring against “israel” and the West.


Well then by all means, let's give them intelligence! We could help them identify key officials of the Assad regime, and expose their whereabouts so the FSA can remove those commanders from the battlefield, or the FSA may be able to take about the monster himself.

Perhaps task them with taking out air defence emplacements to pave the way for a US Air Campaign around Damascus, or even around key cities?


 To the poster “OGMGS1”

You wrote: “Perhaps task [the insurgents] with taking out air defence emplacements to pave the way for a US Air Campaign around Damascus, or even around key cities?”

The U.S. Airforce needs help from guerillas to fly? Who would have guessed it...


You apparently don't understand military strategy and tactics that well "freefallingbomb". When a country has advanced Anti Aircraft weapons, you just don't start bombing them like we would have in Libya. These Russian made Anti Air emplacements are just too capable to take out from the air, unless we use heavy bombers which would mean heavy civilian casualties. That what a Syrian intervention would try stop.

Either we send in special forces, or have the guerillas take them out. So yeah we do need help from the guerillas to fly, and you apparently didn't guess it. LOL.


I can't believe what I hear... If any venerable, veteran U.S. Airforce pilots from World War II ever read this, what would they answer you?

What would even the global, political landscape look like today, had it depended back then only on such modern U.S. stealth bomber pilots like these, who need to check first with my two Résistance grannies if they already knocked out all German anti-aircraft guns?

“Allô Allô ?” “Hello, 8th Airforce Headquarters here. How can I help you?” “ 'My flauers arr beautifull' !... non, pas cette page...”

Edward Saucedo
Edward Saucedo

being it's their own government they should have plenty of intel. Most of them being defectors and all.  We can sit back and stay out of it


Loan them a few B2 Spirits. A few sorties and the ASSad regime will cease to exist.


Send them Butch, Chinkey and Dumsfeld to advice them. Oh, my bad, they want intelligence.



I doubt that Intelligence ever achieves ANYTHING in low-tech (= no-intelligence) wars.

Facts are facts:

1) Even decades ago, in 1968, U.S. Intelligence didn't even S-U-S-P-E-C-T of any preparations for the spectacular, North Vietnamese Tet Offensive during the Lunar New Year Celebrations – not even in the center of Saigon! (Obviously no C.I.A. spook got ever reprehended for that)

2) How effective was Western Intelligence during N.A.T.O.'s criminal air war against Serbia 1999 (only meant to distract from Monicagate at home) ?

3) The heroic Afghan Freedom fighters never needed any “Intelligence” to defeat three Super-Powers in one century. They don't even need a single, James-Bond-like spy gadget to accomplish that, just rusting, colonial-era “technology”,

4) since the arrival of the C.I.A. and its COWARD assassination drones, Pakistan even lost control over the unstable tribes in its northwestern region (kudos to American “Intelligence” !!!),

5) without N.A.T.O.'s no-fly zone, all Libyan terrorists would be kebab by now (and they had prominent political and military deserters among them, too, and the cheering Western Propaganda apparatus behind them, like the Syrian insurgents),

6) what did the global, well-equipped Intelligence community ever achieve against the rag-tag Somali sea pirates who still raid ships in that vital region? Who's winning – even with the former C.I.A. director now as U.S. War Minister?

7) The best Intelligence in the World doesn't even protect the U.S. Armed Forces themselves against defeat and humiliation by I.E.D.s, never will (anybody want an “Echelon” global spy network for free?)


8) since the end of the Cold War Russia never pronounced itself about Western invasions ANYWHERE , but they do consider themselves cheated and aggravated by N.A.T.O.'s toppling of Gaddafi. Maybe Russia and China disagree that illegal invasions are an infinitely repeatable option for their common rival. So, if Russia and China explicitly said “Hands off our Syrian friends!” and the U.S.A. snub them AGAIN and overthrow Assad's regime, it is my firm belief that this time there WILL be unpredictable, irreversible, sensitive consequences for the whole West (like S-300s → Iran → nuke).

After all: Technically the bullyish U.S.A. could easily pull off another “Iraq 2003” = overrunning or bombing innocent nations outside of U.N.O. rule, but if they don't even TRY that with Syria, that's because this time they sensed a greater risk, on multiple levels.

String-puller and Arab Spring architect “israel” is not pleased with such independent decisions.

My two conspiracy theories:

1) Maybe Obama's attempts to back the Syrian terrorists anyhow, even with “Intelligence”, are just the Emperor's whim to test Putin's resolve?

Or the extreme opposite:

2) Maybe Obama secretly dropped the “Free Syrian Army” and merely looks for the most unprecise, most unverifiable, most make-believe ways now to pretend that he still supports the Syrian guerillas, to blame their inevitable extermination soon on completely different factors (to be able to save his face) ?

What “Intelligence” do holed-up Syrian terrorists in besieged, bombed-out villages need anyway? They can't even send a single picture to the U.N.O. observers watching them from behind Assad's tanks! (No electricity = no power to recharge field laptops with satellite uplinks, etc.)

I think everybody's just waiting for the first Russian armed drone to arrive, and to get it all over with. For pragmatism, stability and “Realpolitik” to prevail.


you are delusional, did you forget to take your medication?


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