US Working to Divide Russia-Iran Alliance on Syria

US Working to Divide Russia-Iran Alliance on SyriaUS Working to Divide Russia-Iran Alliance on Syria

A lawmaker said the recent US decision to halt CIA's covert program to equip and train certain Syrian rebel groups is indicative of Washington's efforts to strengthen its relations with Moscow in Syria, sidelining Tehran in the war-torn country.

Morteza Saffari Natanzi, a member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told ICANA on Monday that "the US interests are to drive a wedge between Damascus' allies, but Moscow has kept us apprised of the agreements [reached between Russia and US]".

The US Central Intelligence Agency's program began in 2013 as part of efforts by the administration of then-president Barack Obama to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but produced little success. Last week, the Washington Post reported the program's suspension. The CIA has yet to comment on the issue.

At its height, the program was run through operations rooms in Jordan and Turkey, supporting rebel groups fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army who were deemed not to be extremists, New York Times reported.

The program became less relevant as the Russians increased their presence in Syria in 2015, targeting and badly weakening the CIA-backed rebels, who were the most capable of the opposition fighters.

The decision to end the CIA project came as the US and Russia negotiated a ceasefire in southwest Syria at the G20 summit held in Hamburg on July 7, which covers some of the areas from which the rebels operated.

  Not Economical

Natanzi pointed to the costs of such projects for the US, noting that "[US President] Donald Trump is a businessman and he did not want to foot the bill for Obama's careless spending".

"The Americans are trying to get away from the Syrian war but also want to have Russia's support as the country has the upper-hand there," he said.

A former commander under the Obama administration has told US News that "from a business perspective, halting the program is absolutely the right call".

Lawmaker Kamal Dehqani said "the fruitless CIA program shows that the US proxy war policies in Syria, after incurring huge costs, have gone nowhere".

"To make up for Obama's failure in Syria, Trump wants to make a deal with Russia and is willing to give them some concessions, like Ukraine," he said.  

"Trump knows that the Syrian affairs are determined by Russia and Iran," Dehqani concluded. The decision to end support for rebels would not end America's military involvement in Syria.

In May, Trump authorized a plan to arm the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces—a Kurdish militant group—using the Pentagon's funds. He also signed off a separate effort by the US military to support other Syrian rebel groups with airstrikes, according to the Post.



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