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CIA-Backed, 'Vetted Moderate' Syrians ... Now Openly Working with Al-Qaeda

As I have reported extensively here at PJ Media over the past year, a growing mountain of evidence confirms that the "vetted moderate" Sunni groups that the U.S. has backed in Syria -- backing which includes CIA-provided heavy weaponry -- have always been working with the very same jihadist groups that the Obama administration and the Washington, D.C. foreign policy "smart set" have consistently claimed they would counter.

Now, a new report establishes that even more CIA-backed "vetted moderate" groups are collaborating with groups designated by the U.S. as terrorist organizations. Specifically, they are collaborating with al-Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, though at times they have also operated jointly with the Islamic State.

Reuters reported last Thursday that two Free Syrian Army (FSA) units -- Division 13 and Fursan al-Haq -- are fighting side-by-side with the Nusra Front in northern Syria:

Hardline Islamists fighting side-by-side with groups backed by the United States have made gains in northern Syria in recent weeks while showing rare unity, which some fear may be short-lived.

An Islamist alliance calling itself Army of Fatah, a reference to the conquests that spread Islam across the Middle East from the seventh century, has seized northwestern towns including the provincial capital Idlib from government forces.

The alliance, which includes al-Qaeda's wing in Syria, known as the Nusra Front, and another hardline militant group, the Ahrar al-Sham movement, is edging closer to the coastal province of Latakia, President Bashar al-Assad's stronghold.

Fighting alongside them, although excluded from a joint command center, are groups which reject the jihadists' anti-Western aims and say they receive covert support from the CIA. Two of these are called Division 13 and Fursan al-Haq.

While the Islamist groups appear to be stronger than their Western-backed allies, it is a rare example of cooperation, just weeks after Nusra Front fighters crushed a previous U.S. backed rebel force in a blow to Washington's Syria strategy.

Remarkably, Reuters (as well as many other establishment media outlets) continues to present this level of cooperation between U.S.-backed groups in Syria and terrorist organizations as "rare."

This is categorically false.

In an effort to preserve that narrative, Reuters added this howler:

Abu Hamoud, a commander from Division 13, said his group coordinated with Nusra Front, which the United States considers a terrorist organization, but this does not mean it is aligned to it.

As if "coordinating" with al-Qaeda is functionally different from "aligning" with al-Qaeda.

In service of this narrative, establishment media have attempted to create distinctions between Nusra and other U.S.-backed groups. Reports have noted that the Nusra Front had recently taken out two of the major Syrian rebel groups, Harakat al-Hazm (in March) and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (in November), and that both had been trained and received heavy weapons from the United States. However, both groups had been openly cooperating with Nusra before their demise.

Both Hazm and SRF had their "vetted moderate" credentials provided by the D.C. foreign policy establishment, which deemed Hazm as "rebels worth supporting" and SRF as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies.”

Last year, just as SRF was in line to receive CIA-provided anti-tank missiles, SRF commander Jamal Maroof told Western media that he had no intention of fighting al-Qaeda.

A few weeks later, the Wall Street Journal reported that SRF had been fighting alongside the Nusra Front in the Golan Heights of southern Syria. In September, Agence France Presse reported that SRF had struck a truce with the Islamic State, thus ending any notion that they ever had a chance "against Syria's Islamist armies."

When Liz Sly of the Washington Post interviewed the commander of Hazm in April 2014 just as they were beginning to receive heavy weapons shipments from the U.S., the commander gave a double-sided response about Nusra:

LS: You have already participated in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. What are your relations with Jabhat al-Nusra?

AA: Jabhat al-Nusra is a military formation, a fighting battalion that exists on the ground like any other. We have no strong or meaningful relationship with them. They fight on their fronts, and we fight on ours.

LS: What do you think of them?

AA: They hold responsibility for bringing ISIS fighters to Syria from across the world. This was a mistake committed against the Syrian people. I think of them as a group of people fighting to topple the regime, but if they change their ideology to resemble that of ISIS or bring death and destruction upon the Syrian people, then we won’t allow it.

In September, an article in the L.A. Times reporting from the frontlines in Syria recorded an exchange with two Hazm fighters armed and trained by the U.S. The fighters admitted that they liked Nusra and fought in coordination with them.

Just a few weeks later, as U.S. warplanes began to target the Islamic State in northern SyriaHazm issued an official statement condemning the strikes as "an attack on the revolution" Of the U.S., they demanded "unconditional arming" of the Syrian rebels.