CIA-Vetted, 'Moderate' Syrian Rebels Behead Palestinian Child
Should U.S. taxpayers take comfort in the fact that the CIA-supported "vetted moderate" rebels are only moderately beheading children?
That's the question after shocking video emerged yesterday of fighters of Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki beheading a wounded Palestinian child near Aleppo.
What is most interesting is that Zinki had been promoted by the D.C. foreign policy "smart set" as an alternative to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria.
The Daily Beast reports:
Members of an American-backed rebel group in Syria beheaded a young child in a grisly execution video.
The footage surfaced early Tuesday of members of Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki and a captured child in Handarat, near Aleppo. The young boy, who appears to be prepubescent, is then executed on the back of a pickup truck.
The gruesome videotaped murder of a child drew outrage on social media and the promise of an inquiry from the group’s leadership, which has previously received U.S.-made weapons and American funding. The group no longer gets such backing. But it’s also renewed questions about which rebels the American government has supported in Syria’s ongoing civil war [...]
There are two clips from the unsavory events. One shows five militants surrounding the boy. In the second, one of them stands over him on the truck and cuts the boy’s head off with a dull knife, raising it over his head.
The wounded child can be seen with an IV in his right arm. The video, shown here with the beheading blurred out, is disturbing. [WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO]
US-backed "Syrian Rebels" Nour Al Din Zinki capture Palestinian child, accuse him of working with Assad & behead him pic.twitter.com/eAurv6rmFR
— The 'Nimr' Tiger (@Souria4Syrians) July 19, 2016
Video of Zinki fighters using CIA-provided TOW ATGM missiles continued to be posted as recently as May 19:
But as news of the beheading video began to spread yesterday, the "experts" who had openly supported Zinki as moderates, like Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute, were quick to backtrack, saying the CIA had stopped supporting the group:
Point of clarification:
Zinki lost its “vetted” status some months ago - it's got no hope of re-acquiring it now.
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) July 19, 2016
But in fact, Lister had been representing Zinki as "U.S.-vetted" as recently as last month:
Reports of armed clashes & “arrests" last night, between US-vetted Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki & Jabhat al-Nusra in #Idlib.
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) June 2, 2016
When someone noted that CIA support for Zinki had been withdrawn, Lister reported the situation was "blurry" and that U.S. support, namely TOW missiles, had resumed:
@AbuJamajem It’s a blurry situation - but they are receiving TOWs again, likely as a test for getting fully back onto the "vetted" program. — Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) June 2, 2016
State Department spokesman Mark Toner wasn't committed to permanently banning support to the group when asked about it yesterday:
Toner: proof that Zinki committed beheading would give US "pause about any further assistance to them" #Syriahttps://t.co/icfHaxaGxQ
— Walid (@walid970721) July 19, 2016
This raises a serious question about the nature of the CIA's vetting of these Syrian rebel groups. Here, it is represented as a magical status that can be granted, removed, and then restored. But for most outside the D.C. foreign policy "smart set," vetting would seem to be a consideration of whether they were, in fact, actually moderate and worthy of U.S. support.
Instead, it appears that U.S. "vetting" can involve determining that a group is "vetted" one moment, unvetted the next, and again deemed "vetted" all within the span of a few months. This process seems antithetical to "vetting."
Interestingly, Lister was chiding other experts just a few months ago for classifying Zinki with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, labeling such as "absurd" and beyond debatable:
PT: Labelling #ISIS & al-Nusra as the same as Fastaqm Kama Umrat & Nour al-Din al-Zinki is utterly absurd. It’s literally beyond debatable.
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) December 21, 2015
Notwithstanding Lister's public defense of Zinki, others had been warning about the group:
4. Here's another one about Zinki, from the @amnesty report: pic.twitter.com/tRavCQXjTa — Thomas Joscelyn (@thomasjoscelyn) July 19, 2016
Thomas Joscelyn, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, had previously warned of Zinki's ties of Jabhat al-Nusra:
— Thomas Joscelyn (@thomasjoscelyn) July 19, 2016
Remarkably, none other than Charles Lister had warned of Zinki's association with ISIS going back to September 2013:
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) September 13, 2013
This is yet another episode in the long line of "vetting" failures related to the U.S. support of the so-called "moderate" Syrian rebels I've noted here at PJ Media over the past two years:
July 7, 2014: U.S. ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Brigades Surrender Weapons, Pledge Allegiance to Islamic State
Of course, we had the absurd situation earlier this year of reports that the CIA-backed "moderate" militias were fighting against the Pentagon-backed "moderate" rebels.
That best typifies how convoluted and counterfactual the Obama administration's Syria policy (backed by GOP congressional leaders) has become.
As I've asked repeatedly, when it comes to U.S. support for Syrian rebel groups, who is vetting the vetters?