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:
5. Here’s what I wrote about Zinki’s external support back in February. cc: @DavidAWeinberg pic.twitter.com/GL5cFU1ZFg
— 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:
Interesting to see key #Saudi-backed SMC group Kataib Nour al-Din al-Zinki has coordinated closely with ISIS at 66th Brigade, #Hama. #Syria
— 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
Sept 3: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Operating Openly with ISIS, Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra
Sept 9: Fighter With ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Tells L.A. Times They Fight Alongside Al-Qaeda
Sept 10: ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Commander Admits Alliance with ISIS, Confirms PJ Media Reporting
Sept 13: Yet Another U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Makes Peace with ISIS
Sept 24: U.S.-Backed Syrian Group Harakat al-Hazm Condemns U.S. Strikes on ISIS as ‘Attack on the Revolution’
Nov 2: U.S.-Armed ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Groups Surrender, Defect to Al-Qaeda
Nov 3: How Obama Walked Boehner and GOP Leadership Off the Syrian Rebel Cliff
Nov 24: More Defections of ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Rebels to ISIS
Dec 2: US-Backed Syrian Rebels Ally with al-Qaeda in South, Surrender CIA-Supplied Weapons in the North
Dec 14: Report: Al-Qaeda Using CIA-Supplied TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Northern Syria
Dec 28: NY Times Admits: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Under Effective al-Qaeda Control
March 3, 2015: U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Collapses, U.S.-Supplied Weapons End Up in Al-Qaeda Hands
March 24: Video Shows Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra Using U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Syria
April 16: U.S. Analyst Admits ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Have Been Working with Al-Qaeda All Along
May 8: CIA-Backed, “Vetted Moderate” Rebels Now Working Openly With Al-Qaeda
June 27: ISIS Using U.S. TOW Antitank Missiles In Latest Syrian Offensive
July 9: Report: ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Fighting Alongside Al-Qaeda, Islamic State Against Assad Regime
July 27: #BringBackOurRebels: Obama’s 50-Man ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Army Vanishes After Training in Turkey
July 29: #BringBackOurRebels Part 2: Al-Qaeda Arrests 18 U.S.-Trained Rebels On Their First Day in Syria
July 30: #BringBackOurRebels: Despite Pentagon Denial, Reports Confirm That U.S.-Trained Syrian Rebels Were Kidnapped By Al-Qaeda Almost Immediately
July 31: Report: Al-Qaeda Kills Five Members of Obama’s 54-Man Syrian Rebel Army
July 31: Chechen Terrorists In Syria Have Obtained U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles
Sept 22: Report: U.S.-Trained, ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Leader Defects to Al-Qaeda, Turns Weapons Over to Terror Group
Oct 27: New Video Shows Al-Qaeda Using Weapons U.S. Gave to ‘Vetted Moderates’
Nov 24: U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels Destroy Russian Helicopter with CIA-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missile
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?
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