Belmont Club

The Illusion of Control

What do Syria and Operation Fast and Furious have in common? Loose cannons. The New York Times says the weapons flowing to Syria are going to men who are likely to turn them on Americans. “WASHINGTON — Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.”

“The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” said one American official familiar with the outlines of those findings, commenting on an operation that in American eyes has increasingly gone awry.

According to the NYT this “calls into question the Syria strategy laid out by Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger.” Romney wanted to make sure weapons flowed into the hands of those “who share our values”.  He’s not even President, but it’s always Romney’s fault.

But Mr. Romney stopped short of saying that he would have the United States provide those arms directly, and his aides said he would instead rely on Arab allies to do it. That would leave him, like Mr. Obama, with little direct control over the distribution of the arms.

Marc Thiessen, writing in the Washington Post says the flow of weapons into Jihadi hands essentially means that Joe Biden was less than candid when he confidently told Paul Ryan “we are in the process now — and have been for months — in making sure that help, humanitarian aid, as well as other aid and training is getting to those forces that we believe, the Turks believe, the Jordanians believe, the Saudis believe are the free forces inside of Syria. That is underway.”

In actuality they were in the process of shipping — and had been for months — a large quantity of weapons To Whom It May Concern.

According to the NYT nobody believes any controlled distribution is taking place and are trying to understand “why hard-line Islamists have received the lion’s share of the arms shipped to the Syrian opposition through the shadowy pipeline with roots in Qatar, and, to a lesser degree, Saudi Arabia.” Maybe because they’re being shipped through Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Those problems were central concerns for the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David H. Petraeus, when he traveled secretly to Turkey last month, officials said. ….

One Middle Eastern diplomat who has dealt extensively with the C.I.A. on the issue said that Mr. Petraeus’s goal was to oversee the process of “vetting, and then shaping, an opposition that the U.S. thinks it can work with.” According to American and Arab officials, the C.I.A. has sent officers to Turkey to help direct the aid, but the agency has been hampered by a lack of good intelligence about many rebel figures and factions.

These developments put the recent assault on the American consulate in Benghazi in a new light. If fhe eyes of American intelligence are being put out even as the outflow of money to “freedom fighters” continues — where are the weapons going to? The tentative answer appears to be: to groups like al-Qaeda.

Thiessen says it doesn’t appear to bother Joe Biden.

If this is the assessment of our intelligence community, why did Biden say the exact opposite in the debate last week? When Biden was asked during the debate why requests for additional security in Libya were denied, he pleaded ignorance and blamed the State Department, declaring: “We weren’t told they wanted more security there.” But in the case of Syria, the Times reports, the President and his national security team were told that the aid was going to “hard-line Islamic jihadists.” Yet Biden plainly asserted aid was going to “people who deserve the help” and “free forces inside Syria” and not jihadists. It is simply implausible that, if President Obama and his top national security advisers were aware of the intelligence assessments, Biden was not.

Why is it implausible? This is an administration that can ship thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels and be unaware of it. So why can’t it ship weapons to jihadists and be unaware of it? The modus operandi has been to find a fall guy for every debacle. For Fast and Furious it was some low level bureaucrats. For Benghazi it will be Hillary. For Syria the talent search is still on.

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