An article yesterday from a pro-regime news site claims that elements of the “vetted moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) are fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra — al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate — and the Islamic State against an Assad regime offensive near the border with Lebanon in al-Zabadani.
Al-Masdar al-Arabi reports:
Reports from the resort-city of Al-Zabadani have confirmed that the western-backed “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) is currently fighting alongside two terrorist groups, the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra” and the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), as the Syrian Arab Army’s 63rd Brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division and Hezbollah continue their offensive on the Syrian-Lebanese border.
For almost a year, the FSA, ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra have been deeply entrenched in the vast Qalamoun and Western Mountains of Lebanon and Syria, while they attempted to maintain their strategic supply routes from the ‘Arsal District of the Beqa’a Governorate (Lebanon) amid relentless airstrikes from the Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF).
However, the Syrian Armed Forces and Hezbollah began a long-awaited offensive in the Qalamoun Mountains of Syria and Lebanon in April of this year, capturing over 250 square kilometers of territory from the FSA, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and ISIS after 46 days of non-stop fighting along the Syrian-Lebanese border; this offensive paved the way for the eventual assault on Al-Zabadani.
As Henry Kissinger famously quipped, “It’s a pity they both can’t lose.”
Max Abrahms, terrorism professor at Northeastern University, points out in response to this report:
If true, reports of FSA fighting with IS in Zabadani against Syrian army weaken claims of a (1) moderate opposition & (2) IS-Assad alliance.
— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) July 9, 2015
Again, this is a pro-regime source reporting this information, but this would hardly be the first time that the FSA and other U.S.-backed Syrian rebels have been caught fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. As I noted here at PJ Media in early May, a number of Western media reports have placed the FSA and other U.S-backed rebel groups, including the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF) and Harakat al-Hazm (both now defunct), in alliance with and/or support of al-Nusra and ISIS:
May 7: Wall Street Journal reports SRF joins with Al-Qaeda to help take hilltops in Golan Heights
July 9: Al Jazeera quotes ISIS leader saying that they purchase U.S. weapons from and maintain good relations with the FSA
Aug 3: New York Times cites FSA commander saying joint FSA, Nusra Front, and ISIS forces attack a border post with Lebanon
Aug 18: Islamic State commander openly brags about defections by U.S.-trained and armed FSA fighters
Aug 28: Washington Post says Nusra Front aided by Western-backed rebels capture UN Quneitra border crossing with Israel, abducting 43 Fijian peacekeepers
Sept 7: L.A. Times notes Hazm fighting alongside Al-Qaeda in Aleppo, quoting fighters admitting the relationship
Sept 8: Daily Star (Lebanon) quotes FSA brigade commander saying his forces were working with Islamic State and Nusra Front near Syria/Lebanon border
Sept 13: The Hill reports that SRF had declared a truce with the Islamic State
Sept 24: L.A. Times notes Hazm condemnation of U.S. airstrikes targeting ISIS in northern Syria
Nov 1: Reuters says that SRF elements defected to the Nusra Front
Nov 3: International Business Times observes that U.S.-backed rebel groups pledge allegiance, surrender weapons to Nusra Front
Nov 23: The Guardian states that FSA units develop alliances with, even defect to, the Islamic State while condemning U.S. airstrikes
Nov. 28: Associated Press reports close collaboration of U.S.-backed rebels and Al-Qaeda in southern Syria
Dec 24: German journalist who embedded with Islamic State tells France 24 that ISIS is obtaining weapons from Western governments purchased from FSA
Dec 28: New York Times admits that FSA is under effective control of Nusra Front
Feb 18: McClatchy reports that former Obama frontman for Syria, Robert Ford, no longer trusts Syrian rebel groups because they collaborate with jihadist groups
Apr 30: Reuters notes U.S.-armed FSA units in northern Syria allied with Nusra Front
The farce of the “vetted moderate” groups in league with these terrorist groups is a topic I have reported on here at PJ Media for more than a year, including the blowback of heavy weapons provided by the U.S. to these “vetted moderate” groups ending up in the hands of terrorists:
It should come as no surprise then that Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the U.S. has only trained 60 rebel fighters for its $500 million anti-ISIS force (about $4 million per fighter, with half of the budgeted amount already obligated). He blamed the strict vetting system they have implemented.
But what vetting system was the Obama administration using when they supposedly vetted the Syrian rebel groups that are now fighting with al-Nusra and ISIS? Will anyone inside the administration be held accountable for this debacle? Is anyone in Congress paying attention?