syria

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This exclusive documentary by Russian TV station, Rossiya 24, is a “must watch” as it gives a very good insight on the events that have been taking place in Syria since 2011. It shows how both the Syrian Army and the Syria people are defending their country Syria from the unimaginable crimes committed by extremist terrorists who operate with massive international media, military, intelligence, and financial support, a situation that no one would ever want to be in.

The Syrian Diary – No politics, only people telling their story

A documentary by Anastasia Popova
If you can’t see the video, click here
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We are indeed at a crucial point in the ongoing drama of world politics.

The US seems to be losing its grip on the Middle East. The sanctions on Iran have not destroyed the country or ousted Ahmedinejad. Backing for the rebels has created a quagmire in Syria that the US cannot feel comfortable with. And the US has all but lost its relevance in the Israel-Palestine conflict as Arabs and Persians start to form new alliances in which Israel and the US are thoroughly excluded.

The rebuttal of Obama by Khamenei is a sure sign of the times. Will the US President still be able to rescue some relevance for himself and his country in his up-coming trip to Israel-Palestine? Time will tell.

Father Dave.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

source: www.info…

Khamenei Plays Hardball With Obama

By M K Bhadrakumar

February 13, 2013 “
Asia Times” — It was an extraordinary week in the politics of the Middle East and it ended appropriately by being rounded off with a reality check lest imaginations ran riot.

Three major happenings within one week would have to be taken as the inevitable confluence of a flow of developments and processes: the offer by the Syrian opposition of a bilateral dialogue with the Bashar al-Assad regime; the historic visit of an Iranian president to Egypt; and the public, unconditional offer by the United States of direct talks with Iran and the latter’s ready acceptance of it.

Yet, they are interconnected. First, the Syrian kaleidoscope is dramatically shifting despite the continuing bloodbath. Unless the European countries drop their arms embargo on Syria (which expires on March 1 anyway) and decide to arm the rebels, the stalemate will continue.

The mood in Western capitals has shifted in the direction of caution and circumspection, given the specter that al-Qaeda affiliates are taking advantage. If anything, the hurricane of militant Islamism blowing through Mali only reinforces that concern and reluctance.

Suffice to say, what prompted the Islamist leader of the Syrian National Coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, last weekend to show willingness to take part in direct talks with representatives of the Syrian regime – and pushed him into meeting with Russian and Iranian foreign ministers – was as much the disarray within the Syrian opposition and his failure to form a credible “government-in-exile” as his acute awareness that the Western mood is now cautious about Syria.

To be sure, Iran played a signal role in the grim battle of nerves over Syria through the recent months. Strangely, it is Iran today, which is on the “right side of history”, by urging dialogue and negotiations and democratic elections as holding the key to reform and change in Syria – or, for that matter, in Bahrain.

The shift in Syria has actually enabled Iran to cross over the Sunni-Shi’ite barriers that were tenaciously put up to isolate it. Thus, President Mahmud Ahmedinejad’s historic visit to Egypt this week has a much bigger regional dimension to it than the restoration of the Iran-Egypt bilateral relationship. The trilateral meeting held between Ahmedinejad and his Egyptian and Turkish counterparts Mohammed Morsi and Abdullah Gul signified Iran’s compelling relevance as an interlocutor rather than as an implacable adversary for the two major Sunni countries.

Interestingly, Morsi added, “Egypt’s revolution is now experiencing conditions similar to those of Iran’s Revolution and because Egypt does not have an opportunity for rapid progress like Iran, we believe that expansion of cooperation and ties with Iran is crucially important and necessary.”

Needless to say, Iranian diplomacy has been optimal with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood-led regime in Cairo – neither fawning nor patronizing, or pushing and pressuring, but leaving things to the Brothers to decide the pace. Basic to this approach is the confidence in Tehran that the surge of Islamism in the Middle East through democratic process, no matter “Sunni Islamism”, will ultimately work in favor of Iran’s interests.

The cordial welcome extended by Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, to Ahmedinejad and the strong likelihood of his visit to Tehran in a very near future also underscores the common desire to strengthen the affinities.

Simply put, the Syrian crisis has virtually receded from the Iran-Egypt field of play as a serious issue of discord. True, the Turkey-based Syrian National Council (SNC) continues to reject any negotiation with the Syrian regime, and the Muslim Brotherhood dominates the SNC. But this may also provide the window of opportunity for Turkey, Egypt and Iran to knock their heads together.

Besides, the SNC has no real influence over the rebel fighters, and Ankara feels exasperated at the overall drift of the Syrian crisis.

Thus, it was against a complex backdrop that US Vice President Joe Biden said in Munich last weekend that Washington is ready to hold direct talks with Iran over the country’s nuclear energy program. Iran’s immediate response was one of cautious optimism. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi reacted: “I am optimistic. I feel this new [US] administration is really this time seeking to at least divert from its previous traditional approach vis-a-vis my country.”

However, by the next day, he had begun tempering the enthusiasm: “We looked at it positively. I think this is a good overture… But we will have to wait a little bit longer to see if their gesture is this time a real gesture… so that we will be making our decisions likewise.”

Salehi subsequently explained, “A look at the past shows that whenever we have had talks with the Americans, including efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan, unfortunately the other side has failed to fulfill its obligations. You cannot use a threatening tone and say all options are on the table, on the one hand, [because] this is an apparent contradiction… Exerting pressure and [invitation to] talks are not compatible. If you have honest intentions, we can place serious negotiations on the agenda.”

Obviously, Salehi spoke in two voices, and his retraction finally proved to be the “authentic” voice of Tehran. When the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei broke his silence on Thursday, he rejected the possibility of direct talks with the US. He said, “You [Americans] are pointing the gun at Iran and say either negotiate or we will shoot. The Iranian nation will not be frightened by the threats… Some naive people like the idea of negotiating with America [but] negotiations will not solve the problems. If some people want American rule to be established again in Iran, the nation will rise up to them.”

One way of looking at Khamenei’s harsh statement on Thursday is to put it in the immediate context of the announcement of further sanctions against Iran by Washington the previous day, which the US administration has explained as “a significant turning of the screw” that will “significantly increase the economic pressure on Iran”.

But it does not fully explain the manifest harshness and the comprehensive rejection by Khamenei. Meanwhile, three factors are to be taken into account. First, Iran’s domestic politics is hotting up and the dramatic eruption of public acrimony between Ahmedinejad and the Speaker of the Majlis Ali Larijani last weekend testifies to a rough period when Khamenei will have his hands full as the great helmsman.

Indeed, a lot of jockeying is going on as the presidential election slated for May draws closer. Khamenei could factor in that the talks with the US are best held after the elections. (By the way, this may also be Obama’s preference.) Second, Khamenei has flagged by implication that Tehran expects some serious goodwill gesture on the part of the US before any talks take place. He has recalled that the US did not act in good faith in the past – such as when Iran helped out in the US’s overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

A third factor is that Khamenei genuinely sees that Iran is on the “right side of history” as regards the regional upheaval in the Middle East, whereas the US’s regional strategies are getting nowhere. In sum, whereas the US propaganda is that the Iran sanctions are “biting” and the regime is in Iran feels besieged, it is in actuality a bizarre situation of Washington believing its own propaganda while the ground realities are vastly different.

If the propaganda has us believe that the regime in Tehran is living in fear of a Tahrir-like revolution erupting in Iran, Khamenei’s words show no such traces of fear or timidity. On the other hand, Khamenei would have carefully weighed Obama’s capacity (or the limits to it) to bulldoze the Israeli lobby and to initiate a genuine normalization process with Iran.

When Richard Nixon worked on China in the early 1970s, he had the benefit of a broad consensus of opinion within the US political establishment. On the contrary, when it comes to Iran, pride and prejudice influence still rule the roost for most consequential Americans.

Khamenei’s message to Obama is to get serious and think through what he really wants instead of lobbing a vague offer through Biden with no strings attached and no commitments underlying it. The Iranian leader who has continuously dealt with successive US administrations through the past 22 years simply threw the ball into Obama’s court and will now wait and see how the latter kicks it around when he is in Israel next month.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

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This situation is very disturbing (especially for me, as I am scheduled to travel to Syria next week).

While Israel has not officially accepted responsibility for the attack on a convoy and/or research facility inside the Syrian border, it has made no attempt to disguise it either. The rationale – that the convoy was transporting weapons to Hezbollah – is unimportant. Israel knows full well the potential ramifications of a military assault inside the borders of another country.

We have to assume that the attempt to stir up the hornets nest is deliberate, and the the attack took place only a day after Tehran announced that it would view any attack on Syrian territory as an attack against Iran itself. This speaks for itself.

The only question left is ‘why is Israel so keen to start another world war?’. Tony Cartalucci offers a compelling explanation.

Father Dave

source: www.info…

Israeli Attack: Desperate Bid to Save Failed Syrian Campaign

By Tony Cartalucci

Israel has conducted airstrikes in Syria based on “suspicions” of chemical weapon transfers, in a flagrant violation of the UN Charter, international law, and in direct violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The Guardian in its report titled, “Israel carries out air strike on Syria,” claims:

“Israeli warplanes have attacked a target close to the Syrian-Lebanese border following several days of heightened warnings from government officials over Syria’s stockpiles of weapons.”

It also stated:

“Israel has publicly warned that it would take military action to prevent the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon or “global jihadists” fighting inside Syria. Israeli military intelligence is said to be monitoring the area round the clock via satellite for possible convoys carrying weapons.”

In reality, these “global jihaidists” are in fact armed and funded by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel since at least as early as 2007. They are also in fact the direct beneficiaries of Israel’s recent aggression. The Israeli “suspicions” of “weapon transfers” of course, remain unconfirmed, because the purpose of the attack was not to prevent the transfer of “chemical weapons” to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but to provoke a wider conflict aimed not at Israel’s defense, but at salvaging the West’s floundering proxy terrorist forces inside Syria attempting to subvert and overthrow the Syrian nation.

The silence from the United Nations is deafening. While Turkey openly harbors foreign terrorists, arming and funding them with Western, Saudi, and Qatari cash as they conduct raids on neighboring Syria, any Syrian attack on Turkish territory would immediately result in the United Nations mobilizing. Conversely, Turkey is allowed, for years, to conduct air strikes and even partial ground invasions of neighboring Iraq to attack Kurdish groups accused of undermining Turkish security. It is clear the same double standard has long applied to Israel.

Israel, along with the US & Saudi Arabia, are Al Qaeda’s chief sponsors.

It must be remembered that as far back as 2007, it was admitted by US, Saudi and Lebanese officials that the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia were intentionally arming, funding, and organizing these “global jihadists” with direct ties to Al Qaeda for the explicit purpose of overthrowing the governments of Syria and Iran.

Reported by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his New Yorker article, “The Redirection,” it was stated (emphasis added):

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Of Israel it specifically stated:

“The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.”

Additionally, Saudi Arabian officials mentioned the careful balancing act their nation must play in order to conceal its role in supporting US-Israeli ambitions across the region:

“The Saudi said that, in his country’s view, it was taking a political risk by joining the U.S. in challenging Iran: Bandar is already seen in the Arab world as being too close to the Bush Administration. “We have two nightmares,” the former diplomat told me. “For Iran to acquire the bomb and for the United States to attack Iran. I’d rather the Israelis bomb the Iranians, so we can blame them. If America does it, we will be blamed.””

It may interest readers to know that while France invades and occupies large swaths of Mali in Africa, accusing the Qataris of funding and arming Al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups in the region, France, the US, and Israel are working in tandem with the Qataris to fund and arm these very same groups in Syria.

In fact, the US-based think-tank, the Brookings Institution literally has a “Doha Center” based in Qatar while US-Israeli citizen Haim Saban’s Brookings “Saban Center” conducts meetings and has many of its board of directors based likewise in Doha, Qatar. Doha also served as the venue for the creation of the West’s most recent “Syrian Coalition,” headed by an unabashed supporter of Al Qaeda, Moaz al-Khatib.

These are part of the brick and mortar manifestation of the conspiracy documented by Seymour Hersh in 2007.

The Wall Street Journal, also in 2007, reported on the US Bush Administration’s plans of creating a partnership with Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, noting the group is the ideological inspiration for linked terror organizations including Al Qaeda itself. In the article titled, “”To Check Syria, U.S. Explores Bond With Muslim Brothers,” it states:

“On a humid afternoon in late May, about 100 supporters of Syria’s largest exile opposition group, the National Salvation Front, gathered outside Damascus’s embassy here to protest Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule. The participants shouted anti-Assad slogans and raised banners proclaiming: “Change the Regime Now.”

The NSF unites liberal democrats, Kurds, Marxists and former Syrian officials in an effort to transform President Assad’s despotic regime. But the Washington protest also connected a pair of more unlikely players — the U.S. government and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The article would also report:

“U.S. diplomats and politicians have also met with legislators from parties connected to the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Egypt and Iraq in recent months to hear their views on democratic reforms in the Middle East, U.S. officials say. Last month, the State Department’s intelligence unit organized a conference of Middle East experts to examine the merits of engagement with the Brotherhood, particularly in Egypt and Syria.”

It describes the ideological and operational links between the Brotherhood and Al Qaeda:

“Today, the Brotherhood’s relationship to Islamist militancy, and al Qaeda in particular, is the source of much debate. Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders cite the works of the Brotherhood’s late intellectual, Sayyid Qutb, as an inspiration for their crusade against the West and Arab dictators. Members of Egyptian and Syrian Brotherhood arms have also gone on to take senior roles in Mr. bin Laden’s movement.”

Yet despite all of this, the US, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, along with Israel and Turkey are openly conspiring with them, and have now for years been arming and funding these very sectarian extremist, terrorist groups across the Arab World, from Libya to Egypt, and now in and around Syria.

Israel’s fears of these terrorists acquiring “chemical weapons” is absurd. They have already acquired them with US, NATO, British, Saudi, Qatari and even Israeli help in Libya in 2011. In fact, these very Libyan terrorists are spearheading the foreign militant groups flooding into Syria through the Turkish-Syrian border.

What Israel’s strike may really mean.

Indeed, Israel’s explanation as to why it struck neighboring Syria is tenuous at best considering its long, documented relationship with actually funding and arming the very “global jihaidists” it fears weapons may fall into the hands of. Its fears of Hezbollah are likewise unfounded – Hezbollah, had it, the Syrians, or the Iranians been interested in placing chemical weapons in Lebanon, would have done so already, and most certainly would do so with means other than conspicuous convoys simply “crossing the border.” Hezbollah has already proven itself capable of defeating Israeli aggression with conventional arms, as demonstrated during the summer of 2006.

In reality, the pressure placed on Syria’s borders by both Israel and its partner, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey in the north, is part of a documented plan to relieve pressure on the Western, Israeli, Saudi-Qatari armed and funded militants operating inside Syria.

read the rest of this article here: www.info…

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Wise words from James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.

Certainly the US has run its course as a broker for peace in Israel/Palestine, and only seems interested in fueling the conflict in Syria! The question Zogby doesn’t address though is whether the leaders of the Arab states are really interested in doing anything different? 

The UAE’s recent donation to Gaza is a good sign, and yet the leaders of the Arab states have had a generation and more in which to do something for the Palestinian people and have, for the most part, sat on their hands! And how much interest have Syria’s neighbors shown in bringing the warring factions to the table? They would be happy to see regime change and a consequent weakening of the regional power of Iran, but leaving Syria to burn accomplishes the same end with less effort!

Even so, the scent of the Arab Spring is still in the air and the citizens of the Arab world are tired of having their voices ignored. There may not be broad popular consensus on Syria but popular feeling with regards to the Palestinian situation is unambiguous! Perhaps 2013 will be the year that the Arab states finally take a stand for reconciliation and peace!

Father Dave

James Zogby

James Zogby

source: weekly.ahram.org…

Arabs can act for Syria and Palestine

Before it’s too late, the Arabs must think with more forward vision about the capacities in their hands to press for positive regional change, writes James Zogby

During the next few months, the Arab world will have its hands full with problems requiring urgent attention. Chief among them are the ongoing crises in Syria and Palestine, both of which are fast approaching their respective “points of no return”. Instead of acting as spectators, enablers or waiting for the United Nations or the United States to provide solutions, there are practical steps through collective Arab action that might make a real difference.

The continuing tragedy of Syria will be front and centre for months to come, with both regime and opposition appearing determined to continue their “dance until death”. UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s dire warnings should be heeded. If no political solution is found, the situation will only worsen. With the regime increasingly desperate and brutal, and the opposition better armed but lacking control of some of its elements, the future promises only an accelerated casualty rate and a deepening of sectarian animosity.

Brahimi has tabled a plan that proposes a political process that transitions the government away from single party domination. The Russians have been given the responsibility for bringing the regime to the table. Key Arab states should assume the parallel responsibility of pressing the opposition to agree to a peaceful transition.

To date, opposition leaders have refused to consider any form of negotiations or compromise with the regime. While their anger at, and distrust of, the Al-Assad government is understandable, holding out for a decisive win is neither responsible nor a politically sound strategy. Given the reality of a divided Syrian polity, compromise and a transitional approach to change appear to be the wisest path forward.

The solution envisioned by Brahimi won’t provide a clear-cut victory for any side, but it will end the bloodletting and pave the way for a political solution that can bring real change and an end to authoritarian rule by the Al-Assad family. Arab states have leverage here since they are funding, arming and supporting the opposition. Instead of merely enabling more conflict, Arab states should use the leverage they have with their allies in Syria to take the lead in ending the killing and destruction, before the country collapses, fragments and/or the violence spills across the border destabilising an already fragile region.

This will not be easy — compromise never is, and success cannot be guaranteed. But it is the least horrible outcome to a terrible two-year long war that with time can only get worse and most certainly will not get better. Compromise will require leadership that, at this time, only Arabs can provide.

Another area where the region’s leadership must play an active and supportive role is in the effort to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The Palestinian situation was near tragic four years ago and has not improved since. The Palestinian house remains in disarray, with leaderships in the West Bank and Gaza both physically and ideologically divided. Gaza, under the control of Hamas, continues to be strangled by an oppressive embargo. The West Bank itself is being slowly strangled by never-ending settlement growth, hundreds of intrusive and humiliating checkpoints, and an oppressive wall/barrier snaking in and out of Palestinian lands.

The failed paths chosen by Palestine’s two leaderships, though contradictory, are both flawed; Hamas has made a religion of “resistance” which has won nothing but death and hardship for Palestinians, insecurity in Israel and reinforcement for hardline Israeli policies. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to diplomacy and negotiations, while commendable, has become pointless, since negotiating without leverage (and without control over the constituency for which they are negotiating) becomes an empty exercise.

Meanwhile, the hardline Israeli government, hell bent on conquest, continues to act with impunity — expanding settlements and tormenting Palestinians under their control. The far right in Israel has come to define Israeli politics, while the “peace camp” has floundered.

If this dynamic remains unchecked, in short order one of two outcomes may occur: either Israel will complete its plan for the physical domination of the West Bank and the total transformation of Jerusalem — making separation into two states impossible; or there will be renewed violence with devastating consequences for the Palestinian people.

Our recent polling in Israel and among Palestinians both in the occupied lands and refugees in Jordan and Lebanon establishes that peace remains possible. The two publics, though divided on many issues, show important points convergence. What is required is a vision that can move opinion and leadership. These will not come from the US or Israel, and cannot come from the Palestinians. But leading Arab states can provide leadership that could alter the dynamic and change opinion.

The first priority must be to achieve Palestinian reconciliation, and the establishment of an effective and unified Palestinian government that can command both popular support and the respect of the international community. This will require more than a redux of the Mecca Accords. Up until now, Arab reconciliation efforts have focussed exclusively on political matters, with hollow threats of sanctions for the party that interfered with implementation. Instead of threats, the Arab leadership ought to create incentives for acceptance.

Clearly what both the West Bank and Gaza desperately need are job creation, infrastructure and capacity-building projects, as well as immediate relief. The Arabs already participate in international efforts to subsidise the Palestinian Authority budget and individual Arab states finance projects in both Palestinian territories. But these funds given this way merely serve to underwrite the two divided Palestinian leaderships, maintaining the unacceptable status quo. To move the reconciliation process forward, I would propose the creation of a massive multi-billion dollar “Peace and Reconciliation Incentive Fund” that would provide immediate relief and job-creating investment once the parties have agreed to, and taken steps to implement, a unity plan. The bottom line purpose of the fund would be to support the Palestinian people and to create the incentive and pressure for their divided leaderships to agree on a new government that, with Arab backing, is ready and able to make peace.

In addition, the Arab League, instead of merely reaffirming their 2002 and 2007 peace plan, would do well to enlarge upon it by putting, as it were, “meat on the bones”. They could, for example, spell out in greater detail for Israelis the types of investment and/or trade incentives that would accompany final peace and/or normalisation. And they could even create a staged sequencing (for example, with the signing of an Israeli-Palestinian framework, stage one will occur; with removal of settlements and checkpoints in compliance with agreement, stage two will occur, etc). Our polling shows that the Arab Peace Initiative has strong support among Palestinians and has the potential to positively change Israeli opinion. Spelling out, therefore, the benefits and vision that accompany final peace could be of benefit. If Arab leaders were then to “go on the road” selling their plan to world public opinion, it would have a tremendous impact in advancing peace and transforming the views of Arabs.

Promoting a peaceful transition in Syria, Palestinian reconciliation, and a comprehensive Middle East peace will not be easy. Demonstrating leadership, making a difference and changing the trajectory of history never is.

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You might wonder why I’m publishing this extract from an article about Syria on israelandpalestine.org…. It’s because it’s all deeply connected.

Why is the US, along with so many of its ‘allies’ in the Middle East, concerned to see the ‘Assad regime’ toppled? Is it really because of humanitarian concern for the oppressed people of Syria? Not a chance! It’s because the US and most of the Sunni Arab countries want to bring down the Shiite alliance – Syrian, Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Ahmadinejad is the real target, as Iran is the only real barrier to US/Israeli hegemony in the region, and yet the US (if not Israel) still fears a direct assault on Iran, and for good reason! The safer strategy is to weaken Ahmadinejad’s allies and so bring about regime change in Iran. That’s the goal.

And so the media sells us the story of Robin Hood and his merry men taking on the evil Syrian dictator. Of course Assad is no saint but, as Mother Agnes showed us, the situation is far more complex than our governments would have us believe, and the hypocrisy of the West’s supposed humanitarian concern is appalling!

Father Dave

source: www.mcclatchydc.com……

Syrian rebels say Americans, Britons helped train them in Jordan

By David Enders McClatchy Newspapers ‘

AMMAN, Jordan — Weeks before the Obama administration and other Western nations recognized a new Syrian opposition coalition as “the legitimate representative” of the Syrian people, Syrian rebels were receiving training in the use of light and heavy weapons with the backing of the Jordanian, British and U.S. governments, participants in the training have told McClatchy.

The training took place as far back as October and involved hundreds of rebels, the participants said. In one case, the rebel participant said men he believed were American intelligence officers observed what was taking place..=20 Another said he believed British officers were helping to organize the training. The training itself was handled by Jordanian military officers, the rebels said.

“We hoped there would be more training on larger weapons,” said Kamal al Zoubani, a fighter from the southern Syrian city of Daraa, which often is referred to as the birthplace of the uprising against President Bashar Assad, which began nearly 22 months ago. “But we were allowed to take light weapons back to Syria with us.”

By November, another rebel said, the training had expanded to anti-tank weapons and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

American officials, citing concerns that they didn’t know the political leanings of anti-Assad groups, have said repeatedly that they aren’t providing weapons to the rebels, leaving that to countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

But there’s been little discussion of what role the United States might be playing in training rebel fighters, whose offensives against loyalist Assad forces have been gaining traction in recent months.

This week, the Obama administration recognized the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces as the likely successor to the Assad regime and urged countries to funnel aid through it for the rebels. In tandem with that decision, the administration labeled a key rebel group, the Nusra Front, whose fighters have been at the front lines of many recent rebel victories, an offshoot of al Qaida in Iraq in hopes that Qatar and Saudi Arabia would stop assisting it.

Read the full story here: www.mcclatchydc.com……