The United States is moving forward to train and arm Syrian rebels to take on ISIL. But questions linger about whether the strategy will work in light of a confidential CIA report. CCTV America’s Nathan King reports.
With U.S air strikes unable to end ISIL’s siege of the northern Syrian town of Kobane, focus is now on whether Kurdish forces from Iraq, backed with U.S. arms, may be able to break the deadlock. History suggests the chances of success are not a guarantee. In a CIA study, reportedly commissioned by U.S President Barack Obama as he weighed arming the Syrian opposition, the spy agency concluded that arming such foreign forces seldom works.
William Blum has written extensively on the history of U.S and CIA intervention and said that the U.S. has long interfered in foreign governments.
“I compiled a summary of U.S intervention since World War Two. It shows that we have attempted overthrow more than 50 governments. We have attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders. We have bombed more than 30 countries. We have attempted to suppress revolutionary movements in more than 20 countries. We have interfered in about 30 elections,” Blum said.
While Blum maintains the U.S has helped to overthrow governments and intervened from Latin America to Asia, arming rebel groups is always more difficult. Take the support of anti-Fidel Castro forces at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. The U.S. backed invasion fell apart quickly and mutual tension between the U.S and Cuba continues to this day.
The training and arming of contra rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980’s against the Sandinista government is another example. After the U.S Congress cut off funding, money was illegally diverted to the U.S-backed Contras from the sale of Iranian arms.
“Nicaragua is a good example where they supported an armed force and it was very brutal and bloody. And what happened finally they didn’t actually score a military victory in the end,” Blum said.
One success according to the CIA, is the U.S training of Mujahedeen rebels fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980’s. However, some of those fighters later helped form the al-Qaida extremist group. President Obama asked for the CIA study early this year.
“Very early in this process, I actually asked the CIA to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much,” Obama said in an interview with the New Yorker.
As the training and arming of untested Syrian rebels gets underway, Mr. Obama is reticent, but having ruled out U.S boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq, training and paying other people to bring the fight to ISIL is one of the few options left.
CCTV America also interviewed Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.