Since 2011 the U.S. has been expanding the CIA’s role in Iraq as radical Syrian rebels threaten the border region, according to Adam Entous, Julian Barnes, and Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal.Officals told WSJ that the agency provides support to Iraq’s Counterterrorism Service (CTS) — comprised of SWAT-like units and U.S.-trained Iraqi special forces — which reports directly to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The disclosure places CIA personnel on Syria’s three largest borders.
In June The New York Times reported that CIA officers in southern Turkey was been funelling weapons to Syrian rebels. In December NPR reported that CIA officers were training rebels in Jordan on how to identify and safeguard chemical weapons (while Der Spigel reported that it had been happening since May).
The reemergence of the CIA in Iraq has coincided with America’s increasing concerns about extremist Syrian rebels, namely Jabhat al-Nusra — the radical Sunni rebel group that is supported by veteran fighters and financing from al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
On Monday AQI claimed responsibility for killing 48 Syrian soldiers and state employees in Iraq last week, saying that the Iraqi-led convoy proved that Iraq was supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
From 2004 to ’11 AQI fought a brutal guerrilla war against the Iraqi government and the U.S. military with the help of a deep support network in Syria.
Photo: Associated Press
During that time, the CIA had more than 700 agency personnel in Baghdad, making it the agency’s largest station in the world. Furthermore, Iraq’s brutal special commando units were trained under General David Petraeus, who later become CIA Director.A senior defence official told WSJ that once Assad falls, Nusra could “orient strongly against Iraq.” Members of the group told Reuters as much last month:
“The Sunnis in Anbar [Iraq] are helping with weapons and ammunition,” the leader of the powerful Al-Qadisiyah Brigade said. “Their days (of fighting) will come soon and Insh’allah (“God willing”) we will go to jihad with them. Those Sunnis are our brothers.”
The recurrence of the CIA-Iraq coalition has a tinge of irony since the U.S. has been aiding Syrian rebels while calling on Assad to step down while Iraq has recently begun showing signs of support for the embattled Syrian president.
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