Thursday, September 05, 2013


Reuters report was closer to saying that Kerry was simply wrong about the moderates in Syria.
Kerry portrait of Syria rebels at odds with intelligence reports

By Mark Hosenball and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON | Thu Sep 5, 2013 1:11am EDT

(Reuters) - Secretary of State John Kerry's public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements.

But a second official, who also asked not to be named, said moderate rebels may have lost strength rather than gained it in recent months. Due to their relative lack of weapons and organization, they are beginning to make alliances with better-armed Islamic radicals, whom they see pursuing more effective actions against Assad's forces, the official said.

Paul Pillar, who retired in 2005 as the U.S. intelligence community's top Middle East analyst, said he believed the Obama Administration was walking a fine line, trying to calculate how to punish Assad's government for allegedly using chemical weapons while not bolstering the strength of religious militant rebels.

"In a hard-fought civil war, especially one without a single well-organized opposition movement, success goes to the most ruthless and dedicated elements, which also tend to be the most extreme in their views. We are seeing such a process in Syria today," Pillar said.

Top U.S. intelligence and military officials have recently offered bleak public evaluations of the relative strengths of moderate and religious extremist Syrian rebels.

"I've heard that there are moderate groups out there we could, in theory, support," said Joshua Foust, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who now writes about foreign policy.

"But I've heard from those same people and my own contacts within (U.S. intelligence) that the scary people are displacing more and more moderate groups. Basically, the jihadists are setting up governance and community councils while the moderates exhaust themselves doing the heavy fighting," Foust said.

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