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Syrian Army crushes U.S.-backed rebel assault from Jordan

Special to WorldTribune.com

LONDON — President Bashar Assad has defeated a U.S. effort to use
Jordan as a launching pad for the overthrow of his regime.

Western diplomatic sources said Assad’s military and security forces
crushed a U.S. campaign to send hundreds of trained and equipped Sunni
rebels from Jordan to regain a key city in southern city.

A Syrian military soldier holds his AK-47 with a sticker of Syrian President Bashar Assad that reads "Syria is fine."  /AP/Hassan Ammar

A Syrian military soldier holds his AK-47 with a sticker of President Bashar Assad that reads “Syria is fine.” /AP

The sources said a force sponsored by the Western-backed Free Syrian Army failed to reach even 10 kilometers within Syria before the rebels were detected and attacked by the Syrian Army.

“This was a well-trained and equipped force meant to eventually reach Damascus and overthrow the regime,” a source said. “Instead, the rebels crossed the Jordanian border and within hours were on the run.”

The sources said the FSA force, with fighters from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, consisted of two battalion-size units, or nearly 600 fighters.

The sources said the fighters, trained by the CIA as well as Jordan’s Special Operations Force Command, were equipped with anti-tank, anti-aircraft missiles as well as night-vision systems.

Most of the equipment was said to have come from the former Yugoslavia.
Since late 2012, Jordan has served as the main venue for the U.S.-sponsored
project to train and equip Syrian rebels.

On Aug. 17, the two FSA units crossed the Jordanian border for the
nearby Syrian city of Dera, a distance of fewer than 15 kilometers. But the
sources said the FSA fighters were immediately besieged by Druse and Bedouin
militias and refused help by Al Qaida-aligned units.

“Nobody wanted them, and even those who have been fighting Assad saw
them as a threat,” another source said.

Within hours, Syrian Army units arrived and pursued FSA fighters west
toward the Golan Heights and the frontier with Israel. The sources said
discipline broke down within the FSA units and some of the fighters tried to
attack a United Nations peace-keeping force in the Golan in an attempt to
acquire human shields.

“The CIA plan was simple: To establish an FSA presence in southern Syria
that would serve as a magnet for other opposition forces to march on to
Damascus,” the second source said.

By Aug. 20, the sources said, the FSA force, which contained Western
mercenaries disguised as rebels, was routed, with elements besieged by
Syrian Army units. They said the FSA defeat ended U.S. hopes of using Jordan
for a rapid rebel advance that could decide the Syrian war in 2013.

The sources said the defeat highlighted the increasing isolation of
Washington in directing the rebel campaign in Syria. They said the U.S.
strategy drew from the revolt against Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Libya in
2011, in which NATO allies used Benghazi as a launching pad for attacks.

“The Americans have been pursuing this Benghazi strategy for more than a
year despite the fact that Syria is not Libya, Assad is certainly not
Gadhafi, and that Damascus has powerful allies that are fighting to save
the regime,” the second source said. “But the feeling among the allies is
that America is not listening.”

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