In what was clearly an officially-sanctioned leak, the U.S. sent Iran a clear message just a few days before the next round of Iran-West nuclear talks in Baghdad.
The word Iran appears only once in Wednesday’s report in the Washington Post on American assistance to rebel forces in Syria, which includes coordination of larger and much improved arms shipments. That mention was buried at the end of the long piece, almost as an aside – but Tehran’s address is written all over the report.
Administration sources emphasized to the Post that it’s not material aid either, the money and arms are coming from the Sunni Gulf states. What the U.S. is providing is “assessments of rebel credibility and command-and-control infrastructure” for the Gulf arms suppliers. Or in other words, America is the go-between, the crucial link ensuring that the most useful weaponry goes through to where the rebels need it most.
Since it’s not clear when the American aid began and from the wording of the report, it is clear that this was an officially-sanctioned leak, accurately timed to come out just a few days before senior American diplomats and other representatives of the five permanent Security Council members and Germany are to meet with a senior Iranian delegation in Baghdad.
The Syrian rebellion has been ongoing now for fourteen months, in the course of which anywhere between 10,000-25,000 Syrians have been killed, at least three-quarters of them civilians. Arms have been coming in, financed by the Saudis and other Gulf governments, earlier in a trickle but now apparently flowing, for most of that time. Until now the Obama administration has been observing a hands-off policy, denouncing President Bashar Assad and calling upon him to leave, but doing nothing to actually make that happen.
So why has the administration decided just now, not only to provide “nonlethal assistance” to the Syrian opposition, but also to announce it? The administration officials speaking with the Post went a step forward and reported that there were also discussions being held with leaders of the Kurdish community in eastern Syria, who have so far remained mainly on the uprising’s sidelines. One of the ideas apparently floated in these talks was the possibility of opening up a “second-front,” forcing Assad to split the forces still loyal to his regime and send part of them far away from Syria’s urban centers.