Home CIA CIA, Syrian Intelligence and the Russian SVR: Competition for Syria

CIA, Syrian Intelligence and the Russian SVR: Competition for Syria


By Dr. Terry Simmons
In Homeland Security Guest Contributor

This is a critical examination of the tragic events unfolding in Syria as the last episode of a phenomenon known as the Arab Spring which has spread across North Africa and into Syria. The three intelligence agencies, the CIA, the Mukhabarat, and the SVR, of the United States, Syria, and the Russian Federation respectively, have served as covert conduits for their state and non-state patrons’ efforts to maximize political advantage in this intense struggle for Syria and contiguous regional geopolitical space.

The jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra Front (Jn), the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as the rival group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ISIL), are attempting to hijack the efforts of the Free Syrian Army to overthrow Bashir al-Assad. The United States and the Russian Federation are competing to contain the Syrian Civil War within the parameters of Great Power politics and limit the geopolitical spillover effects and potential boundary changes in the contiguous states.

Three years of intense fighting has finally led to Geneva2, the United Nations peace conference in Switzerland. As the disparate factions gathered under a cloud of intense and bitter acrimony, the prospects looked initially grim in terms of a comprehensive cease fire and a political settlement. The groups affiliated with al Qaeda, especially Jabhat al-Nusra (Jn) the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS), as well as  the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL), have been fighting each other throughout the competition in Syria until a recent command transmitted in a five minute tape by al Qaeda Central’s post-OBL leader Ayman al-Zawahiri,  instructed them to cease their internecine warfare and to unite against the western-sponsored rebel “terrorists” as represented by the Syrian National Coalition, the successor organization to the original  Free Syrian Army (FSA).

This removes any lingering doubts of al Qaeda’s direct orchestration and political control of the attempt to topple the al Assad regime in Syria (Smith 2014).

Most recently, al Nusra has been marginalized and the new military and political competition is most intense between the Salifist ISIL and Shia-based ISIS. The hand of Iran and the emerging hand of Saudi Arabia are reconfiguring the struggle for Syria while al Nusra and Zawahiri have been sidelined.

The United States insists on regime change as part of a long-term political settlement. Vladimir Putin wants to maintain his long-term tradition clientele relationship with the Assad regime and thereby secure the Middle East boundaries of a de facto Russian near abroad revitalization policy.  Al Qaeda wants a new base of operations in Syria after being marginalized in Afghanistan and now increasingly Pakistan with a new caliphate from Baghdad to Beirut practicing Sharia law. SNC still insists on the removal of Assad to establish an Arab Spring democratic state in Syria.

As Saudi Arabia, with CIA coordination, infiltrates MANPADS to the reconstituted rebels, the struggle for Syria intensifies. The Syria people continue to pay the real price in this devastating power grab in Levant power politics.

About the Author

Dr. Terry Simmons is an associate professor of political science at IUPUI, currently teaching Politics of Terrorism and co-teaching a national security course. He recently earned a masters degree from American University’s Intelligence Studies program and is a published author of books and articles on Russian foreign policy and worldwide terrorism.



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