LATEST: Video: Free Syrian Army Claims Capture of UN Aid Dropped for Regime Soldiers


A Christmas double feature highlights the possibility — raised on EA earlier this month — that some US officials are ready to accept President Assad’s stay in power.

First, Ryan Crocker — former US Ambassador in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan — continued his campaign to choose Assad over “extremists”. Crocker, who first broached the idea in a New York Times article and then followed it up last weekend in a Times editorial, told US National Public Radio:

What we got wrong, right from the beginning, is that the opposition in Syria wasn’t going to be warm, fuzzy, cuddly friends of America. It was going to be what we’re seeing right now, real time, hard line, Al-Qaida….

The world is as it is. The world is not made to our order. The simple fact is Assad is not going. I mean that in my view is the fact. We need to come to terms with it. You know, we cannot wish it away. We have to deal with it.

To repeat our question from weeks ago: is Crocker serving as the front man for current American officials who dare not voice this option publicly — yet?

An “exclusive” from the Associated Press reinforces the query — the hit piece on the Islamic faction Jabhat al-Nusra begins:

The shadowy leader of a powerful al-Qaida group fighting in Syria sought to kidnap United Nations workers and scrawled out plans for his aides to take over in the event of his death, according to excerpts of letters obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

Iraqi intelligence officials offered the AP the letters, as well as the first known photograph of the Nusra Front leader, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, the head of one of the most powerful and feared bands of radicals fighting the Syrian government in the country’s civil war….

The officials said they obtained the information about al-Golani after they captured members of another al-Qaida group….

The officials said other letters planned the kidnapping and killing of other foreigners, and Syrian and Iraqi civilians.

Already the red flags wave. The “other al-Qaida group”, it finally emerges in the last line of the article, is the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham? Why would ISIS, a rival of Jabhat al-Nusra’s, have letters from al-Jowlani detailing his plans? Why would Iraqi intelligence services then hand these letters to a US outlet?

Even AP’s reporter senses all is not right — albeit far below the provocative headline and opening paragraphs:

Iraqi officials could not explain why the letter excerpts were in a sloppily written, grammatically incorrect version of an Arabic dialect used across the Levant. It is believed that al-Golani was an Arabic teacher before he rose through al-Qaida ranks, and typically, hard-line Muslims try to write in classical Arabic.

Could it be that it was not just Iraqi intelligence which had the idea of putting forged letters out through a leading news agency? Could America’s large contingent of officers in Baghdad also have played a role?

Video: Free Syrian Army Claims Capture of UN Aid Dropped for Regime Soldiers

The Free Syrian Army has claimed that it captured food aid intended for Syrian forces in Daraa Province — some of the goods have the stickers of the United Nations’ World Food Program:

Activists: 48-Hour “Truce” in Besieged Moadamiyah Ash Sham

Activists have confirmed Wednesday’s news of an agreement to allow the regime flag to fly over the besiged Damascus suburb of Moadamiyyat Ash Sham, in return for food being allowed into the town.

The activists said a 48-hour truce had been agreed in the suburb, blockaded for months by the Syrian military. The army said it will allow food to enter if the truce holds until Friday.

An activist close to the deal said negotiations had been conducted between the Free Syrian Army’s military councils and local members of the regime’s military and political departments.

The activist said the regime is seeking a broader agreement in which insurgents give their arms:

The regime said it wanted the heavy weapons like the tanks and cannons. It also said that it is willing to buy these weapons and pay for them,” he added. “There are no guarantees from either side. This is war.

Regime Announces Contract with Russia Company for Oil Drilling

The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources has signed a contract with the Russian company Soyuzneftegaz for offshore oil drilling, development and production in Syria’s territorial waters.

The contracts covers oil exploration in the area of almost 2200 square kilometers between Tartous and Banyas.

Syria’s oil sector is in disarray, with most of its oilfields taken over by insurgents and only one refinery still operating. Damascus is now dependent on imports from Russia, Iran, and Iraq.