According to the LA Times, the CIA has begun assembling "targeting packages" -- folders containing "agent reports, cellphone intercepts, video footage, public records, tips from foreign spy services" -- to assist in the planned droning of Islamic extremists (formerly known as "US allies") in Syria.
The neo-con narrative is unfortunately the one that has prevailed, as usual, thanks mostly to the mainstream media. According to this view, it is the US inaction in the Syrian conflict that has created the chaos that has allowed the foreign jihadists to enter Syria and do their dirty deeds. If only we had invaded from the beginning, Syria would now be free of both Assad and of the foreign Islamic fighters.
In fact, the escalation of the conflict was made possible by the secret and not so secret shipment of masses of weapons to those seeking to overthrow the government. This is of course a violation of the UN charter and international law, but the US only pays attention to that when it can be used to further its interventionist goals. Hundreds of videos and other information make it clear that these weapons ended up in the hands of the radicals.
What is going on with this latest information? Two things. One, to a degree the CIA targeting some of the most dangerous of the extremists is the US going against some of its allies. The more embarrassing ones who also happen to be the best fighters.
But, second, it is not as simple as that either. There is in all of this an element of extreme hubris. The Administration and the CIA actually believes its own propaganda, which is dangerous. According to them, the revolt against Assad is at its core another chapter of the "Arab Spring," where the majority of the citizens seek regime change and all that is needed is assistance from the US to give a little push to the people's will. The fact is, the majority of the Syrian people back Assad and oppose the rebels -- particularly the extreme Islamist elements which are totally foreign to secular Syrians.
The US administration believes it can actually determine who is or is not a radical Islamist and kill those people by drone, leaving only smiling democrats ready to welcome Western NGOs to help them write a nice new constitution. It is a delusion. It has never worked yet.
It probably means the US is planning to enter a much more active phase in the conflict. In preparation for a US invasion of Syria, which will no doubt continue on into Iran, some of the more dangerous and difficult to control elements must be gotten rid of. Already we are seeing the "intelligence preparation of the battlefield" here in the US: Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers penned a cri de coeur in today's Washington Post demanding that the US become more directly involved in the Syrian conflict. He repeats the propagandistic falsehoods that the media dutifully amplify: Assad is simply a madman on a killing spree, murdering his own citizens at random. This despite all the evidence that some 94% of those killed in the Syrian conflict were males of fighting age and that the infamous 70,000 killed figure was simply made up by the UN. We heard the same thing about Noriega, Milosevic, Saddam, Gaddafi, etc. It was lies and propaganda, but it works every time.
The US position is changing on Syria. Quickly.
On Twitter @DanielLMcAdams