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Empire Project in Syria Reaches New Low - Syrian Support Group

By Michael Collins - Posted on 02 August 2013

pergallon1How low will the Western powers stoop in the assault on the people and nation of Syria?    You may be surprised.  Here are three nightmares from the conflict. (Image: Neil Turner)

The United States, United Kingdom, France, Turkey, and the Gulf oligarchies sponsored a rebellion in Syria that chose cities as the primary battleground.  Syrian rebels entered the cities, took over without invitation by the residents, and battled the police and other representatives of the Syrian government.  Nobody expected the government to simply surrender the cities to the rebels.  This often-overlooked fact explains the scale of death and destruction in Syria.

The above listed cast of characters supported or looked the other way as foreign fighters from Al Qaeda in Iraq took on a major combat role. The group, known as Al-Nusra, is credited as the best combat force fighting the Syrian government.   The group slaughters civilians and captured soldiers.  A favorite targets for violence and kidnapping are the minorities of Syrian Christians and Kurds.

The latest news of the effort to depose a government that never attacked the United States and posed no imminent threat has more to do with hypocrisy than death and destruction.   Craven, rapacious greed flowers in the context of a full tilt violence.

U.S. sanctioned Syrian rebel fundraisers "obsessed" with oil over revolution

The latest outrage from Syria is the accusation that the Syria Support Group, created to funnel money to the Free Syrian Army, is actually trying to broker oil deals in behalf of their group.  The oil deals came out when an employee of the SSG blew the whistle on the operation.    See the details here.

David Falt, a whistleblower who worked for the organization told The Telegraph (July 31):   "Brian [Sayers, Executive Director, SSG] and some others were obsessed with the oil. The idea they could raise hundreds of millions from the sale of the oil came to dominate the work of the SSG to the point no real attention was paid to the nature of the conflict."

So, it was about oil concessions for territory controlled by the putative beneficiary of SSG fundraising.  We would be reasonable to assume that the FSA leadership is furious over this seeming betrayal.   Apparently not.  General Selim Idris, head of the Syrian Military Council, which includes FSA, thinks the idea makes perfect sense. General Idris is the preferred recipient for the lethal funding President Obama wishes to provide Syrian rebels.

Who is behind the Syrian Support Group?

Brian Sayers, referenced by whistle blower David Walt, is the Executive Director of SSG.  Mazen Asbahi, a Chicago lawyer, is listed as president of the SSG board.  Asbahi was the Obama coordinator for Muslim outreach in the 2008 campaign.   He resigned from that position in August 2008 after being question by the Wall Street Journal about his connections to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.  He is currently listed as president of SSG's board of directors and is the named recipient of the SSG special fund raising license from the Department of Treasury.

The SSG web page prominently lists Institute for the Study of War (ISW) policy papers as a justification for the groups aid to Syrian rebels. ISW leadership sounds like a updated version of Partnership for a New American Century (PNAC) regime change crew.  The ISW board includes William Kristol, Elizabeth Cheney (daughter of the former vice president), and other leading neo conservatives.

Deeply offended by the reports in the Telegraph article, the SSG issued a rebuttal statement (August 1) calling the article defamatory.  Regarding oil deals, the rebuttal stated:

"SSG did in fact have preliminary discussions regarding the possibility of working with the international partners  to export Syrian oil for the direct financial benefit of FSA.  However, recognizing the sensitivities and legal complexities of such a project, the organizations Board of Directors unanimously decided to discontinue any further explorations on the basis that such a large scale and sensitive financing mechanism should be handled directly by officials within the Syrian oppositions political and military structures."  SSG, Washington DC, August 1

The statement seems to admit SSG explorations of oil deals but denies any ongoing SSG involvement in behalf of the rebels.  The wording of the last line above raises the possibility that oil deals may be ongoing by the rebels political and military entities.  Why comment on oil deals by the rebels if there are none being explored?

The rebuttal also pointed out that: "the article fails to draw critical distinctions that SSG and 'its European operations' are actually two separate legal entities and that the U.S. -based entity, SSG, does not control the activities of SSG UK. Further, efforts were already underway to close the UK entity."  SSG, Washington DC, August 1

How do you close what you do not control?

We know that the SSG was set up to receive funds that would be transferred to the Military Council under General Idris and the Free Syrian Army.  Whistleblower David Falt's release of internal emails tells us that the SSG was focused on raising money from oil deals based on FSA controlled oil regions in Syria.  We can assume that if SSG U.S. can shut down SSG UK, there is some sort of control of SSG UK by the U.S. entity.  And, we know that SSG is an outgrowth of the Obama political operation with policy rationales and support from the neoconservative ISW.  Here is the real shocker.

Syrian Support Group licensed to raise funds by the U.S. Department of the Treasury

In reviewing the highly unique path to approval obtained by SSG, keep in mind that none of this could have happened with out approval from the very top of the Department of State and the White House.  President Obama and then Secretary of State Clinton were informed and either or both may have initiated this cozy deal.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Treasury licensed the SSG in July 2012 for the specific purpose of raising funds for the FSA.   The Journal was unable to determine if any other organizations were licensed under the same program.

The SSG's web site has a FAQ section that references the license - FAQ question 2:

"The License gives SSG the ability to legally raise funds and provide certain logistical, communications and other services to the FSA. U.S. citizens are generally prohibited under U.S. sanctions on Syria from providing financial or material support to individuals or organizations within Syria absent a license from OFAC.

A PDF of the license can be found on the SSG web site or  Google web cache user content of that is not available.

How did SSG get a special fundraising license for Syrian rebels from the U.S. Department of the Treasury?

The path to licensing begins with high level endorsements, unless we are to believe that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama were in the dark on this unique funding arrangement.

The licensing process through the U.S. government starts with the Department of State Office of Terrorism Finance and Economic Sanctions Policy.  The last bullet point on this web page specifies the part of the program that results in a license to raise funds by SSG.  The office:

"Provides foreign policy guidance on specific commercial business, export, import, and general licensing issues to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security."

That leads us to licensing under the office of terrorism finance.  That web page reveals the following:

"The Office of Terrorism Finance and Economic Sanctions Policy (TFS), as part of the Energy, Sanctions, and Commodities (ESC) deputate, is responsible for coordinating Department of State responses to requests for foreign policy guidance regarding a range of export licensing applications submitted by businesses or individuals to the Departments of Commerce and Treasury."

Bullet point 2 on that page sends us to the division of the Department of the Treasury that actually issued SSG the license.

"The Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for most terrorist states and other special programs."

SSG had to propose licensing to raise funds to fight a state sponsors of terrorism, Syria.  Treasury issued the license, specifically the Office of Foreign Assets Control. OFAC has an explanation of its mission to meet "US foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries" etc.

"OFAC acts under Presidential national emergency powers, as well as authority granted by specific legislation, to impose controls on transactions and freeze assets under US jurisdiction."  Office of Foreign Assets Control

The Office of Foreign Assets Control is the Treasury entity that issued the seemingly exclusive license to SSG to raise funds.

As late as July 22, the SSG was identified as the likely conduit for lethal aid to Syrian rebels approved by a House Intelligence Committee.  SSG's preeminent role as funding conduit for the rebels in in jeopardy.  UK officials are already questioning the group's utility.

All of this raises several questions.

Was the license issued based on presidential "emergency powers" or "specific legislation?"

What role did former Obama 2008 Muslim Outreach Coordinator play in opening the gate for this arrangement?

What quality control monitoring does Treasury have in place to stop an entity licensed under this program from changing its mission?

The whistle blower indicated that SSG UK has pursued oil contracts for months.

Did Treasury know this?

What actions did Treasury take?

Writing in the American Conservative shortly after the SSG won the Treasury license, Philip Giraldi  offered this speculation:

"A private group being given 501(c)3 tax deductible status to raise money for an armed rebel group seeking to overthrow the government in a country with which the United States is not at war would appear to be outsourcing to the private sector the sort of thing that the CIA used to do. And the money is supposed to be raised for non-lethal support but the group concedes that as money is fungible it will wind up purchasing weapons anyway. "

Giraldi concluded, "For some reason the expression “useful idiots” comes to mind as well as the inevitable comparisons to Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, which was supported by the US and turned out real well in the end, fabricating intelligence to bring about an unnecessary war with Iraq and later passing American intelligence information on to Iran."

Meanwhile in Syria

The Syrian government has taken control of most of the city of Homs without, as reported, destroying the famous Khalid bin Walid Mosque.   Taking control of most of Homs is viewed as a major victory for the Syrian government.

Al Nusra fighters kidnapped 200 Kurds in northern Syria and killed them.  Syrian rebels continue to kidnap and kill Christians.

The Free Syrian Army and the jihadist foreign fighters are feuding and fighting each other as they continue to lose ground against the Syrian government.

Lethal military aid to FSA remains stalled after Congress placed at least some restrictions on the weapons aid by an overwhelming voice vote.

And, the death toll from the US, UK, French, Turkish, Gulf states sponsored rebellion has topped 100,000.


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