American, Israeli and Jordanian commandos are currently deployed on the ground in Syria, training and operating alongside the rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, the French daily Le Figaro reported on Saturday. The report has not been corroborated by any official American, Israeli or Jordanian source.
The newspaper said that according to its sources, the joint operation, led by the CIA, began on Aug. 17, when the commandos joined some 300 Syrian rebels near the southwestern city of Deraa, just north of Syria's border with Jordan. A second group of commandos reportedly crossed into Syria two days later, en route to training camps set up by the Free Syrian Army near the Jordanian-Syrian border.
According to military sources quoted by Le Figaro, the U.S. is very reluctant to send ground troops to Syria and is also hesitant about arming the rebels, as some groups are affiliated with radical Islamists, and would prefer to train opposition fighters to hold their own.
French experts quoted by the newspaper said that Washington was interested in created a buffer zone in Syria, free of Assad's forces, while also enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, which would give the Free Syrian Army an advantage in their efforts to remove Assad from power.
Enforcing the future no-fly zone is why the U.S. deployed Patriot missile batteries and F-16s in Jordan, in June, the report alleged.
Le Figaro further claimed that Assad's anxiety over what he perceives as the West's ongoing interference in Syria is what triggered last Wednesday's chemical attack. A Syrian government spokesman said in July that the regime would not use its unconventional weapons unless the West intervened is Syria's internal affairs.
According to the report, since U.S. President Barack Obama warned in August 2012 that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would constitute a "red line" that would mandate an international response, the Syrian president has ordered his military to use them against rebel forces 13 times.