by Barry Rubin
When a delegation of Syrian Kurdish rebels recently visited Washington, D.C., the State Department met them to ask for a favor. What was it? The Obama administration urged them to join the Syrian National Council (SNC), the organization created by the U.S. government through Turkey to lead the opposition movement and receive Western aid for all Syrian opposition groups.
But the Turkish Islamist regime, which Obama put in charge of forming the SNC, put the Muslim Brotherhood in control, a fact I pointed out within hours of the announcement of the SNC leadership’s names.
Now that several SNC leaders have resigned complaining about Brotherhood domination, followed by some Arab journalists pointing out the obvious Brotherhood domination at the SNC’s last meeting, that reality is clear. But the implications of such an incredibly foolish policy—America putting an anti-American, antisemitic group into the “official” leadership of Syria’s rebels — have never been properly examined as a case study for Obama’s disastrous Middle East policy.
The Kurds had walked out of the talks that formed the SNC last year when they saw how Islamists would be in control. Not only do they oppose Islamism itself but they also see the Brotherhood as an Arabizing and centralizing group that would impose a regime oppressing the non-Arab Kurds.
The new U.S. effort so backfired that, with the Obama administration ignoring their concerns, the enraged Kurds in the delegation spoke for the first time of breaking up Syria altogether!
To sum up, Obama policy has strengthened the Islamist forces in the opposition and fragmented the rebels, thus helping preserve a radical anti-American Syrian regime that is an ally of Iran or helping make any revolution more likely to produce a radical anti-American Syrian Islamist regime that will be an ally of an Islamist Egypt.
Now comes a very peculiar story in the Washington Post with the headline, “Syrian rebels get influx of arms with Gulf Neighbors’ Money, U.S. coordination.” Let’s break this down logically:
–The Saudis and Qataris have been providing arms already.
–They know how to buy weapons, how to get them to the Syrian border, and how to give them to Syrian rebels.
What do they need American “coordination” for? What does the word “coordination” mean? I presume it means that the Obama administration, absolutely clueless about what to do regarding Syria, simply wants to take credit for others’ actions. It is part of the pre-election spin about what a great job Obama is doing.
Yet there is another problem here, a potentially devastating one. Who is getting the weapons? There are different people and groups in the Syrian opposition. Some are Salafists who feel comfortable with al-Qaida; some are Brotherhood men; some are ex-Syrian army officers, professionals and relatively apolitical; and some are liberals who really want democracy.
Whoever gets these weapons will be tremendously empowered. So what’s to say that the arms being “coordinated” by the United States aren’t going to revolutionary Islamists? While this is a complex subject, there is information that these arms supplies up until now have not been sufficiently discriminatory toward moderates and away from Islamist radicals. We will know more in the weeks to come if we can see and identify which opposition groups in what parts of Syria have become better armed.
And if it comes out that the U.S. government is “coordinating” the arming of such people with weapons — as it is already helping their political counterparts in the SNC — wouldn’t that be a tremendous scandal?
Let’s be clear here: A proper U.S. policy would help moderate Syrians overthrow the Assad dictatorship and make sure weapons went to the best elements in the Free Syrian Army’s decentralized forces. Such a policy would make sure to deny money, weapons, and power to the Islamists and Salafists, who are proportionately far weaker in Syria than in Egypt.
Obama policy follows the worst possible course. It minimizes U.S. help to the revolution while at the same time ensuring that a disproportionately large amount goes to Islamists.Barry Rubin
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