By Barry Rubin
I’ve warned that the Obama Administration, through the Islamist Turkish government, has produced a majority Islamist leadership. Let me emphasize this point: the Syrian people didn’t chose this exile leadership, the American president and his colleagues did. And in my articles I warned that support would soon pour in from Westerners who had no idea they were promoting a future anti-American Islamist Syria
It is vital to understand that Syria is different from Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. A revolutionary Islamist regime is not inevitable. There are plenty of moderates and those non-Muslims or non-Arabs loyal first and foremost to their own community (Druze, Christians, Kurds, tribes, and even potentially Alawites) who don’t want Islamism. That’s why this disaster is avoidable and all the more strategic sin on the Obama Administration for making an unnecessary catastrophe more likely.
In historical terms, it would be as if the Western powers helped create and back a Communist-dominated opposition council in pre-revolutionary Russia even though the Bolsheviks weren’t in the majority.
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Sure enough, along comes Senator John McCain, straight from his foolishly blind unnuanced endorsement and whitewashing of the new Libyan regime, and what does he do? At a World Economic Forum meeting in Amman, October 23, the senator suggest that now that the Libyan crisis is solved (!):
“There will be renewed focus on what practical military operations might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria.” This would be in response to Syria’s opposition is reaching out “for some foreign military intervention.” And who is guiding McCain’s thinking?“We are listening to and engaging with the national opposition council.”
In other words, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is advocating that U.S. policy follow the advice of an Islamist-dominated group in order to have the U.S. military install what would amount to an Islamist-dominated leadership in Syria.
Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Turkey Lebanon? Perhaps they’re going for a matched set! The fact that our last remaining moderate hope in terms of regimes is Saudi Arabia–and I’m not joking–tells you something about the current situation.
Does this make McCain a secret Muslim or closet Marxist bent on destroying America? No, it just makes him a dangerously ignorant war hero senator. His counterpart–Senator John Kerry, the long-time devotee of the Syrian dictatorship (though in his case perhaps I should put the phrase war hero in quotation marks?) might be the next secretary of state. Of course, Kerry belatedly switched sides to oppose his old friend Bashar al-Asad, without acknowledging that he was ever wrong in backing him before.
In saying this, I’m not advocating either doing or not doing some military intervention in Syria. But any help should not go to the benefit of the Islamist radicals. Is it really too unreasonable to ask the U.S. government to help moderates and oppose revolutionary Islamists, radical nationalists, and extreme leftists?
Here is the view of the current situation of Ammar Abdulhamid, the best analyst of the revolt in Syria, in his October 23 Syria Revolution Digest:
“The hypocrisy of it all is too glaring. Homs City is being bombed to smithereens under our very eyes, and the world that was willing to bleed in pain for a Benghazi that has not yet been attacked is admonishing patience and dialog, as attempts at self-defense by locals get depicted as morally compromising….
“If [the West is] worried about the alternative to the Assad regime, I say, what could be worse than having the country dragged into a civil mayhem, per the plan and will of the Assads?
“The bravery and foolhardiness of the protesters in Homs, Idlib, Deraa and across the country, should not fool anyone, the protesters are desperate and they are hurting. All can still be lost because no one is doing anything to help our brave people. And those we trusted to provide the needed leadership are failing the test in every way. If the world is not responding to our plight the way we need it to respond, this is in no small measure related to the failure of opposition leaders, to their inability to rise above their personal narcissisms and their ideological hang-ups….Our people more than want international protection: they need it, and are desperate for it….”
To me, he’s starting to sound like those radio broadcasters in 1944 Warsaw, 1956 Budapest, and 1968 Prague as the tanks of the repressive dictatorship close in.
But here is his very important analysis of the Transitional National Council, in response to my writing and the questions of others, on October 27:
“Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood, especially the Aleppo Branch still loyal to former leader Sadreddine Bayanouni, has a lot of influence over the SNC from behind the scenes. In this, the MB doesn’t just rely on its formal representatives, but also on allegedly independent Islamist figures, few Leftist sympathizers and former members, excommunicated for one reason or another, who went on to join other coalitions, such as the Damascus Declaration Council, among others. This arrangement allows the MB to exert influence while maintaining a low formal profile. As such, the official seats reserved for the MB seem reasonable, but through this wider network, their influence is enormous.
“Of course, they still have to forge alliances outside this network, hence the ability of Burhane Ghalioun and others to maneuver and dictate some terms. The exclusion of certain figures like Haitham Al-Maleh, Abdurrazzak Eid from the closed selection process that led to the formation of the SNC seems more related to their unwillingness to play ball in this game. Private arrangements and deals are part of the political process, but when the entire process is based on these kinds of arrangements, it becomes problematic and open to hidden agendas. This is the essence of y criticism of the SNC.
“The thing is there was really no moral or technical justification for the way the SNC was put together. The previous attempts at council formation in Antalya and elsewhere were criticized for insufficient transparency and inclusiveness, but the process of forming the SNC was the least transparent and inclusive of all. “
And who created this leadership? The Turkish regime with U.S. backing!
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com