David Enders: US effort to undercut Islamist rebels in Syria fails

by | Feb 2, 2013 | Stress Blog

Poor Barack Obama: How to support an al Qaeda war against the Ba’athists (What, those guys don’t get along?) in Syria while pretending to regret that that is exactly what you’re doing?

Well, they set up some new sock puppets, but it looks like it didn’t take.

“A U.S.-supported push to form military councils across Syria to unite the hundreds of groups fighting to topple President Bashar Assad and coordinate the provision of aid to secular rebel groups appears largely to have failed.

“Rebels said U.S. officials pressed for the creation of the councils in each of Syria’s 14 provinces in response to rebel demands for arms and other support. In December, representatives of various rebel groups met in Turkey and elected a 30-member Supreme Military Council, which then selected defected Syrian Gen. Salim Idriss as its head.

“But Syrian activists say the councils have become the subject of derision and mockery inside Syria in the weeks since and that other groups, including the al Qaida-linked Nusra Front, have assumed the central coordinating position that U.S. officials had hoped the military councils would have.

”I do not hear much about the military councils,’ said Jeff White, a military analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. ‘I also do not see yet any indication the Supreme Military Council or regional commands are doing anything yet.’ …

“But Islamist groups remain at the forefront of recent fighting, while the military councils are barely functioning. That’s true throughout the country, including the south, where more than 20,000 people fled fighting into Jordan last week alone.

Syria’s presumed government in exile, the Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, similarly has failed to take hold — another huge reversal for American policy. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been the primary proponent of the coalition, which was cobbled together after Clinton publicly announced that the United States could no longer support a predecessor group, the Syrian National Council.

“But after dozens of countries recognized the new group as the successor to Assad’s regime, it, too, has failed to win influence. It missed its own deadline last week to name an interim prime minister, and U.S. engagement with the organization, which reached its height prior to the U.S. presidential election in November, dropped off after the group’s leader, Sheik Mouaz Khatib, criticized the U.S. designation of the Nusra Front as an international terrorist group that is indistinguishable from al Qaida in Iraq.

One of the puppets said he was open to the possibility of talks the other day, so perhaps that indicates that the Emperor is really having second thoughts, but with the Israelis now intervening, who knows what reactions and counter-reactions could play out.

Assad is an evil dictator, but al Qaeda is worse. Besides, Patrick Cockburn says Assad’s government is not really threatened unless foreign intervention is increased, so short of major escalation, this whole thing is just a giant Bay of Pigs screw job anyway.

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