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Rubin Reports

Can the U.S. Government Buy Moderation in the Middle East? No!

May 28th, 2013 - 9:38 am

2. Syria, the Bashar al-Assad regime

For two years, during the first half of the Obama administration, the United States tried to buy Syria out of its alliance with Iran by dangling trade and other financial inducements. We were assured that the Syrians would eagerly “sell out.” But of course this never happened.

3. Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood

After the civil war began, when the United States tried to isolate the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) in December 2012 by designating it as a terrorist group, even the Free Syrian Army, supposedly the moderates, denounced the move — as did more than 30 Syrian Salafist rebel groups.  This was despite the offers of weapons and money. U.S. officials dealing with the Islamist rebel groups knew that they could not get them to do anything the United States wanted. Nevertheless, at the recent meeting of the Syrian opposition, the State Department spokesman explained:

We have recognized the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, and we will work with Prime Minister Hitto. Our assistance will be channeled in large part through him and his team into these towns in liberated parts of Syria.

Translation: One among several opposition groups — the one controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood — is recognized by the United States as the legitimate representative (even though many groups are boycotting it); the Muslim Brotherhood’s guy is the “prime minister”; and the U.S. government intends to disburse a total of $1 billion raised internationally through the Muslim Brotherhood. How much patronage will that buy for the Brotherhood?

Kerry also announced that $250 million in U.S. taxpayer money is going to go directly to a group directed by the Muslim Brotherhood to spend as it wishes, presumably to go mainly to local Brotherhood groups and militias.

But what was the Brotherhood-dominated, so-called National Coalition — which is the U.S. recognized opposition group —  doing at the same time? Answer: refusing to broaden its membership.

Even proposals that the Brotherhood be left with two-thirds of the seats were ultimately rejected by the Brotherhood. And who were the proposed new members? Michel Kilo and his allies, courageous moderates who the West should have been supporting all along!

After playing games on adding these people, the Brotherhood leadership turned it down. Kilo’s moderate group, by the way, was not the one recognized by the United States as the “legitimate representative of the Syrian people.” The National Coalition also leaves out the Kurds — whose leadership is secular — and except for tokens, the Alawites, Druze, and Christians, too. It basically represents the roughly 25 or 30 percent who support the various Islamist rebel groups.

They also came up with a new scheme to empower the Brotherhood’s local councils within Syria as a basis for an internal opposition government that would disburse any funds. The situation is not good in rebel-controlled Syria, as there is no source of money. Would the West raise funds that would be handed out by the Muslim Brotherhood to its supporters?

Turkey and Qatar, supposed U.S. partners, are doing everything possible to support the Brotherhood. Even the Saudis now see through these schemes and reportedly realize that helping the Salafists is suicidal to their interests.

Why is it that the “official” Syrian opposition group refuses to broaden its base to non-Islamists, but still gets U.S. support?

Isn’t money and weaponry supposed to provide U.S. leverage?

Meanwhile, President Obama stated recently that the United States has spent $1 trillion — a considerable part of the deficit — on anti-terrorism measures.


For detailed accounts by two reliable observers of the Syrian scene, see here and here.

Note: My colleague, Dr. Jonathan Spyer, was on a BBC show with a British Conservative member of parliament who insisted that Syria was a secular country and that none of the rebels were Islamists. This is the level of ignorance among many politicians and others in the West.

If you are interested in reading more about Syria, you’re welcome to read my book The Truth About Syria online or download it for free.

For a discussion of what I think U.S. policy toward terrorism and Islamism should be, see here.

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Both the Russians and the arabs--and too the Iranians-- run on oil. Collapse the price of oil and these groups lose the ability to sustain their operations. They stop being players on the world stage.

The USA has been swamped with oil lately but that glut has not been reflected in the price of oil. imho the price of WTI oil will go under $90@barrel and Brent oil will go under $100 in the coming weeks. WTI will end 2013 in the low 80's. By 2015 oil will be in the $70@barrel range.

I don't know what happens after that because Bakken oil is said to cost 70@ barrel to pump out of the ground. As the price goes lower fewer new wells will be drilled and because the decline rates are so high-- that means the pace of US drilling that ramps up production--will decline

Something similar has happened to natural gas in the USA. Collapsing prices led to the fall off of drilling which halted the rise in the amount of natural gas coming out of the ground. Production peaked. But demand has continued to soar. So the price of gas has started to move upward. At some point rising prices will cause more drilling.

The Russians have enormous shale oil/gas reservers in Siberia. But I've heard that the costs of extracting that run about 90@ barrel. They're already planning on exploiting that oil but by the time they get to it--likely the siberian shale oil/gas will be uneconomic to extract.

The USA also has some some very large shale oil/gas reserves in the permian basin of west texas not far from W bush's home. These reserves will be much cheaper to extract. They'll start coming to market in larger volumes next year I think.

The Israelis have lots of oil but its in the form on oil shale or kerigen. That's won't be economic to extract until the price of electricity collapses--which is the primary cost of extraction--especially byo insitu mining. Currently the leading technology in waiting to collapse the cost of electricity is portable thorium nuclear power plants. It'll be 5-10 years before the prototypes start producing electricity.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"What would happen to this investment if there was a single terrorist attack in the West Bank, much less one against tourists?"

Easy. Theywouldblame it on Israel. Heck, accordign to Wikipedia's list of countries, we are still the "occupying power" in Gaza, even though we pulled out unilaterally.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I read lots of commentary by folks like Dr. Rubin. Intelligent and thoughtful. If you read them closely they are all speaking truth but are afraid, probably with good cause, to come right out with it leaving that voice to us.

Why this is so is an indication of the depths of the problem. No amount of apologia hides the fact the ISLAM IS the PROBLEM!. Not radical Islam, not fundamentalist Islam, not Islamist Islam...simply Islam.

The answer is simple (the execution of the answer being the hard part) confront Islam head on. Assault its base, its myth and contrast it to other more useful religions. Psychological attack. Ping, ping, ping, drip, drip, drip and never ever surrender.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The reason nothing has ever happened to defuse this area is because the Arabs do not want anything to happen unless it has to do with pushing all of the Jews into the Med and watching them drown.
This is not brain surgery, listen to what Islam says and then shut up. There will never be peace in this area because Mohammad in his delirium decided to blame all of his troubles on the Jews and Christians in Arabi instead of on his own actions in the neighborhood. Mohammad said Kill all Christians and Jews or make them all slaves to Islam.....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Tourism is actually a wise choice in the abstract because if 1) people generally want to feed themselves and their children, and 2) tourism is the single industry most affected by war, then if you make tourism the main source of income for a society, where a large segment of the society is employed in tourism-related jobs and the entire society depends on it, it makes sense to expect that a very large part of that society will be averse to war and desire peace.

However, when you get to the particulars of this particular case, there are several problems with this scenario:

1) Even if, as a result of war, the toursits will be gone they can still depend on foreign aid as a source of income. This diminishes the disincentive of war as an existential threat (whereas for Israel war always remains an existential threat).

2) Those in this society, including the political and religious authorities, the educational system and the media, who educate their children to die as shahids in the course of jihad for the sake of Allah, are not likely to become proponents of peace just to preserve their and their children's temporal physical existence in the paltry corporeal world (as they see it, compared to the eternal bliss in paradise guaranteed to the souls of those who sacrificed their corporeal bodies for the sake of Allah), let alone for a few more bucks a month, a new TV or better housing. Like Khomeini said, this is not about the price of watermelons. So even if part of the society will have a strong incentive to desire peace, there will still be a strong opposition to peace from many others.

3) As you explain, tourism is highly likely to fail anyway, even in the absence of direct conflict with Israel, due to the particularly extreme volatility of the entire neighborhood as it is swept by revolutionary Islam. Few people find a smoking volcano an attarctive tourist destination, much less one that's already erupting. Even Israeli tourism will likely suffer the consequnces of the regional tsunami, let alone places where large segmants of population are less appreciative of alcohol drinking, bikini wearing, kissing in public Western kuffar. If tourism doesn't have much of a long-term potential to begin with as a stable source of income how can it be an incentive or a solution for anything?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Remember the greenhouses in Gaza? 14 million and nothing but destruction.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Let's give money we don't have to people who don't really want it. What could go wrong? Seriously, i'm not surprised that Kerry and Obama are so blinded by ideology that reality is beyond their comprehension.however, I've met people who work in the state department. I know for a fact that there are some very smart ,very competent people who work there. Why is no one listening to them?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Colonial Powers are still addicted to drawing maps from afar. Thats worked pretty well. Perhaps the The Kerry Plan, which promotes creating yet another Islamic Terror State, is better labeled, Lame Duck Seeks Dead Duck. The knowledgeable reader gets the references. Here in Jerusalem we have no intention being either the latter or that third famous duck, Sitting Duck. The Obama Regime, it can no longer be called an Administration , pushes
" Palestine " every time it needs to get Americans distracted from its malevolence at home. The standard tactic of an Islamic dictatorships. Americans should remember another great duck analogy- If it walks like duck and quacks like a duck... its a duck.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Heaven forbid. The agitated sector in the US is on the verge of succumbing to civil disobedience, what then is to expect with these facts as aforementioned blaze through among daily interactions?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why would you ask a rhetorical question then answer it?
But he is right. They don't want our money. They want us dead.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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