The Pro-Islamist Obama Administration: A Case Study in Syria
By Barry Rubin
Almost a year ago today, November 17, 2011 to be specific, I analyzed the new Syrian opposition leadership created by the Obama Administration through the services of the Islamist regime in Turkey. It was already obvious that the Syrian National Council (SNC) was a Muslim Brotherhood front group, yet the Obama Administration backed it any way.
Even if you aren’t interested in this specific issue, the SNC story is a terrific case study of how the Obama Administration has trashed U.S. interests abroad, and especially in the Middle East.
If the White House’s plan had worked, Syria would definitely have ended up with an anti-American, antisemitic regime, allied with its fellow Brotherhood regimes in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and Tunisia into an anti-American, anti-Western revolutionary bloc.
That might happen any way since the Obama Administration is still channeling guns to the Brotherhood and Salafists. But finally, after more than a year, the government has given up on the SNC.
Since the White House knew and knows that the SNC was a Muslim Brotherhood front and knows that most of the guns given by Qatar and Saudi Arabia are being handed over to Islamists (presumably as long as they aren’t al-Qaida) that result cannot be due to incompetence but to a deliberate strategy.
This is the effort to empower revolutionary Islamists on the grounds that, as Robert Worth put it in the New York Times: “potential allies who profess to believe in democracy and civic rights.”
How was it possible to know the SNC was a Brotherhood front? Because when its leadership group was announced in November 2011, 10 of the 19 members were Islamists and at least two more were their reliable tools. Although this was readily apparent from their past statements and behavior, I was the only person in the West to write about this.
Syrian Kurds and other oppositionists complained about this even before November 2011 because they saw what was happening in the SNC’s formation. Last May, two of the non-Islamists resigned, complaining that the group’s leadership was “autocratic” and dominated by the Brotherhood. The New York Times did cover this story, but the significance of the development was ignored and this information was not taken into account in any mass media analysis of the Obama Administration’s Syria policy.
Isn’t the U.S. government backing the emergence of what would be equivalent of a fascist or Communist regime big news?
Next, a delegation of Syrian Kurdish rebels visiting Washington DC was asked by the State Department to join the SNC. They refused and denounced the organization. From day one, it was clear the SNC had no support within the country yet the White House continued to back it as the appropriate leader for all Syrians even though Syrians didn’t want it.
Isn’t the U.S. government trying to impose the equivalent of a fascist or Communist regime on an unwilling populace big news?
Finally, on October 31, the U.S. government discovered—amazingly enough—that the SNC was not such a great group after all. Indeed, they accused the organization they had created of trying to “hijack” the Syrian revolution! Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said its members had been out of the country too long and:
“We also need an opposition that will be on record strngly resisting the efforts by extremists to hijack the Syrian revolution. There are disturbing reports of extremists going into Syria and attempting to take over what has been a legitimate revolution against an oppressive regime for their own purposes.”
In other words, this is an admission that the United States has been backing a group that promotes an extremist regime in Syria. And it also takes note of the increasingly open arrival in Syria of radical jihadists and al-Qaida supporters. Even a Chinese magazine has covered how Chinese Muslim Islamists are going to Syria to fight.
Why is the Obama Administration abandoning the SNC at this particular moment? Obviously, the SNC’s total failure has become too embarrassing to ignore and the government wants to try something else. But it is reasonable to suggest that this is also fall-out from the Benghazi attack. After all, it would look very bad if the U.S. government arms forces in Syria that stage a terrorist attack on Americans in future or perhaps create a repressive regime that makes war on America or its allies. Imagine that some day American diplomats or operatives try to disarm Syrian terrorist groups that have received weapons and such a group turns on the United States and…. Well, you can imagine since that’s what happened in Libya.
Yet the announcement by Clinton fails to recognize the bankruptcy of Obama Administration policy. It merely seeks to avoid some new disaster that makes the White House look bad. In contrast, a proper response and a good policy would require:
–Stopping the supply of weapons by Qatar to the Muslim Brotherhood units in Syria and by Saudi Arabia to the Salafists. The American intelligence officers are in Turkey overseeing these deliveries—to make sure nothing goes to al-Qaida—should also make sure that no guns go to the Brotherhood and Salafists. Only those units led by Kurdish autonomists, defected Syrian army officers, and local non-Islamist leaders should be supplied.
–Waking up to the Turkish regime’s anti-American, pro-Islamist policies. Rather than lavish praise on the Ankara regime, Obama should never use it as an intermediary for U.S. strategy since the Turkish rulers will subvert U.S. interests.
–Understand that Brotherhood regimes in Egypt and Tunisia may “purport” support for democracy and human rights they are against both things. As a Tunisian recently wrote, providing details of the growing authoritarianism in her country, in a New York Times op-ed piece:
“There is nothing moderate or democratic about the Islamists. They played the moderate and democratic game to gain power. Now, in office, they keep postponing elections to entrench themselves in the fabric of government and judiciary by brute force.”
The ruling party’s leader, Rachid al-Ghannouchi, just gave an interview in which he explained that a democratic framework is merely the best way to put into power an Islamist regime with the full implementation of Sharia law.
In Egypt, there is growing information about how the Brotherhood regime’s new constitution is going to impose Sharia law in alliance with the Salafists. Well, what do you expect when a radical Islamist regime comes to power. Oh, right, the U.S. government didn’t expect that a Brotherhood regime would be extremists.
The U.S. government should support the anti-Islamist forces in the region including relatively moderate Arab governments; truly moderate Arab, Iranian, Kurdish, and Turkish democratic opposition groups; and Israel.
–Finally, Libya was the place that this policy has just failed tragically. The use of Islamist guards, the deference to a weak (if well-intentioned) and badly infiltrated government to protect American lives led to a successful terrorist attack and the murder of Americans.
The Obama Administration’s policy of supporting America’s most dangerous enemies in the world today is implicitly admitted and even partly discussed. Now is the time to see how immensely disastrous and obviously failed is this policy and to abandon it. But that’s going to be up to American voters as the Obama Administration seems to have no intention of really changing course.