A stunning admission last week by a French academic about the true nature of the so-called “secular” elements of the Syrian rebels exposes the lies behind the official media and foreign policy establishment narratives pushing for regime change in Syria.
As first noticed by Professor Max Abrams of Northeastern University, a study published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and authored by French professor Fabrice Balanche on the status and composition of the Syrian “rebels” admits that the vaunted “secular” rebels are anything but.
Discussing the religious composition of the rebels based on estimates provided by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Balanche says:
The ISW usefully classified the various rebel groups into four ideological categories: transnational Salafi-jihadists (i.e., al-Qaeda-linked fighters), national Salafi-jihadists, political Islamists, and secularists. The difference between national jihadists and political Islamists is more or less akin to the difference between Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood — in simplified terms, the former seek strict application of Islamic law, while many of the latter tend to favor a state with an Islamic civil constitution but protections for religious freedom. As for the “secularists,” the term is used very loosely because most of the fighters in this category are conservative Muslims who do not actually want a secular government.
The fact that Balanche admits that the ISW’s estimates of so-called “secularists” are built upon the fiction that they are actually secular exposes the false narrative that ISW has long peddled in support of regime change.
This lie about large numbers of “secular” rebels that the U.S. needed to support is one that the ISW has been pushing for a while.
Rewind to September 2013, when considerable pressure was being placed upon President Obama to directly involve the U.S. in the Syrian war.
At that time the ISW’s resident Syria “expert,” Elizabeth O’Bagy, was opining in the Wall Street Journal about her travels to Syria and purported discovery that the Syrian “rebels” really weren’t bloodthirsty jihadists, but moderates worthy of U.S. financial and military support — in particular, heavy weapons. Her claims about the Syrian rebels, particularly the FSA, were cited and praised by Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain.
That view, of course, quickly came crashing down as O’Bagy came under fire for failing to disclose that she was also a paid contractor for a Syrian rebel front. (She had also lied about her academic credentials.) Within two weeks of her op-ed appearing, she was fired from the Institute for the Study of War, though she was hired two weeks later by Senator McCain as a Senate staffer.
At the very same time that O’Bagy’s career was taking a hit, the narrative that the Syrian “rebels” were all secular moderates was quickly collapsing. An IHS Jane’s study appeared two weeks after O’Bagy’s WSJ op-ed saying that nearly half of the Syrian “rebels” were jihadists or hardline Islamists (as if there were a discernible difference). Meanwhile, the FSA was under serious pressure from the very jihadist groups that Ms. O’Bagy had insisted were not a problem.
Which brings us back to Balanche’s Washington Institute report looking at ISW’s current “rebel” estimates. He continues by saying:
Among the 90,000 “powerbroker” rebels, some 20 percent can be classified as transnational jihadists, 31 percent as national jihadists, 24 percent as political Islamists, and 25 percent as “secularists.” When the thousands of rebels in the non-powerbroker categories are added, the “secularists” become the largest grouping, but they are also the most fragmented and therefore the least effective.
But remember, when ISW says “secularists” Balanche admits that they are not actually secular. The highly subjective sliding scale of “moderate” applied to the Syrian “rebels” by their U.S. supporters to enlist U.S. government support has always been fraudulent.
This is also true of the claims that the “moderate” rebels were in conflict with the terrorist elements operating in Syria. But as I observed nearly a year and a half ago here at PJ Media, the multiple reports emerging from Syria regarding cooperation between the so-called “moderates” and “extremists” forced even the most vocal regime-change cheerleaders to admit that the vast majority of “moderate” Syrian rebels were openly working with Al-Qaeda.
As I’ve noted in the following articles for more than two years, the narratives pushed by the establishment media and the D.C. think tanks about the nature of the Syrian “rebels” have been deliberately false. And as the admission by Balanche shows, the ISW estimates continue to promote that fraud.
Sept. 13, 2014: Yet Another U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Makes Peace with ISIS
July 20, 2016: CIA-Vetted, “Moderate” Syrian Rebels Behead Child Soldier