Saturday, November 3, 2012

"If Clinton & Co. think they are going to find Syrian allies to steer in a pro-US direction, they are going to be disappointed!"

[Guardian] "... But what happened at Saraqeb is about more than the prevalence of jihadis in Syria's civil war. The "Free Syrian Army" is a nice concept. In practice, however, the fighters against Assad are a loosely affiliated patchwork of militias, with no unified command.The behavior of these irregular units varies widely, as do their sources of funding. Some groups have received a trickle of communications and non-lethal aid from the likes of the US. Others have received weapons from states like Qatar or right private donors in fellow Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia.
Reliance on Syrian exiles
The influence of the exiled Syrian National Council – which Secretary Clinton declared a failure Wednesday when she announced that the US was withdrawing support – over fighters on the ground is near zero.
So in that sense, the Obama administration is right to look to spend its money and political influence elsewhere. But if Clinton or anyone else in the government thinks they are going to find Syrian allies to steer it in a pro-US direction, they are going to be disappointed.
On Wednesday, Clinton dismissed the utility of working with Syrian exiles on shaping events in Syria. “There has to be a representation of those who are on the front lines fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom," she said.
Yes, certainly, those are the people who will shape a post-Assad Syria. And the failure of the US reliance on exiles in Iraq, such as Ahmad Chalabi, to secure US interests, hardly needs repeating.
Look at Libya
But you have only to look to Libya to understand how difficult it is to exert influence after a triumphant rebellion in states where politics has merely been another word for patronage for decades, where the lust for revenge is strong, and where the rebellion itself is backed with Islamist militants who not very long ago were fighting US forces in places like Iraq and Afghanistan...
 Next week, Clinton heads to Qatar for a discussion on how regional powers will work to reshape the "leadership structure" (in her words) of the uprising. She'll be bearing a list of names of Syrians the US wants promoted to the senior ranks.
The choice of Qatar is an interesting one, given that monarchy's steadfast support for Islamist militias first in Libya and now in Syria. These are not the type of groups the US wants to see strengthened in either place. Qatar, by its actions, clearly disagrees, and has been far more aggressive and responsive in funneling support to them. Qatar does not share the US alarm at the jihadi factions fighting against Assad..."

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