Wednesday, August 29, 2012

'Syria’s rebels are not yet worthy of our trust'

"... To judge by the performance of the main Syrian opposition groups to date, it is by no means clear that they can overcome their differences to form a united front. And even if they did succeed in putting together a provisional government, it is unlikely that its agenda would be one that has much appeal for the West.It is sensible to assume that al-Qaeda’s claims about playing a leading role in the struggle to overthrow Assad’s regime are exaggerated. But the presence of its cells of suicide bombers, with their distinctive black and white flags, on the rebels’ front lines certainly does not inspire confidence that post-Assad Syria will be to the West’s liking. This is one reason that all the major Western powers – including France – have refrained from arming the rebels. We should also remember that the majority of those participating in the anti-government rebellion are Sunni Muslims who support Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that was brutally suppressed by the former president, Hafez al-Assad, when it attempted to overthrow his government in 1982. The Muslim Brotherhood might not pursue the same hateful agenda as the fanatics of
al-Qaeda, but it is highly unlikely that the establishment of an Islamist government in Damascus would make Syria any better disposed to the West than it is under the current regime.
Indeed, the prospect of a second Muslim Brotherhood government taking root in the Arab world is one of the reasons that Egypt’s newly elected president Mohamed Morsi will be looking forward to his visit to Iran later this week, when he will be discussing the possibility of finding a regional solution to the Syrian conflict.
With avowedly Islamist leaders such as Mr Morsi seeking to determine the political outcome in Damascus, it certainly makes sense for the West to find out how the Syrians view their own destiny before making any rash commitments about no-fly zones and the like. And it is why Mr Hollande’s proposal, plausible and level-headed though it may sound, should be treated with extreme caution."

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