By Andrew Bostom
Following significant military successes and diplomatic gains by Syria’s anti-Bashar Assad Sunni Muslim insurgency over recent weeks, Moscow, a key Assad regime ally, announced Tuesday 12/18/12 its preparations for an evacuation of Russian citizens living in Syria.
While the Assad regime’s ruling Alawite minority sect retained a firm hold on their indigenous base in the coastal Syrian provinces, the predominantly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels have seized the northern and eastern border zones, near Turkey and Iraq, respectively, and dominate wide swathes of rural Syria. The continued rebel assault is even advancing on Assad’s seat of power, Damascus, near the western frontier of Lebanon, having just seized the pro-Assad Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, on the southern edge of the Syrian capital.
By Wednesday, the rebels had reportedly captured at least six towns in the central Hama governorate (Latamneh, Helfaya, Kfar Naboudah, Hasraya, Tibat al-Imn, and Kfar Zita), with skirmishes erupting in the city of Hama itself. As of Friday, the Sunni insurgents were besieging Morek, an Alawite stronghold in Hama governorate, a province which contains dozens of Alawite and Christian villages among Sunni towns, igniting fears of increased sectarian violence.
During an interview with Barbara Walters on December 11, President Obama announced the U.S. would formally recognize the recently established Syrian National Coalition of Revolution and Opposition Forces (SNCROF), an umbrella group seeking to depose Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Obama extolled the SNCROF for its inclusiveness, allegedly being open to various ethnic and religious groups, and bonds to local councils participating in the fight against Assad’s security forces. He opined:
At this point we have a well-organized-enough coalition — opposition coalition that is representative — that we can recognize them as the legitimate representative of Syrian people.
Independent analysts sympathetic to the anti-Assad forces, have concluded that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood remains the dominant force in SNCROF, as it had been in the earlier Syrian National Council opposition front. London-based Syrian journalist Malik Al-Abdeh noted:
The Muslim Brotherhood seems to be in the dominant position … However, the West feels compelled now to legitimize the Syrian opposition in whatever guise it may take, simply because of the fast pace of events on the ground in Syria.
Andrew Tabler, cofounder and former editor-in-chief of Syria Today, maintained: “The [Muslim Brotherhood-dominated] SNC [Syrian National Council] is still a major player.” Tabler also expressed this ominous concern:
And that’s just the civil end. The armed groups within the country are not included in this coalition directly. How is that going to work?
Apropos to Tabler’s worry and concurrent with President Obama’s recognition of SNCROF on December 11, the U.S. State Department designated the Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra a terrorist organization, amending the 2004 designation of al-Qaeda affiliate Islamic State of Iraq (AQISI), and declaring there was “sufficient factual basis” to conclude AQISI, under the guise of Jabhat al-Nusra, was operating in Syria. Justifying the designation, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stated the group had claimed responsibility for almost 600 attacks in several cities during the past year, including homicide bombings, which had caused the deaths of “numerous innocent Syrians.” She added:
[Al Nusra] has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition while it is, in fact, an attempt by AQI [i.e., AQISI, Al-Qaeda affiliate Islamic State of Iraq] to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes.
Public Syrian denunciations of the State Department’s formal labeling of Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist group were swift and often fierce, running the gamut from the Syrian opposition website Sooryoon.net, and the mass vox populi demonstrations of anti-Assad Syrian civilian populations, to the SNCROF leadership itself (including comments by SNCROF’s anti-Western, antisemitic, titular leader, Sheikh Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib).
Anticipating the State Department’s 12/11/12 designation of Jabhat al-Nusra as terrorists, Sooryoon.net had posted articles (on December 6 and 7, 2012) which recognized Jabhat Al-Nusra’s efforts in damaging Assad’s regime, while objecting to the motives of the (then) looming U.S. action. Sooryoon.net claimed the U.S. sought to blunt the burgeoning support and gratitude Jabhat Al-Nusra has garnered among the Syrians. Moreover, regarding Jabhat Al-Nusra’s avowed goal of establishing a strictly Sharia-compliant Islamic state following removal of the Assad regime, the Syrian opposition website insisted there was “nothing wrong” with this openly proclaimed aspiration, acknowledging it was shared by multitudes of Syrians, especially members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Sooryoon.net also warned the SNC/SNCROF leadership not to accept Jabhat Al-Nusra’s terrorist designation, while urging vigorous opposition to the U.S. action, and encouraging FSA leaders and members, and all Syrians, to declare their solidarity with Jabhat Al-Nusra. By December 11, Sooryoon.net cautioned the U.S. against intensifying its hostility toward Jabhat Al-Nusra, adding such measures would be counterproductive at any rate, and would swell the jihadist group’s popularity among the Syrian Muslim masses. The website further chastised the U.S. for allegedly missing opportunities to be effectively involved in Syria, and even forewarning that any direct U.S. commitment now would transform the country into an American graveyard.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her subordinate State Department advisers and minions have recklessly eschewed Wafa Sultan’s June 2005 wise, experience-based tocsin of looming calamity. The Clinton State Department also apparently never learned, or chose to ignore, the frank, unchanged truths conveyed in the State Department’s own December, 1947 assessment of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Ms. Clinton’s likely replacement as Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry, judging from his own uninformed statements about the parent Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, will not change America’s delusive and dangerous empowerment of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood as “policy.” Tragically, America seems hell bent on midwiving a post-Assad Muslim Botherhood-ruled Syria.
Read more at PJ Media
Andrew G. Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad (Prometheus, 2005) and The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism ” (Prometheus, November, 2008)
You can contact Dr. Bostom at info[@]andrewbostom.org