The recent question that US Secretary of State had put to her at congressional hearings on Wednesday, “Are we supporting Al Qaeda in Syria?” is indeed a legitimate one. Speaking to the same audience, Mrs. Clinton made an even more stunning confession. It not yet quite clear to Washington what the Syrian opposition really is. Mrs. Clinton also admitted that the situation with the Libyan opposition one year ago was much better as the US authorities could at least meet the members of the Libyan Transitional Council and even ask them tough questions. Obviously, with the Syrian opposition the US administration has not yet been offered such a luxury.
These revelations put the American assurances that the outcome in Syria will be quite different from the Libyan one in an entirely new light – namely, that the Syrian outcome may be even worse. This may be true despite the fact that the Libyan outcome can hardly be called inspiring. A UN report from February 29, 2012 states that “former Libyan rebels, some of whom have been accused of torturing detainees, still hold about three-quarters of the people they arrested during the country’s civil war.”
So much for the “national reconciliation” and “democracy building” by the new rulers of Libya – despite all the “tough questions” that Mrs. Clinton had for them. And what can be expected from the Syrian opposition which Mrs. Clinton recently called “the representative of the Syrian people” without ANY questions asked?
“For some reason, the American administration chose as its sole partner the most radical group of the Syrian opposition, the Syrian National Council,” Alexei Pushkov, the chairman of the Russian State Duma’s international committee, said at a press conference in Moscow after his visit to Syria. “There are two other opposition groups based in Syria proper, but the West still prefers the radicals, who have reported links to Al Qaeda and do not shy away from Al Qaeda’s methods, such as suicide bombings. The US is in the same boat with Al Qaeda – this situation looks bizarre to me. ”
It may indeed look bizarre, but the words Al Qaeda in connection with the Syrian National Council (SNC) were pronounced by none other than Mrs. Clinton. A New York Times report from Doha, Qatar, where the representatives of various SNC groups met, reports that “the men at the Four Seasons in Doha ranged from the various Islamist representatives with suits, ties and neatly trimmed beards to the one Christian on the executive committee, a longtime university professor in Belgium who wandered around in flip-flops.”
The fact that the Islamists were in suits obviously seemed to the NYT’s reporter so encouraging that he bemoaned the fact that “organized Islamist groups were more thoroughly suppressed in Syria than in Egypt and their leaders are less well known.”
Obviously, in the NYT’s view a little more publicity is just what the Islamists need now. In Egypt the “less suppressed” Islamists already achieved global fame ransacking the Israeli embassy and bringing the Christian community there to the brink of mass emigration. Quite an impressive result, but “concerned” Western intellectuals and some members of the US government are obviously interested in seeing what the “more suppressed” Syrian Islamists will be able to deliver.
The French “warrior-philosopher” Bernard-Henri Levy, who last year was pivotal in bringing about the recognition of the Libyan Transitional Council by his friend the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, is already busy thinking up plans of “support” for the Syrian rebels. His plans include creating safe havens on Syrian territory for opposition fighters, where they would be able to rearm themselves with Saudi and Qatari weapons while Western aviation would provide the air cover.
These plans might look like a mad dream of a modern-day Savonarola, if it had not been for the fact that in 2011 in Libya Western powers followed Levy’s plan word for word. And their knowledge of the Libyan opposition was even more fragmentary than their knowledge of the Syrian opposition. At least that is what Mrs. Clinton says.
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