Hillary Clinton is wrong on Syria: No secularists in the opposition


WASHINGTON, August 14, 2014 — Hillary Clinton is putting forth the self-serving claim that “there were secularists” in Syria who, had America properly assisted them, would have been so successful that we wouldn’t be dealing with the Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq today.

How she could be more wrong on the subject is beyond imagination. Policy experts ranging from those in the intelligence community, mainstream news field reporters and human rights observers are, in the majority, opposed to such an assessment.

READ ALSO: Hillary Clinton’s twisted take on Syria and Iraq

“My sense is that there are no seculars,” said Elizabeth O’Bagy, of the Institute for the Study of War, who made numerous trips to Syria to interview rebel commanders. The New York Times’s Ben Hubbard wrote last year:

Of most concern to the United States is the (al) Nusra Front, whose leader recently confirmed that the group cooperated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and pledged fealty to Al Qaeda’s top leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s longtime deputy. Nusra has claimed responsibility for a number of suicide bombings and is the group of choice for the foreign jihadis pouring into Syria.

Another prominent group, Ahrar al-Sham, shares much of Nusra’s extremist ideology but is made up mostly of Syrians.

Proof of the mythology of secular elements within Free Syrian Army (FSA) is found in a study produced by by IHS Jane’s, which found that “nearly half of the 100,000 rebel fighters seeking to oust dictator Bashar al-Assad were either jihadists or hardline Islamists with a similar worldview. An estimated 10,000 fighters belong to Jabhat al-Nusra, and another 30-35,000 fighters belonged to hardline Islamist factions.”

By contrast the Western-backed FSA has an estimated  45,000 fighters under its command – and as we have seen, these are also dominated by Islamists.

The FSA consisted of various brigades that were a recruiting lure for jihadists, such as the “Osama Bin Laden Brigade” of the Souqour Dimashq (Hawks of Damascus) Battalion. While there may be internal clashes between Islamist insurgents, there is a universal goal held by all these factions: war on infidels. The FSA notoriously participated in the atrocities against Christians in Syria.

Accounts furnished by Syrian Christians to the Voice of the Martyrs organization document mass murders and atrocities committed in several towns in Syria. A U.N. Independent Inquiry on Syria concludes, “Entire communities are at risk of being forced out of the country or of being killed inside the country.” Human Rights Watch filed a report in September 2012:

Armed opposition groups have subjected detainees to ill-treatment and torture and committed extrajudicial or summary executions in Aleppo, Latakia, and Idlib, Human Rights Watch said today following a visit to Aleppo governorate. Torture and extrajudicial or summary executions of detainees in the context of an armed conflict are war crimes, and may constitute crimes against humanity if they are widespread and systematic.

Typical of the collusion between the FSA and Al Qaeda is this account from the Telegraph U.K.:

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, rebel groups, a mix of the extremist Jabhat al-Nusra and the more moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA), attacked with full force. “First they took a brick factory owned by a Christian guy, who is now missing,” said the resident. “Then at around 5.30am, a car bomb detonated at the checkpoint at the entrance to the village.

“Some of the rebels entered a home near the checkpoint belonging to Yousef Haddad, a Christian. They tried to force him to convert to Islam.” Christians, who make up approximately 10 per cent of Syria’s population, have increasingly become targets in the conflict as sectarian-minded foreign jihadists gain influence in the opposition ranks. Almost a third of the Syriac Christian population has fled the rebel-held northern town of Hassakeh after Christians became targets for kidnappings and assassinations.

Prominent rebel leader Jamal Maarouf of the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF), seen as moderate by the west, admitted to The Independent that he carries out joint operations with Al Qaeda and has no problem with them; he said, “this is a problem outside of Syria.”

READ ALSO: We need a President with better optics and who won’t do “stupid stuff”

Experts on the Middle East are not on the same page with Hillary. The Project on Middle East Political Science symposium observes that most often supporting rebels with outside aid does nothing other than prolong conflicts and multiply casualties, not to mention decreasing, not increasing the likelihood of settlement between the combatants. Syria’s civil war, according to the University of Maryland’s David Cunningham, has the attributes that most strongly refute the concept of external support being successful.

The author of an article published in the New York Times, “Islamist Rebels Create Dilemma on Syria Policy,” notes that “Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government.”

Various reports filed by Reuters correspondents have acknowledged that the concept of the “moderate” FSA is mostly fiction and in fact that the Free Syrian Army is dominated by Islamists. The behavior of FSA combatants destroying Christian churches and religious art in communities across Syria, such as the smashing of statue of the Virgin Mary in Idlib by Omar Gharba, a Wahhabi cleric and FSA member, shatters such illusions of ‘moderates’ and ‘secularists’.

Finally then, we come back to the obvious connection between our support, training and equipping of jihadists in Syria and the exact same tactics and leadership of the Islamic State in Iraq. Saddam al-Jamal, leader of the FSA Eastern Front and a member of the FSA Staff Board or Supreme Military Council, is now a principal commander in the Islamic State.

Whether all this is due to some complex bid for expansion of control of the Middle East by international bankers and globalists or merely attributable to careless strategy or sheer incompetence, the fact is that training and supplying terrorists in Syria has led to a collapse in Iraq with heartbreaking cruelty, genocide and a monumental security threat to the West.

Hillary is not alone in her opportunistic advancement of an alternate universe premise of ISIS being a result of neglect rather than deliberate malfeasance. We’re hearing the same from the usual neo-con suspects, including Lindsay Graham, Dick Cheney and John McCain. What is truly ironic is that all of them favored an active involvement of the U.S. against Assad and the Syrian government.

“How many more have to die before you recommend military action?” Sen. McCain asked Gen. Dempsey and Mr. Panetta, “and did you support the recommendation by … then-Secretary of State Clinton and then-head of CIA, Mr. Petraeus, that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria?”

McCain, along with Hillary and Senator Graham, wanted to assist the rebels in Syria, now they want to launch an all out war against these very same elements in Iraq.

The uncomfortable truth is that quite possibly if we hadn’t supplied suspected Islamist elements in Syria with training and assistance, Assad would have defeated them by now and ISIS would be a damaged force unable to spread death and terror throughout Iraq.

But now, after all these high stakes bets that have gone bad for both the Bush and the Obama administrations, we’ll have to go in and clean up after ourselves. Sun Tzu, in his journal of national military strategy, some 1,500 years ago, said: “if you have to fight a war, end it quickly or you will bankrupt the nation.”

Too late – that ship has already sailed.

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  • Policy Wonk

    The Syrian rebellion was instigated in 2011 by covert operations of CIA and MI6 in Hama and other Syrian cities. In Hama, epicenter of revolution, operatives marked all Christian homes, just as ISIS has in Iraq. Street thugs were paid to carry signs saying, “Christians to Beiruit; Alawites to the grave!” On order, mobs swarmed from mosques and drove Christians and Alawites from Hama. 70,000 religious refugees sought safety in Damascus. The religious fanatics in Hama
    were the “moderate rebels” described by U.S. Ambassador Ford, a truly sinister figure, who began the false narrative of “moderate rebels.” They were no more “moderate” than the Nazis
    who rampaged against Jews in similar fashion under Adolph Hitler.
    President Assad is the protector of Christians and the best defense against ISIS. I support Assad.

    • RGZ_50

      excellent sleuthing PW. Yes, at this point, I’d have to say that had we done nothing more than merely keep our noses out of the Syria situation completely and stayed out of Assad’s way, he would have destroyed the jihadist networks and the emergence of ISIS/ISIL would have been stillborn. Of course, the other aspect of the equation is how America propped up the al Maliki regime and in doing so, alienated the Sunni population of Iraq. Incompetence or deliberate sabotage / treachery. Either way, our own government is an active national security threat.

  • Gale Hawthorne

    Where’s Biden hidin’? Wasn’t he supposed to be some sort of Middle East expert?

  • George Kato

    What a mess.

  • Gale Hawthorne

    What a mess.

  • Todd Anderson

    To be honest, Obama’s claim that ISIS is equivalent to a junior varsity basketball team seems a bit delusional.