How to Make Syria Much, Much Worse

John Glaser, April 17, 2012

James Harkin argues at Foreign Policy that the internationalization of the conflict in Syria has exacerbated the civil strife there. Part of the problem lies with the Syrian National Council – the exile group allying itself with the opposition fighters – and their “orchestrated effort to turn Homs into a Syrian Benghazi — the eastern Libyan city whose imminent destruction by Muammar al-Qaddafi’s forces provided the catalyst that sparked the international intervention in Libya last year.”

Harkin has been in and out of Syria for years and was last there in February and from his own experiences and direct sources inside Homs, he explains how many of those stories were simply fabricated. With an eye toward the Libya example, “the exiled Syrian opposition seems to have aimed to exaggerate the civilian losses in the city into the claim of genocide in order to push buttons within the international community.” And the media, he argues, largely cooperated.

With regards to the international response, Harkin sees outside support for the opposition fighters to be counterproductive at best:

The SNC’s apparent decision to accept money from the Gulf States to pay salaries to Free Syrian Army guerrillas sounded breathtakingly arrogant, and makes for shockingly bad politics. Not only does lend credence to the conspiracy theories peddled by the government that the uprising is the handiwork of foreign agitators; it risks splitting the indigenous opposition movement and empowering exactly the kind of Sunni extremist groups who are most likely to stoke sectarian tensions.

This criticism of intervention by the Gulf States holds for the West as well, as I’ve argued many times. While countries like the U.S. and Britain claim to be supplying the Syrian opposition fighters with non-lethal aid, empowering the more militant religious extremists over the reform-minded political activists is still likely. As Marc Lynch has argued, if foreigners arm the rebels “fighting groups will rise in political power, while those who have advocated nonviolence or who advance political strategies will be marginalized.” Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations also explained recently that “there are Saudi Salafis, as well as al-Qaeda elements, and others who are included toward more extreme versions of religiosity present in that conflict. Given that we don’t really know who the Syrian opposition is composed of in detail, how wise is it to then bring down another regime and put in its place yet another Muslim Brotherhood-led government?” Lynch has also argued previously that outside intervention would vindicate the Assad regime’s accusations and “would only invite escalations from Syrian regime forces.”

Harkin ends with a hard-hitting quip:

Who knows: If the unthinking drift toward creating neo-mujahideen in Syria and Iran (a strategyadvocated by Foreign Policy’s own James Traub) continues, following a decade in which radical Sunnis became America’s Public Enemy No. 1, Osama bin Laden might have to be posthumously converted back into the freedom fighter America saw him as in the 1980s, marching into battle to drive out one of the last vestiges of godlessness in the Middle East.

I argued the same back in February when the first reports of possible al-Qaeda fighters in Syria came forth. Unfortunately, to say that the leadership in the U.S. is explicitly advocating merging U.S. policy with al-Qaeda’s tactical plans is not enough to stop interventionists in their tracks.




12 Responses to “How to Make Syria Much, Much Worse”

  1. Right. Agreed. Can anyone remember Afghanistan blowback – 9/11? That hurts the United States – its economy. There are dissident movements in Saudi Arabia, what would happen if other countries where shipping in weapons there?

  2. Getting involved in a Civil War half way around the world…hmmmm…. At this point, especially considering what "we've" been reduced too, I guess I'd be at least somewhat happy with a strait answer about why "we" want to get involved in the first place. Obviously the fake talking points about feigned concern for the "people of Syria" are complete BS/fantasy.

    Were the "people" of Benghazi and Misrata more important than the "people" of Bani Walid, Tawergha, and Sirte? Based on NATO's actual operation in Libya–they obviously were; despite the fake rhetorical talking points bandied about by the Obama Administration and the "leaders" of the other NATO nations which, in turn, were endlessly circularly discussed (perhaps even mindlessly believed) in and among the ninnies in the lame-stream media and the navel gazing "think-tankers"… If that's the case (one set of "people" are more important than another set), why?

    This situation is Syria doesn't seem all too different to me in the sense "we" will be choosing "sides" of an internal conflict if we get involved militarily. If we do choose sides, why are "we" doing so and how does it benefit me personally? Or at least why does Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton think it will benefit me personally (which I'm sure is not even a consideration and would be somewhat of a rhetorical/non-serious question)?

    Can I just get a strait answer Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton? Can you at least give me that courtesy as a taxpayer and voting citizen of the US? And even if I didn't vote or pay taxes, or even care about this issue, I think a strait answer (even if the question wasn't asked in the first place) would be a reasonable expectation before 'engaging' or even asking the UN for a pretext to engage…. I guess it's just an "unrealistic" expectation though…

  3. [...] the rest here: How to Make Syria Much, Much Worse « Antiwar.com Blog April 18th, 2012 | Tags: civil, exile, harkin, internationalization, james-harkin, NATIONAL, [...]

  4. The article today by James Harkin looks like a fence-mending exercise and Disinformation. The liberal internationalist "Interventionists" are set up as the fall-guys.

    Also to preserve Plausible Deniability as it is know at all costs, with all the talk of Civil War, internal conflicts and Opposition movements.

    The fact remains that both Coloured Revolution revolutionary movements were organised from outside the country, and it was planned for many years before from 2005 with funding on a lavish scale from 2007 which makes an Emperor's ransom pale.

    The Council on Foreign Relations was itself heavily involved.

    This is a Geopolitical scheme to take control of the Middle East with Syria as the last hold-out.

    Of course, there is something else they don't want to come out, that unfortunate alliance with Islamist fundamentalist orgnisations, set up for them by the Saudis and Quatar, to do the fighting. Bringging back Al_Quada if it got out would create extreme political consumerresistance with the public in Western countries.

  5. [...] Glaser, Assistant Editor at Antiwar.com, discusses his article “How to Make Syria Much, Much Worse; John McCain and Joe Lieberman’s meeting with leaders of the anti-Assad resistance; [...]

  6. [...] out of provoking Iran beyond the limits of human endurance? Why are we even thinking about intervening in Syria, when we can see the horrendous results of our support for the Libyan rebels – and the [...]

  7. The short term interest by the US is to sell more weapons and kill more people under the guise of
    Globalist "Humanitarianism,"

    The long term interest is successful first strike on Russia on the best possible terms for the US.

    Russia recognizes this and as a result Syria and Iran have become non-cakewalk proxy wars for the US and NATO. Those along with the ongoing actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

  8. [...] Glaser, Assistant Editor at Antiwar.com, discusses his article “How to Make Syria Much, Much Worse; John McCain and Joe Lieberman’s meeting with leaders of the anti-Assad resistance; [...]

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  10. Does the Muslim world really want to see a unipolar world?

  11. [...] Glaser, Assistant Editor at Antiwar.com, discusses his article “How to Make Syria Much, Much Worse; John McCain and Joe Lieberman’s meeting with leaders of the anti-Assad resistance; compelling [...]

  12. The US is committed to democracy, and is against the oppression of all citizens of the world. Syria is being repressed by the current regime.