The Hubris of Meddling in Syria: Exporting Wahabism From Kabul to Damascus

John Glaser, June 13, 2012

The status quo in Syria is that the rebel insurgency and the Assad regime continue to clash, neither budging, while foreign powers are engaged in an indirect proxy war because the split at the UN Security Council has ruled out any internationally mandated military intervention. The Russians and the Iranians continue to the support the Assad regime and the US and its allies in Europe and the Gulf Arab states are funneling aid and weapons to the fractured opposition fighters. I’ve spent months arguing against not just Western and Sunni Arab meddling, but also the meddling on behalf of the Syrian regime. The reasons are many and you can read a plethora of posts going into why this meddling is prolonging the conflict and is antithetical to the stated aims of the foreign powers, the latter part at least in the case of the U.S. and the Gulf states.

But there is another reason that supporting either side in this civil war is an extremely bad idea. Indirectly intervening can have unintended consequences that go far beyond the immediate ramifications on the ground. And recent history demonstrates this all too well.

Aaron David Miller discusses indirect intervention from the perspective of the Sunni Gulf states:

Turning the Shia-affiliated Alawi regime into a Sunni one that can be influenced would be a tremendous victory for the Gulf Arabs. It would weaken the Iranians and break the exaggerated but still very real threat of Shia encirclement — Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. And that’s why Riyadh is backing the rebels with money and arms and allowing individual Saudi clerics to sermonize about jihad and encourage non-Syrian foreign fighters to carry it out. This, of course has a potential downside. We saw the blowback in Afghanistan, where Saudi-inspired Wahhabi doctrine motivated a cadre of Arabs to fight first against the Russians and then against the West.

U.S.-Saudi interests were similarly aligned back when the Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s. The CIA funneled money to the mujahideen through Pakistan while Saudi Arabia – its Gulf neighbors in lock-step – funneled money, weapons, and actual fighters to join in the insurgency. The unintended consequences of this became so relevant and obvious post-9/11 that the intervention has become lionized as a “seemed-good-at-the-time-but-oh-hell-what-a-screw-up” foreign policy artifact. I can’t imagine anyone in the State Department or in the Saudi monarchy is thinking about how aiding the Syrian opposition might backfire 10 years down the line. The fact that Sunni extremists and al-Qaeda-type militants are a part of the opposition is well known, as is the fact that they have committed serious crimes throughout the conflict.

Aside from the immediate tactical and moral issues with giving support to these fighters, the arrogance of the power-weilding foreign meddlers is a thing to marvel at. Not only do they think they are all-knowing and all-powerful enough to craft and mold a particular outcome pursuant to their unscrupulous interests, but they have the hubris to disregard the possible consequences their interventions may breed far into the unforeseeable future. While making the current conflict worse, they are potentially laying the groundwork for future catastrophes.




31 Responses to “The Hubris of Meddling in Syria: Exporting Wahabism From Kabul to Damascus”

  1. I am very sorry but Antiwar.com does not seem to learn.

    The Syrian government is secular, attempts ot overthrow it by using Wahabist fundamentalist Jihadists will be a disaster as they attack other religious groups or "Apostate" seculars.

  2. It was leaked in the British quality press months ago.

    The Suadis revived the fundamentalist nettworks on behalf the American government who didn't know how to Destabilising Syria.

    There is no doubt these were deliberate leaks from people within the sustem .
    Despite this Antiwar,com continues to recite the official "Narrative" of the Obama-Clinton regime, which helps establish it.

    It is not a "Civil War" nor is belated American"meddling""prolonging theconflict", this is a Destabilisation and Black Op./Covert Op. long planned in advance and in which money at which an Emeror's ransome pales has been invested.

    American articles leaked this IN 2005 AND 2007 leaked this.
    As long as it is not stated the killing and Covert Ops.will continue.

    As Eisenhower said;-
    "It should not be obvious, but if it becomes obvious there should be Plausible Deniability".

  3. The Assads were never SECULAR = On every religious occasion prays in mosque – on any important event surrounds himself with clergy and muftis – Glorified martyrdom and "suicide bombers" that was forced learned on children from early childhood in all schools in Syria to the 12th grade! utilizing poetry and what-have-you! Assads institutes for teaching Quran were annexed to each mosque in Syria where neighborhood children will congregate at their free time! During their dynasty women wearing hijab went up from 3% to over 90% per street currently; even the 7 year old girls started putting on Hijab from 0% to 70% per school currently – Syrians were never like that! I'm sure US embassy has its own observation statistics! To Qom Iran is their best destination!
    ***** Stop pulling that line of being SECULAR…!*****

  4. If "international community" is right about having a Civil War in Syria should not be first and foremost part of any diplomatic efforts a resolution of total ARMS Embargo on all sides of conflict? However we see enhanced techniques of ARMS delivery to so called "rebels" by some of players who are loudest speaking about the need for peace in Syria. It definitely looks that not peace is their main concern, but a victory – in this case definitely a removal of present government of Syria. They evidently do not care what would the next government in Damascus looks like – their only thought is to remove Assad and Allawites from the power.

  5. There is an Arabic phrase to answer a*holes like you with no functioning brain cells, Tihas Teezi

  6. The Assads were never SECULAR = On every religious occasion prays in mosque – on any important event surrounds himself with clergy and muftis – Glorified martyrdom and "suicide bombers" that was forced learned on children from early childhood in all schools in Syria to the 12th grade! utilizing poetry and what-have-you! Assads institutes for teaching Quran were annexed to each mosque in Syria where neighborhood children will congregate at their free time! During their dynasty women wearing hijab went up from 3% to over 90% per street currently; even the 7 year old girls started putting on Hijab from 0% to 70% per school currently – Syrians were never like that! I'm sure US embassy has its own observation statistics! To Qom Iran is their best destination!
    ***** Stop pulling that line of being SECULAR…!*****

  7. Since this is a Destabilisation or Black Op. which has apparantly been planned for years in Wahington, the Obama-Clinton regime will have been arming THEIR paramiltiaries since before it started, sinceyou can't be a para military without arms. It just that "Plausible Deniability", as it is know, has not been abandoned yet.

    News Flash.

    Apparantly it is about to be abandoned and an open US. attack take place.

    What the want is a open pro-US government in Syria, but also one which will allow their ally netanarhu to fulfil his schemes.

  8. Sorry, but up to a year and a half ago, Syria was stable, albeit fragile and ruled by an authoritarian regime, before we started planning with NATO to overthrow the regime and dismember the country with proxies coordinated from the NATO base in Turkey. What was very true was that the minorities in that country, including the Christians were living in peace and were safe, but now they are not only at risk, have also been the subject of massacres by the rebels.

    This is a messy operation for which the U.S. and NATO and the Saudi-Gulf cabal have been responsible, including a phony propaganda war, and it seems it is only the Russians and Chinese right now who are trying to enforce the U.N. Charter and rule of international law.

    This is a national embarrassment that is one more reason the Obama Administration should be defeated, even with the Romney foreign policy team of gangsters in the wings.

  9. James ….!
    1st – Google translate was unable to translate your "Arabic phrase" could you please translate it into English
    2nd – Keep in mind that there are many Christians, Alawaites, Druze and kurds in the opposition – Syrians were secular and tolerant of each other long before Baath regime of 1963, and was not affected by the 1958 and 1975 sectarian wars in Lebanon! In addition Syrian Jews were free to trade, travel and study in universities in Syria long before Baath regime
    3rd – Spokesman of the opposition is a Christian
    4th – Foreign relation secretary of opposition is a woman "and does not cover her head with Hijab"

  10. [...] on US assistance to the Syrian opposition fighters. See here and here for some of why this aid is problematic and likely to exacerbate the conflict. Partly making up the rebels are elements of al-Qaeda and [...]

  11. [...] Blowback seems to be incomprehensible to McCain. The Saudis also happen to be aiding the Syrian rebels, which are largely Sunni. The parallels to Washington’s support for the Afghan mujahideen are all too apparent. [...]

  12. [...] suffering, and blowback be four times as large too? I’m glad he mentions Afghanistan, where our proxy war led the Pakistani ISI to increase tenfold in size and helped empower an entire generation of [...]

  13. Neocon Michael Ledeen has been pushing for invasions/occupations of Middle East countries since at least the Bush Jr administration. Ledeen was especially hot for Syria.

    I will admit the irony that Ledeen couldn't get the U.S. govt to do it during a Bush administration, but had no trouble getting it done during an Obama administration.

  14. Syria appears to be an especial target for the Neo-Cons.

  15. I think the issue with Syria is more than the mainstream media seems to put on. We need to know more facts before we can pass any judgement.

  16. Ohh, but wouldn't Romney just be worse?? Are there any other options?

  17. Michael Ledeen has been pushing for invasions/occupations of Middle East countries since at least the Bush Jr administration. Ledeen was especially hot for Syria.
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