The recent appeal of the Syrian National Council for a joint Western-Arab military intervention in Syria puts the United States, NATO and their allies before a very serious dilemma. Since sending troops to the area with the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq not yet finished appears to be out of the question, the only possible solution is supplying the rebels with arms. But whose hands are these arms going to fall into? The rhetorical question recently asked by US State Secretary Hillary Clinton: “Are we supporting Al-Qaeda in Syria?” is getting a more and more affirmative answer.
The French daily Le Figaro yesterday came out with a detailed analysis of the situation on the ground in Syria which confirms the State Secretary’s worst suspicions. “Thanks to its collaboration with the Iraqi intelligence services the CIA managed to infiltrate some of the rebel groups which crossed the border between Iraq and Syria,” Le Figaro reports with reference to a close associate of the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. “On the photos, the CIA people recognized some of the mujahideen they had been searching for in Iraq.” During the much publicized fighting in Homs, a rebel stronghold, the Iraqi agents spotted a lot of the fighters previously active in the so called “Islamic Emirate of Iraq,” the local al-Qaeda franchise, Le Figaro reports. American intelligence expert James Clapper and Israeli anti-terrorism experts expressed concern over the “Salafist imprint” in Latakia and Idlib, the two cities in north-western Syria, where the anti-government rebels transferred their operation after their defeat in Homs.
Salafism is the most reactionary current in modern Islamism, advocating strict observance of medieval Islamic norms and “war against the infidels.” It is often associated with al-Qaeda.
Since autumn 2011, Iraq became one of the main routes for foreign fighters’ infiltration into Syria. Professor Adel al-Kayar, a Baghdad-based scholar of militant Islamism, says that among the infiltrators one can see not only Iraqis, but also Saudis and Kuwaitis. The veterans of the recent war in Libya are being shipped to Syria via Turkey and Lebanon. In Iraq, most of the “volunteers” leaving for the war in Syria are Sunni radicals, who view their “jihad” against the Syrian president Bashar al-Asad as a part of their anti-Shia crusade in Iraq. Assad is reported to have a good relationship with Iran, a Shia-dominated country.
So, can the United States indeed rely on such “allies” as these ones? Iran, despite its professed Moslem radicalism, did not attack other countries and was not involved in the 9/11 bombings in the United States. The vast majority of terrorist acts against the American citizens in the last 20 years were committed by Sunni radicals from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Persian Gulf emirates – the very states who now ally themselves with the United States in a bid to destabilize al-Assad’s regime.
The appetites of the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council show no sign of subsiding. It puts the West before the final yes-or-no option. “We demand from the Arab and Western countries to begin a military intervention to protect peaceful civilians,” RIA Novosti news agency quotes SNC’s spokesman George Sabra as saying at his press conference in Istanbul. “We demand the creation of humanitarian corridors and a no-fly zone over all of Syria.”
So, despite all the previous impassioned objections of the American and European diplomats, the situation is developing according to the Libyan scenario. From impassioned rhetoric to a no fly zone, from a no fly zone to arms supplies for the rebels and a direct foreign intervention. This time, however, the action is taking place at a location much closer to hotbeds of Islamist activity than Libya.
“I am afraid, American authorities may become hostages to their own media rhetoric and supply the opposition with arms stopping short of an immediate intervention,” said Yevgeny Satanovsky, the head of the Moscow-based Institute for Middle Eastern Studies. “The rebels will need Western arms since Assad managed to strike a deal with Kurdish PKK party and thus make the arms supplies from Iraq and Turkey more problematic. However, most of the arms in the near future will be coming from the Gulf states and from such countries as Bulgaria and Rumania. The fact that these arms are Soviet-made will not deter the rebels or their Saudi financiers. The rebels are quite familiar with this kind of weapons.”
0So, there appears to be no happy ending for the Syrian conflict. Russia and China are alone in their calls for a peaceful settlement via negotiation. And there are too many players not interested in any kind of dialogue.