Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Dangerous Mess in Syria Grows Murkier

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Dangerous Mess in Syria Grows Murkier

Article excerpt

Syria's murky, multi-level conflict continues to grow worse. So does public confusion here in the West as the U.S., British and some European media keep depicting Syria's civil war as a simple passion play pitting the evil Assad regime in Damascus against mostly unarmed democratic protesters.

We saw this same one-dimensional, deceptive reporting recently in Libya that was designed to support foreign intervention. It's as incomplete today about Syria as it was in Libya which, by the way, is turning into a dangerous mess.

My assessment based on reliable primary sources in Washington, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon:

Support for the Assad family's Ba'ath regime, now in power for 41 years, is clearly slipping. But important sections of the armed forces, the 17 intelligence and security agencies, the powerful Alawite minority, most Syrian Christians, tribal elements and much of the commercial middle and upper class still back the Assads. In spite of intense Western efforts to overthrow him, Bashar Assad, a mild-mannered former eye specialist, is still hanging on.

The U.S., Britain, France, and some conservative Arab allies have funded and armed the Syrian rebellion from its start a year ago. In fact, the U.S. has been funding anti-Assad groups since the mid-1990s. Arms and munitions are said to be flowing to Syria's rebels through Jordan and Lebanon. Extreme right-wing groups in Lebanon, funded by Western and Arab powers and Israel, are playing a key role in infiltrating gunmen and arms into northern Syria.

The Sunni Muslim Brotherhood has once again risen against the Alawi-dominated regime in Damascus. In 1982, this writer was outside the Syrian city of Hama when government forces crushed a Brotherhood uprising, killing an estimated 10,000 people and razing part of the city with heavy artillery.

Enter the jihadis. Recently, small numbers of al-Qaeda veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have entered Syria and are using car bombs to try to destabilize the government. Current al-Qaeda leader Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri has called for all-out war against the Assad regime.

Interestingly, the U.S., France and Britain now find themselves in bed with the very jihadist forces they profess to abhor-but, of course, whom they used in Afghanistan in the 1980s and, lately, in Libya. …

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