|Snubbing the Real Syrian Democratic Movement|
Yahoo News reported on August 2, 2011 that “Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, met this morning with members of the U.S. based Syrian opposition.” According to Sherkoh Abbas, president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNA-S) and a founding member of the Syrian democratic opposition group known as the Syrian Democracy Council (SDC), the “opposition members” Clinton invited are associated with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Abbas contends that his group of pro-Western democrats seeks to create a federal democratic Syria that would enfranchise all segments of Syrian society, would strive for peace with Israel, disassociate Syria from Iran and respect Lebanon’s sovereignty, but has been shunned by Clinton and the Obama administration.
It is perhaps not surprising to see the Obama administration snubbing pro-American allies and pandering to those nations and groups who are clearly anti-American. This past February, Obama told President Mubarak of Egypt – a country which, under his rule, had been a U.S. ally – that “he must go,” but has refrained from demanding that President Bashar Assad — an ally of Iran, a sponsor of terrorism, and an enemy of the U.S. — must also go. Nor has the Obama administration/State Department recalled its ambassador.
The Palestinian news agency, Maan, reported on February 2, 2011 that:
Obama, it seems, couldn’t grasp the Syrian people’s rage against Assad, nor feel the pain of the Syrian people with the cold-blooded murder of thousands of their countrymen and women by the Assad regime.
With atrocities too glaring to ignore, and the resistance to the Baathist regime increasing rather than subsiding, Hillary Clinton has woken up and decided that the Obama administration must react. The recognition of the opposition and condemnation of the killings has been, in fact, mere lip service and contradicts her assertions made on March 28, 2011 as reported by Bloomberg News Radio that “the elements that led to intervention in Libya – international condemnation, an Arab League call for action, a United Nations Security Council resolution – are not going to happen with Syria, in part because members of the U.S. Congress from both parties say they believe Assad is a reformer.” It would be more accurate, however, to say that it was the Obama administration that considered Assad to be a “reformer.” Moreover, both the Arab states and the U.N. condemned the atrocities in Syria. And, while Khadafy’s Libya has not endangered American troops, Assad’s Syria has actively allowed Arab-Muslim terrorists to cross the Syrian border into Iraq where they have attacked U.S. personnel.
The hypocrisy embedded in the Obama administration’s choices speaks volumes. The Huffington Post reported on February 14, 2011 that:
Under Obama’s proposal, released Monday, the State Department’s Democracy Fund would be cut by 21 percent from its current $140 million appropriation, leaving it with $111 million for fiscal 2012. Subsidies for the National Endowment for Democracy, a private nonprofit that focuses on spreading democracy, would be cut by 12 percent, from $118 million to $104 million.
The Obama administration also reduced funding for democracy and governance programming in Egypt by more than half from $50 million in 2008 to $20 million in 2009.
Sherkoh Abbas believes that the U.S., “working with Salafi groups, and the Turkish government, would create an opposition in Syria that is strictly Islamist, and thus serve Turkish economic interests in Syria, and keep the Kurdish issue as dormant in Turkey as well as in Syria.” He continued:
By placing the U.S. behind such political parties as the Muslim Brotherhood, the U.S. will lose touch with the real opposition on the ground, which seeks democracy, peace with its neighbors, economic stability, guided by a pro-Western outlook.
Abbas asserted that only a fraction of the Syrian people belong to political parties and that the MB, aided by the Islamist Turkish government, seeks to hijack the Syrian revolution.
“The Obama administration,” says Abbas, “is doing nothing to support the Syrian people’s quest for freedom and democracy, and for the idea of a federalized Syria, which could reduce the influence of the MB, isolate Hezbollah, and contain the threat of Iran in the Middle East. In our view, the only people who will benefit in maintaining the current regime in Syria are Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.” So, why doesn’t the Obama administration support regime change in Syria or provide support for democratic groups such as the Syrian Democracy Council? Abbas believes that the Obama administration has leveraged its policy on Syria by giving Turkey a free hand to sort things out in Damascus and Aleppo.
Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, boosted by another decisive electoral victory earlier this year, has developed hegemonic ambitions for the region and beyond, and has assumed the mantle of protector of Sunni Islam. In the current upheaval in Syria, Erdogan (according to Asia Times):
made a startling claim that what happens in Syria is an “internal affair” for Turkey and not a foreign policy issue, given the 850 kilometer border between the two countries and their deep cultural and historical links. This is the first time Erdogan has hinted Turkey might intervene in Syria. It wasn’t one of those intemperate outbursts for which he is well-known. Erdogan intended it as a calculated affront to the Syrian regime and he had the Sunni Muslim Arab audience in mind.
Unlike President Obama, Sherkoh Abbas’s vision for Syria, under the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), would be most endearing to Americans. As he points out:
What we want is a stable, secure democratic and federal Syria, a free-market economy, peace with Israel and a country friendly towards the West. The current centralized Baathist government has proved that it is the cause of unrest, not only in Syria, but in neighboring countries and to the world as well. Syria, moreover, cannot be a stable state as long as the second largest ethnic groups – the Kurds – are marginalized and disenfranchised. If the SDC were to be in a position of power in Syria, we would respect Lebanese and Iraqi sovereignty, and we will guarantee security and peace to Israel.
Both houses of Congress, as well as the American people, must take the Obama administration to task for its policy choices. The Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should initiate immediate hearings on the State Department’s exclusion of the democratic opposition in Syria. The American people must be clear on where their country’s policy makers stand and are leading this country