[Marxism] Syrian rebels hate the USA

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 11 18:08:26 MST 2012


NY Times December 11, 2012
Seeking Allies Among Syrian Rebels, U.S. Instead Finds Hostility
By ANNE BARNARD and HANIA MOURTADA

BEIRUT, Lebanon — As the United States tries attempts to rally 
international support for the Syrian rebellion, trying to herd the 
opposition into a shadow government that it can recognize and assist, on 
the ground in Syria it faces an entirely different problem: Much of the 
rebellion is hostile toward America.

Frustration mounted for months as the United States sat on the 
sidelines, and peaked this week when it blacklisted the Nusra Front, one 
of the uprising’s most effective fighting forces, calling it a terrorist 
organization. The move was aimed at isolating the group, which according 
to Iraqi and American officials has operational ties to Al Qaeda’s 
franchise in Iraq.

But interviews with a wide range of Syrian rebels and activists show 
that for now, the blacklisting has appeared to produce the opposite. It 
has united a broad spectrum of the opposition — from Islamist fighters 
to liberal and nonviolent activists who fervently oppose them — in anger 
and exasperation with the United States. The dissatisfaction is over 
more than just the blacklisting, and raises the possibility that now, 
just as the United States is stepping up efforts to steer the outcome in 
Syria, it may already be too late.

More than 100 antigovernment organizations and fighting battalions have 
called online for demonstrations on Friday under the slogan, “No to 
American intervention — we are all Jabhet al-Nusra,” a reference to the 
group’s Arabic name.

Syrians across the political spectrum say the United States allowed more 
than 40,000 people to die in the 21-month conflict. Supporters of the 
Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, call the uprising a creation of the 
West and its allies. His opponents excoriate the United States for 
failing to provide arms and leaving them to perish — and have begun to 
express a growing wariness of American involvement in Syria’s political 
future.

“Anti-American sentiment is growing, because the Americans are messing 
up in bigger ways lately,” said Nabil al-Amir, an official spokesman for 
the rebel military council for Damascus and its suburbs, one of the 
committees that the United States and its allies are trying to coax into 
a unified rebel command. With every step to correct earlier mistakes, he 
said, “they make a bigger mess.”

Liberals activists blame American inaction for giving jihadists a 
leading role in the conflict. Rival rebel groups have declared 
solidarity with the Nusra Front, and Islamists have congratulated it on 
its new distinction. And seemingly everyone accuses the United States of 
hypocrisy for not putting a terrorist label on Mr. Assad, whose forces 
have killed far more civilians than any rebel group.

The United States scrambled on Tuesday to contain the damage, issuing a 
more complete justification for blacklisting the Nusra Front and 
stressing that the group has killed Syrian civilians in more than 40 
suicide bombings. And it announced a new wrinkle: It is also 
blacklisting pro-government militias accused of killing civilians as 
part of “the Assad regime’s campaign of terror and violence.”

The militias, a Treasury Department statement said, would include what 
it called “the Shabiha” and Jaish al-Sha’bi, or the People’s Army, which 
it said was created with the help of Mr. Assad’s allies Iran and the 
Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and was modeled on Iran’s Basij militia.

But it may be hard to define who exactly is blacklisted under the 
heading of “shabiha,” which is not the name of an organization but a 
catchall term for pro-government gangs. The People’s Army is a nascent 
group, an apparent effort to turn those informal militias into a 
paramilitary organization.

Criticizing America has become a favorite sideline of antigovernment 
activists. Some have even questioned the sincerity of President Obama’s 
recent warning that Mr. Assad would be crossing “a red line” if he used 
chemical weapons on Syrians.

At a recent demonstration, solemn-eyed boys posed for a photograph that 
spread online with the title “Red line or green light?” They held a 
poster of a traffic light, emblazoned with an American flag, shining 
green for Mr. Assad as he drives a truck laden with chemical weapons.

Demonstrators in Kafr Nabl, a northern Syrian town known lately for its 
witty antigovernment slogans, quickly mocked the blacklisting with a 
poster that showed a cartoonish Mr. Assad, with jutting ears, a 
diabolical grimace and a bloody dagger in each hand, standing over a 
pile of corpses. One of the dead held a black banner with an Islamic 
slogan as Mr. Obama, his back to the massacre, pointed at the banner and 
said, “Terrorist!”

One exile opposition leader, Burhan Ghalioun, even suggested that by 
rushing under American pressure, the newly formed opposition body, the 
Syrian National Coalition, had undermined its own credibility, promising 
and then failing so far to form a shadow government ahead of 
international talks in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Wednesday.

As opposition leaders gathered in Marrakesh on Tuesday, Farouk Tayfour, 
a senior official of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a powerful force in 
the coalition, called the United States’ blacklisting move “very wrong 
and too hasty.”

An activist who declined to give his name for safety reasons said, “All 
populations resent those who abandon them and then come at the critical 
moments to steal their victory.” .

An activist in Douma, outside Damascus, said flatly, “America supports 
the regime.”

The blacklisting of the Nusra Front cost America support in the northern 
province of Idlib, said Ahmed Kadour, an activist there who opposes 
Islamist fighting groups. He said the United States was trying ineptly 
to solve a problem it created.

“If they had intervened and helped us from the very beginning,” Mr. 
Kadour said, “we wouldn’t have reached this point.”

One of the sorest points for some Syrians is that a unified military 
command formed last week at American behest includes Islamist battalions 
that fight alongside the Nusra Front and share much of its ideology.

The distinction, some believe, is that Nusra Front has never offered to 
come under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army, saying it does not need 
or want Western aid, while the other groups are backed by American 
allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

A secular civilian activist in Idlib said that one such group, Ansar 
al-Sham, is responsible for many abuses that have soured some Syrians on 
the rebels, like the commandeering of bakeries and hospitals, but 
described the Nusra Front as “professional and meticulous.”

The activist said that Saudi Arabia was the go-between connecting Ansar 
and the United States. He said he suspected the decision to blacklist 
the Nusra Front but not Ansar was either “sheer idiocy” or part of “a 
political deal.”

“The Syrian population now hates America a lot,” said an activist who 
posts online material for the Damascus military council, part of the 
American-backed rebel structure, whose nom de guerre is Mosaab Abu 
Qatada. It was not always that way, the activist added. “When Obama said 
that Bashar should leave, some people here held American flags and sent 
him their greetings,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s all lies and hypocrisy.”

Michael R. Gordon contributed reporting from Washington.




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