Secretary of State Clinton: Arming Syrian rebels could help al-Qaeda and Hamas

Lessons learned from Libya? Perhaps not, based on further comments below, but the apparent increase in discretion applied to this conflict is welcome. “Clinton: Arming Syria rebels could help Al-Qaeda,” from Agence France-Presse, February 27:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday warned against the US arming rebels in Syria because such a move could inadvertently lead to support for Al-Qaeda and Hamas.

Senior leaders of both groups “” which Washington classify as terrorist organizations “” have expressed their support for the loose-knit collection of Syrian rebels who have taken up arms against the regime of embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

US officials too have expressed backing for those intent on toppling Assad, and senior lawmakers including Senator John McCain have said it’s time to consider arming the rebel groups.

Clinton poured cold water on such action.

“We really don’t know who it is that would be armed,” the top US diplomat told CBS News during a visit to Morocco, as she noted that Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has expressed support for the Syrian rebels.

“Are we supporting Al-Qaeda in Syria?” she said. “Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?”

Clinton said she remains “incredibly sympathetic to the calls that somebody do something” about the crackdown that rights groups say has left more than 7,600 people dead.

“Sometimes, overturning brutal regimes takes time and costs lives. I wish it weren’t so,” she said.

“This is not Libya, where you had a base of operations in Benghazi, where you had people who were representing the entire opposition” to Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi, whose regime fell last year.

Clinton said US officials have met some leaders of the Syrian National Council, but they are not inside Syria proper.

“You’re not going to bring tanks over the borders of Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. That’s not going to happen.”

She said she expected some groups would find ways to smuggle in automatic weapons, but delivering them effectively to rebel fronts would be difficult.

While the US and other Western powers have called on Assad to step down, Clinton said the Syrian strongman has “very, very strong friends, if you look at Russia, China and Iran, who are in there determined to keep Assad because he does their bidding, he buys their arms, he sells them oil.”

Moscow and Beijing have vetoed two United Nations resolutions condemning Syria, which is Tehran’s principal ally in the Middle East.

Clinton also appeared to signal to everyday Syrians that it was time to rise up against the regime.

“What about the people in Damascus, what about the people in Aleppo? Don’t they know that their fellow Syrian men, women, and children are being slaughtered by their government? What are they going to do about it? When are they going to start pulling the props out from under this illegitimate regime?”

Perhaps they don’t like their options, knowing they likely stand only to trade one form tyranny for another, and that further chaos and repression are likely to follow Assad’s fall.

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Comments

  1. says

    http://news.yahoo.com/penn-judge-muslims-allowed-attack-people-insulting-mohammad-210000330.html

    Did you guys really miss this?

    Perhaps Clinton is in a tight spot. KSA and Israel appear to be aiming for Iran this summer and perhaps some deals are being arranged regarding IAF air support and recon assisting KSA in regards to Syria.

    Wikileaks by the way reports in stolen Strafor emails, “Israel has already destroyed all Iran nuclear ground facilities”.

    News to me and likely Iranians…….

  2. says

    It would be asking too much for any politician in the US or UK to learn anything abouit the Arab Revolutions. We have seen how ‘well’ Libya has worked out. Nice one Cameron – you spent over £2 billion helping the Jihadi opposition to oust Gaddafi, and they have repaid it by smashing the gravestones of British servivcemen killed in North Africa during World War II. So much for your new ‘friends’.

  3. says

    It would be asking too much for any politician in the US or UK to learn anything about the Arab Revolutions. We have seen how ‘well’ Libya has worked out. Nice one Cameron – you spent over £2 billion helping the Jihadi opposition to oust Gaddafi, and they have repaid it by smashing the gravestones of British servivcemen killed in North Africa during World War II, in the furore of the burnt Koran pages. So much for your new ‘friends’.

  4. says

    You are All Blind.

    If you all are hiding behind your own fear of “we don’t know what will come next” then you are all condemnded to lead a life of fear and servitude. These are the reasons not to oppose Hitler, Stalin, and the list goes on….woe is me…I don’t know what will follow. When Reagan told Gorbechev, “Tear down this wall!”, he didn’t know what would come next…but oh wow…what a marvelous thing followed.

    Yes, an Islamic curtain will now descend across North Africa and the Middle East as these tyrants fall. But only until Muslims taste the bitterness of their own religion will they finally spit it out as Ali Sina stated so eloquently. The freedom fighters in Libya, Tunisia, and Syria are Muslim, yes, but they know enough to want to be free of a tyrant, and the first impulse to be free of a tyrant is the first impulse to be free. We betray our own ideals of freedom and autonomy by sickeningly backing away and accepting the boot of a tyrant on a human face. Who are you to determine that the Syrians, Libyans, and anyone else should live under the heel of a tyrant while you enjoy freedoms that you never earned but were given? Thank God there were those in our own history of the United States that did not back away from their vision of slaves not just being freed, but being given equal rights. Thank God they didn’t say, “Hey, don’t campaign for freedom for the Black slaves, for we don’t know what might happen!”

    Cast your lot my friends, but history will be your judge….I choose to fight for freedom, I have and will again.

    Lloyd Freeman
    LtCol USMC

  5. says

    The right solution – arm BOTH sides!!! Not w/ sophisticated weaponry that can later be used effectively against Israel, but w/ lower grade weaponry useful for their civil war.

    Have the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Libyans pay thru the nose for weapons shipments to the Sunni rebels in Syria, as well as for transporting Pali, Saudi, Egyptian, Libyan, Lebanese Sunni & other fighters to Syria to take on Assad. If possible, get all fighters from Hamas, al Aqsa & Islamic Jihad moved to Syria to fight on whichever side they prefer.

    At the same time, do the same thing through other countries – maybe Russia & China – to support the Baath regime. Have the Iranians & Iraqis pay thru the nose to get the same sort of weapons, and have all Hizbullah fighters moved out of Lebanon into Syria, so that they too can bat for the regime.

    That way, no worries about weapons ending up w/ Hamas & al Qaeda – instead, all Hamas & al Qaeda fighters, or as many of them possible, can go off to fight in Syria. Let that war spill into Iraq, if needed. That is the best solution to the jihad problem.

  6. says

    Freeman, you are mistaken on one key point. You assume that the only reason people topple tyrants is the yearning to be free. Recent history should have given you a clue. Freedom is a reason, but not the only one, for fighting tyrants. As we have seen in Egypt, a more likely reason is the desire to become a tyrant oneself.

  7. says

    Chris,

    Interesting. So all of these people were protesting Mubarack because they wanted to replace him with another tyrant? So all of the protesters were hoping to replace Mubarack and become tyrants themselves…thousands of them? I’m not aware of any protest/revolution in history where the objective of the people(the group as a whole, not opportunist individuals) was to become a tyrant themselves. How do you come to this conclusion? What you probably mean is some protest movements result in replacing one tyrant with another. This is what happened in the Russian Revolution and has happened elsewhere, but it was never the intent of the Russian peasant to trade one tyrant for another. Usually a society is broken from repression and the people finally turn into the streets. Now they may not know what is coming after the protest/revolution, but they do know that they can’t take anymore of the current tyrant. I will concede on one issue which you did not address; there are other reasons for protesting, but I don’t think any of them entail any desire for another tyrant. Perhaps the people just want more food and a better standard of living and don’t care that much about freedom. In any case, they want to improve their lives due to the repression of a ruling tyrant. I you believe a portion of mankind deserves to continue to living under the repression of tyrants, that’s up to you. I choose to side with those who desire a better life. Don’t worry, you are in good company. Stalin killed millions, and we in the west stood idly by…no biggie.

  8. says

    I know of four revolutions which went on to become Tyrants

    Bolshevik
    Chinese
    Cuban
    Iranian

    All those folks were protesting for the freedom to replace one TYRANNY with another.

  9. says

    Marion,

    You need to study your history. What you mean to say is all of the revolutions/protests that you reference resulted in the establishment of a tyrannical/dictatorial system. But there is no causal connection that you can make that the people who brought about the revolution were actually seeking another tyrant(yes, Trotsky and Lenin wanted to seize the levers of power…but the peason/peasants in the street simply were trying to improve there own position by protesting the Czar’s rule…do you see the distinction?). In Iran in 1979, the Iranians were protesting the horrible policies of the Shah, who was running the Iranian economy into the ground. Khomeini came in and took power in a move very similar to the Bolsheviks actually, but the people never had intended for their protests to result in a sharia state. Being a Muslim country and Islam having been repressed under the Shah, many Iranians probably thought Islam might be part of the solution…they were dead wrong of course, but its a stretch to say that all the Iranians in the streets back in 1979 wanted a tyrannical regime to replace the Shah…that was the reason they were in the streets in the firt place.

    How you can say that all of these people WANTED tyrannical regimes is a very condesending and uninformed opinion of why people protest and fight to topple tyrants. Perhaps you are confusing the two different groups usually participating in a protest, the averge mass of people; and those factions who seek to exploit revolutionary opportunities to seize power. Yes, many protests and revolutions result in another tyrant seizing power, but logic does not dictate that this is the case because the people were looking for another tyrant. Like yourself, most people want to be free(at least within the prism of their cultural and religious prism), we should support those people who fight to be free.

    Let’s bring this closer to home. Assad is killing his own people. I assume by your and Chris’ position, you approve. So the difference is this. If you were walking down the street and saw a bunch of thugs beating up a helpless child, you would walk on by thinking, “That kid does not deserve his freedom, I will not help him; freedom only applies to me and my kind”. There is no other way to describe your view of the Syrians.

    Lloyd

    Thanks.

    Lloyd

  10. says

    Freeman wrote:

    You are all blind…

    The freedom fighters in Libya, Tunisia, and Syria are Muslim, yes, but they know enough to want to be free of a tyrant, and the first impulse to be free of a tyrant is the first impulse to be free.
    ……………………….

    Not necessarily. Certainly, some of the some of the protesters early on in Tarir Square really did seem interested in at least a more generally democratic and free society.

    But these people”like Wael Ghonim”have been long since marginalized.

    Do you really believe that the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood are primarily interested in freedom rather than imposing Shari’ah law?

    It was just the same in Iran thirty years ago. There were some genuine democrats”as well as some socialists and communists”who wanted the Shah gone. But it was the Mullahs who took power, and have been running the “Islamic Republic of Iran” as an oppressive theocracy ever since.

    More:

    How you can say that all of these people WANTED tyrannical regimes is a very condesending and uninformed opinion of why people protest and fight to topple tyrants.
    ……………………….

    Well, let’s see’since the revolution, over 75% of the vote in Egypt has gone to “Islamist” parties that openly want to impose Shari’ah.

    Here are the results of a poll from last year:

    Another 60 percent of Egyptians want to return to Sharia law, which may include restrictions on women’s rights and hand-for-a-hand style of justice.

    http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-04-26/politics/29956763_1_egyptians-peace-treaty-muslim-brotherhood

    Neither of these lead me to believe that the majority of people in Egypt want anything we would recognize as freedom.

    I feel genuinely badly for those who hoped that the ouster of Ben Ali, and Mubarak, and Gaddafi would lead to genuine democracy”but this is not what the majority wants at all.

    Again, I feel badly for the few lovers of democracy in these places”but many more will be cheering the return of Shari’ah.