U.S. aligns with al Qaeda rebels in Syria

The United States government proclaims it is committed to all-out war against the radical terrorists of al Qaeda, who supposedly are as great a threat as the followers of Hitler and Stalin in earlier eras.  Because of this threat, our government claims unprecedented powers to eavesdrop on citizens and create “kill lists.”  Yet to achieve certain objectives, such as the overthrow of the governments of Libya and Syria, the U.S. government aligns itself with the very forces it considers an existential threat.

tedrall-syriaThere have been three troublesome factions in Middle East politics—Sunni Muslim theocrats, such as al Qaeda and the Taliban, Shiite Muslim theocrats, such as the ayatollahs in Iran, and secular dictators, such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi in Libya and Bashar al-Assad in Syria.  The problem is that a U.S. attack on any one of these factions strengthens the other two.  I wouldn’t want to live under any of the above, and, all other things being equal, I would be glad to see them out of power.   But I imagine a lot of people living in the Middle East think it is better to live under a tyrant than to suffer foreign invasion, civil war and a society reduced to chaos.

Split DecisionThe invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam empowered the Shiites, who are the majority of the people of Iraq.   Shiites also were an important part of the Northern Allliance, which helped overthrow the Taliban.  So the U.S. invasions of these two countries actually strengthened the position of the Iranian ayatollahs, who were part of George W. Bush’s so-called “Axis of Evil.”

In the same way, the overthrow of Libya’s Qaddafi and the arming of the rebels in Syria has strengthened al Qaeda, a long-time enemy of Qaddafi and Assad.

What Could Go Wrong?While the U.S. government supports the overthrow of governments that have nothing to do with al Qaeda, it maintains its alliance with Saudi Arabia, where al Qaeda is said to still have financial backers and whose government sponsors the fanatic, intolerant Wahhabist or Salafist sect of Islam, to which al Qaeda gives its allegiance..  The U.S. government may fire drone missiles into villages in Yemen, but for various reasons, including oil, it won’t touch Saudi Arabia.

Likewise, the U.S. government is allied to the government of Pakistan, whose Inter-Service Intelligence agency (its version of the CIA) was the original backer of the Taliban.  The U.S. may fire drone missiles into tribal areas of Pakistan, but it won’t and can’t go after Taliban backers in the ISI.

What to do?  As a first step, maybe we Americans should just stop intervening in the affairs of countries we don’t understand.

Click on the following links for background.

How Obama and al Qaeda Became Syrian Bedfellows by Shamus Cooke for Counterpunch.

Is the administration’s new policy benefiting our enemies in the war on terrorism? by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker in 2007. The Bush administration policy described by Hersh is the policy of the Obama administration today.

Al Qaeda Plants Its Flag in Libya by Sherif Elhelwa for Vice magazine a year ago.

Syria: proxy theater of war by Karim Emile Bitar for Le Monde diplomatique.   Russia’s stake in its Syrian client regime goes back a long way.

Qatar ‘playing with fire’ as it funds Syrian Islamists for global influence by Colin Freeman for the London Telegraph.

The Syrian War Spills Over by Patrick Cockburn for the London Review of Books.

Stay Out of Syria! by David Bromwich for the New York Review of Books.

Syria as a Prisoner of Western History by Gregory Harms for Juan Cole’s Informed Comment web log.  [6/4/13]

Russia Sends Arms to Syria to Reassert Its Role by Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick in the Washington Post.  [6/4/13]

I confess to a history of bad judgment.  I thought the invasion of Afghanistan was justifiable and wise.  I thought some good might come from the invasion of Iraq.  I was of two minds about helping rebels overthrow the government of Libya.  All wrong, three times in a row.  I hope I have learned from experience.   I don’t see anything in the situation in Syria in which U.S. intervention would produce a better outcome than previous interventions.

If we in the United States want to help people in what we call the Greater Middle East, there are plenty of ways to do it that don’t involve flying killer drones.

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2 Responses to “U.S. aligns with al Qaeda rebels in Syria”

  1. Al Qaeda, the White House, and prophecy | The Ugly "Truth" Site Says:

    […] U.S. aligns with al Qaeda rebels in Syria […]


  2. xymalf | Al Qaeda. Says:

    […] U.S. aligns with al Qaeda rebels in Syria (philebersole.wordpress.com) […]


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