Is Barack Obama arming Al Qaeda?
Oct 16, 2012 15:43 Moscow Time
On Sunday, the New York Times published a lengthy article by David E. Sanger “Rebel Arms Flow Is Said to Benefit Jihadists in Syria" that has drawn a wide response in the international media.
The story, citing unnamed American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats, states that most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster.
"That conclusion, of which President Obama and other senior officials are aware from classified assessments of the Syrian conflict," the story goes on, "casts into doubt whether the White House’s strategy of minimal and indirect intervention in the Syrian conflict is accomplishing its intended purpose of helping a democratic-minded opposition topple an oppressive government, or is instead sowing the seeds of future insurgencies hostile to the United States."
One American official familiar with the outlines of those findings told the Times that "The opposition groups that are receiving most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it."
The intricate point is that the US is not sending any arms to the rebel groups directly, and only provides intelligence and other support for shipments of secondhand light weapons like rifles and grenades into Syria. The shipment itself is orchestrated by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
This may turn into a sensitive issue on the eve of the November 6 election and become embarrassing for the US President Barack Obama who is tied neck-and-neck with his Republican rival Mitt Romney. Arming jihadist militants associated with al-Qaeda instead of true democrats is something that the American public is not ready to swallow.
On the other hand, as the Times points out, the story "also calls into question the Syria strategy laid out by Mitt Romney." In a recent speech at the Virginia Military Institute, Mr. Romney said he would ensure that rebel groups "who share our values" would "obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters and fighter jets." So now it is time for Mr. Romney either to acknowledge that his values are shared by the jihadists, or to admit that the weapons are going to the wrong guys.
Indeed, the revelations made by the paper do not reveal anything new.
The fact that the closest American allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are supplying arms to the most radical Islamist elements is no surprise. On the contrary, it would be surprising if the two countries with the most oppressive radical Islamist regimes were supplying arms to proponents of democracy. And it is highly doubtful that the US was not aware of the fact from the very beginning. When control of the "Great Middle East" is at stake, one should close one's eyes to the true nature of allies, as long as they support one's fight with enemies like Syria or Iran.
Then, what kind of secular opposition "sharing American values" was the US looking for in a war that from the very beginning bore the nature of a religious one. The Sunni majority bolstered and instigated by Saudi Arabia and Qatar is waging an all-out war against all other religious groups in Syria, and not just the Assad family and not even the Shiite Alawite minority. While it is an acknowledged fact that al-Qaeda is the most powerful tool used by the most radical factions of Sunni Islamists, it is no wonder that the arms shipments orchestrated by the Saudis and Qataris go directly to al-Qaeda affiliated groups.
As for al-Qaeda itself, too much has been said that back in 1980s, it was created by the US as a CIA-affiliated militant group fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The fact that later it turned arms against its creator is the result of an obvious miscalculation by the latter.
But as the events in Libya have shown, the US hasn't learnt anything from its past mistakes. The campaign aimed at overthrowing Gaddafi and eventually tearing him to pieces, so enthusiastically supported by the US and its NATO allies, finally resulted in the murder of the US ambassador.
Now, the US is stubbornly trying to drop the same brick on its own toes.
And it hardly matters whether the Times story will help Obama or Romney. The one whom the US voters elect in November, will inevitably be Obamney, which means that the policy is not going to change.