Charlie Wilson’s War Redux. Why fix it if its not broken? The old habit of engaging with the nuttiest and most fanatic opposition elements to do the heavy lifting and then being stuck with them later as the dynamic of the word “resistance” is now turned against the hand that once fed them. It can be said that Yitzhak Rabin created Hamas by following the same twisted strategy in Gaza….
David Ignatius,(Washington Post) see link at end…
The United States and its allies are moving in Syria toward a program of covert support for the rebels that, for better or worse, looks very much like what America and its friends did in Afghanistan in the 1980s….
The parallels are spooky. In Syria, as in Afghanistan, CIA officers are operating at the borders (in this case, mostly in Jordan and Turkey), helping Sunni insurgents improve their command and control and engaging in other activities. Weapons are coming from third parties (in Afghanistan, they came mostly from China and Egypt; in Syria, they’re mainly bought on the black market). And finally, a major financier for both insurgencies has been Saudi Arabia.
There’s even a colorful figure who links the two campaigns: Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who as Saudi ambassador to Washington in the 1980s worked to finance and support the CIA in Afghanistan and who now, as chief of Saudi intelligence, is encouraging operations in Syria.
What does this historical comparison suggest? On the positive side, the Afghan mujahedeen won their war and eventually ousted the Russian-backed government. (Yes, that’s another eerie parallel.) On the negative, this CIA-backed victory opened the way for decades of chaos and jihadist extremism that are still menacing Afghanistan, its neighbors and even the United States.
The Obama administration, to its credit, recognizes the dangers ahead. That’s one reason Obama’s approach to this war has been cautious and, according to critics, half-hearted and ineffective. Because the way forward is so uncertain, the administration has been taking baby steps. But it’s the nature of these wars that a little involvement leads to more, and still more.
What does history teach us about such interventions that may be useful in the Syrian case? Here are several points to keep in mind as the covert war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ripens:
●The United States should be wary of supporting a Saudi strategy that inevitably is self-interested. The Saudis understandably would prefer that Sunnis who oppose autocratic rule should wage their fight far from the kingdom; Damascus is a far safer venue than Riyadh.
● The United States should be cautious about embracing the Sunni-vs.-Shiite dynamic of the Syrian war. Rage against Shiites and their Iranian patrons has been a useful prop for the United States and Israel in mobilizing Sunni opposition against Assad, who as an Alawite is seen as part of the Shiite crescent. But this is a poisonous and potentially ruinous sectarian battle, the kind that nearly destroyed Iraq and Lebanon and is now plunging Syria into the inferno. The Saudis want to fight Shiites, yes, and further from home than in Bahrain, or in Qatif in the kingdom’s eastern province. The United States should not endorse the sectarian element of this conflict.
●The United States should work hard (if secretly) to help the more sensible elements of the Syrian opposition and to limit the influence of extremists. This policy was ignored in Afghanistan, where the United States allowed Pakistan (aided by Saudi money) to back the fighters it liked — who turned out to be among the most extreme and dangerous. America is still trying to undo the mess caused by that exercise in realpolitik. Don’t do it again.
●Finally, the United States should subtly play the tribal card, which may be as crucial in Syria as it was in Iraq. The leaders of many Syrian tribes have sworn a blood oath of vengeance against Assad, and their power is one reason the engine of this insurgency is rural, conservative and Sunni. But Iraq showed that the tribal leaders can be the best bulwark against the growth of al-Qaeda and other extremists.
What’s scary about Syria is that al-Qaeda is already fighting there, in the hundreds. Cells in Mosul and other parts of northern Iraq are sending fighters across the Syria-Iraq border, with the jihadist pipeline now operating in reverse. Arab intelligence sources tell me that the Syrian opposition is laudably battling al-Qaeda’s influence: The opposition killed an al-Qaeda fighter named Walid Boustani, who tried to declare an “emirate” in a town near the Lebanese border; they also demolished a cell that raised al-Qaeda’s black flag near Bab al-Salameh, along the Turkish border. Sunni opposition fighters aren’t necessarily al-Qaeda fanatics, in other words.
The rebels fighting Assad deserve limited U.S. support, just as the anti-Soviet mujahedeen did. But be careful: This way lies chaos and extremism that can take a generation to undo if the United States and its allies aren’t prudent.Read More:http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-syrias-eerie-parallel-to-1980s-afghanistan/2012/09/05/90652434-f781-11e1-8398-0327ab83ab91_story.html
(see link at end)…How much longer can we pretend that we are not part of a secret proxy war in Syria, since the Government has admitted funding the rebels (‘Free Syrian Army’) with communications equipment, and amid scores of accounts of British Special Forces soldiers training them on the northern border inside Turkey?
Despite the above, the extent of continuous reporting from the UK press is disgracefully limited. It’s as though editors on ‘foreign desks’ are asking themselves “yes, but what’s the British story in Syria? How does it affect us?”. The answer almost seeped out of a staged TV interview this week in Syria when Bashar Al Assad, Syria’s own despot in residence, used the word “global” when talking of the war – which has so far slaughtered 25,000 mainly innocent civilians.
If that reference won’t make foreign editors sit up, then perhaps the British media will report the implications of this global war after the final shots are fired in Syria and they become visible on our own streets. Why is the subject of British jihadists fighting there, for example, almost a no-go area? After we congratulate ourselves for assisting the rebels, those disillusioned, thrill-seeking British Pakistanis who hid amongst them will return to the UK full of idealistic verve and determined to wreak havoc – exactly as Algerian and Egyptian jihadi fighters returned to their own countries from the Afghan battlefield in 1989, and created Al Qaeda.
Perhaps this explains why I keep hearing here in Beirut a lot of chatter about MI6 spooks hunting for them. But if our own security services are worried about these young men returning to UK to kill and maim in the name of a “holy war” – supported by unemployment and housing benefits, presumably – then why aren’t more hacks doing their job and putting them in the picture?
Or is it that the picture is too fuzzy for our foreign editors back home?
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2198294/Syria-Crisis-Payback-dragged-Syrian-war–swell-Al-Qaedas-ranks-UK.html#ixzz25rHpaGl6