Syria crisis: First CIA-trained rebel unit about to join fighting against Assad regime, says Obama

Obama’s position on Syria has been quite consistent since the start of the Syrian conflict. His administration has supported a gradual weakening of the Ba’thist regime through support for the Syrian rebels. As such, it seems that history is repeating itself in the Middle East: in the 1980s the Ronald Reagan administration created and supported Islamist groups in its fight against former Soviet Union that led to the formation of Al Qaeda and Taliban movements. Back then, support of Saudi Arabia was central in boosting the role of Jihadis in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As it happens, in Syria, since 2011, we have witnessed a similar convergence of interests and actors (with the additional role of Qatar and Turkey). As the Syrian regime pointed out and many media sources corroborated, fundamentalist Islamist groups have established a strong base in Syria, committed in their ideological war against a secular (infidel) regime. The Free Syrian Army has time and again expressed their own weaknesses vis-à-vis Al Qaeda linked groups, who are more organized, well funded and more ideologically committed to overthrowing Assad and the Ba’th Party rather than interested in a negotiated peace.

In the US it appears that most opponents of military action against Syria point out the strong role of Al Qaeda in Syria and find it contradictory for the US to either directly or indirectly support a group whose destruction has been the main goal of the limitless ‘war on terror’. It has to be seen in the coming days whether the popular opposition across the US can translate into a similar vote within the Congress.

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About angelajoya

Assistant Professor, Middle East Political Economy, at the University of Oregon. Currently writing on the Egyptian revolution and the Syrian crisis.
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