Beltway Confidential

Contra John Kerry, Syria opposition is not becoming more moderate

|
Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll,John Kerry,Syria,Analysis

Making the case for President Obama's plan to bomb Syria Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the opposition to the Assad regime was becoming more moderate. But fresh reports from Syria show that Kerry's picture of the conflict just isn't true.

At Tuesday's hearing, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., asked Kerry, "It seems like initially, the opposition was maybe more Western-leaning, more moderate, more democratic, and as time has gone by, it's degraded, become more infiltrated by al Qaeda ... is that basically true?"

Kerry responded, "No, that is -- no, that is actually basically not true. It's basically incorrect. The opposition has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership and more defined by its adherence to some, you know, democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority-protecting constitution, which will be broad-based and secular with respect to the future of Syria. And that's very critical."

But Tuesday night, Foreign Policy reported:

As the United States moves closer to taking military action against the Syrian government, the leadership of the mainstream armed opposition force has chosen a curious time to appear to be on the verge of unraveling. Known generically as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), this assortment of mostly secular defecting Sunni Arab officers and mostly Islamist volunteers has attempted several reorganizations. The most recent of these is now seriously threatened by a resignation threat from senior commanders....

On August 22, four of the five front commanders threatened to resign from the SMC, promising to break "red lines" and work "with all forces fighting in Syria," a clear reference to the war's growing Salafist-Jihadist contingent. The statement was read by Colonel Fatih Hasun, who is the commander of the SMC's Homs Front and the deputy chief-of-staff, that is to say, Idriss's deputy and the most senior officer inside the country. Hasun added that rebels would no longer respect demands by outside powers that they not attempt to take over government-controlled chemical weapons sites....

As things stand now, in the eastern provinces of Raqqa and Deir al-Zour the Salafists and Jihadists dominate and the FSA's military council structure is essentially nonexistent. In Homs, Dara, and Aleppo they are close to parity, with a more modest presence in Damascus, Idlib, and northern Latakia. Were Hasun's announcement to become reality, it would leave the SMC with only a fragment of an organization outside the southern province of Dara, where Southern Command head Bashar al-Zoubi was the only one of the five commanders not to join the statement.

You can read the whole Foreign Policy article directly contradicting Kerry's testimony here.

View article comments Leave a comment