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Clinton’s Effort To Build A Syrian Government In Exile Seems Doomed – OpEd

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Already the Syrian opposition’s back biting and emulous factions seem determined to sink Washington’s latest effort. Hillary Clinton is having a last go a putting together a “secularish,” upper-class leadership for the Syrian rebel effort. A swansong?

Washington’s Plan A, which was to create the SNC, went down in dust. By all accounts, Clinton cannot even stand to hear the name, SNC, uttered any longer.

Syria
Syria

Plan B was to set up the US office in Istanbul to meet and take the measure of Syrian militia leaders and local coordinating committee directors. The militia leaders scared Washington and the CIA. The word got out that they were “penetrated” by al-Qaida and Salafi types.

Plan C is now in the making. It is to return to the educated Syrians in the hope of doing a little shake-and-bake. Clinton is reconstituting some sort of US-friendly leadership drawn from elements of the old SNC with generous add-mixtures of Coordinating Committee types, some government defectors, and others who will join. It sounds as if the SNC is boycotting. Michel Kilo has said he will not join. Others are also taking a wait-and-see attitude.

The object of this exercise seems to be to glue some sort of US-friendly educated elite onto the military effort that looks too Islamist for Washington’s taste and not very human-rights observant.

But can this last minute fix possibly work?

This effort is almost identical to US and British efforts of the 1950s to stop Syria from slipping into the hands of the USSR, Nasser and the leftist Baathists.

Eisenhower and Anthony Eden did everything they could in 1956 to force Syria’s urban elites to cooperate in a pro-Western coup, but to no avail. The two largest parties in parliament – the People’s Party of Aleppo and the National Party of Damascus refused to cooperate among themselves in order to avoid revolution . Pro-Western Syrian politicians insulted and fought amongst themselves with such ferocity, that Western diplomats pulled their hair with despair as they sought to keep Syria from going “commie.”

When the coup failed, many of Syria’s leading pro-Western notables were accused of treason and fled the country. In 1957, the US sought to carry out another putsch, this time on its own. The “American coup”, as it was named, was no more successful. Some of the CIA operatives in charge of handling the Syrians are still alive. Additional Syrian politicians sympathetic to the West were forced to flee the country. Destabilized by Washington’s failed coup making, Syria announced the creation of the United Arab Republic only months later. Nasser become president and carried out wide-ranging land reform in order to destroyed the economic underpinnings of the urban notables that had allied with the West.

Today, Washington is again trying to rally the pro-Western elites of Syria into putting their shoulders to a common wheel with America. In 1957, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iraq cooperated in Washington’s efforts for regime change. Today Qatar replaces Iraq, but the line up of states helping the US in its “struggle for Syria” has hardly changed. Other aspects that have not changed are the infighting among Syria’s elites and the general resentment and distrust that Syrians share toward the US . It is hard to be optimistic.



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Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Joshua Landis maintains Syria Comment and teaches modern Middle Eastern history and politics and writes on Syria and its surrounding countries. He writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 3,000 readers a day. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. Dr. Landis regularly travels to Washington DC to consult with the State Department and other government agencies. He is a frequent analyst on TV and radio.

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