Σάββατο, 26 Ιανουαρίου 2013

West's Fears Over Syria Islamists Mount As Coalition Flounders


West's Fears Over Syria Islamists Mount As Coalition Flounders
U.S Gets it Wrong on Egypt Again
PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) -- Western concern over the growing strength of jihadist rebels in Syria is mounting, hindering aid to the moderate Syrian National Coalition opposition and possibly pushing it into the arms of religiously conservative backers, diplomatic sources said. The widely recognised coalition has failed to gain traction on the ground in Syria since being formed in November, its credibility undermined by its failure to secure arms and cash in the battle to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, the coalition's lack of cohesion - it this week failed to form a transitional government - has deterred the West from boosting aid to the group, in particular the guns and ammunition coalition fighters are crying out for. That has left the door open to Islamist groups, funded and armed by wealthy Gulf states and individuals, to become the strongest fighting factions in Syria. 


They command local respect for their effectiveness, but alarm some in the West. On Monday, Western and Syrian coalition officials hope to break the deadlock at a meeting in Paris, amid coalition accusations of broken promises of aid and splits in the West on how to address the Islamist presence in the Syrian rebel ranks. "This meeting is to ring the alarm bell. We have to assure the coalition of our support and the support of the international community," said a French diplomatic source. "We must avoid a government in exile. The objective is to have a direct impact on the ground. Bring value to the Syrians on the ground," the source added. Syrian coalition officials say the best way to make an impact is to provide its poorly equipped fighters with weapons. But Western diplomats are wary of the coalition's disunity, and are mindful of the spread of weapons to Islamists in Syria and across the volatile region. French forces are currently battling Islamists in Mali, the insurgents armed with weapons thought to have come from Libya after the Western-backed 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi. "We have also learnt from experience and we're seeing it in Mali with weapons that came from Libya to the armed groups there now. What we don't want is weapons falling into the hands of the wrong people," the French source said. It would have been easier to arm the rebels had they agreed to form a transitional government, the source added. ISLAMIST INSURRECTION Complicating matters are apparent divisions on how to handle Islamist groups such as the al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the most coherent and disciplined anti-Assad forces in Syria. The United States has proscribed the group as a terrorist organisation, and Britain is understood to share its concerns. "It is a concern that the strongest groupings are Islamist fighters possibly linked to al Qaeda, and that clearly is a vital national interest for us to make sure that does not happen," said a Western diplomat on condition of anonymity. But the Syrian coalition, mindful of alienating a group fighting for Assad's downfall, criticised the U.S. move, while France downplayed the Islamist influence. "There are a multitude of groups and factions, political or military allegiances changing all the time ... we don't believe there can be an Islamist front," the French source said. Meanwhile, there may be pressure on the Syrian coalition to turn to more religiously conservative backers, said mainly to be states and wealthy individuals in the Gulf, for arms and cash in the absence of aid from the West. In the midst of negotiations in Istanbul to form a transitional government, Syrian coalition leader and moderate Sunni cleric Moaz Alkhatib flew to Sunni Muslim Qatar try to secure financial aid, opposition sources said on Sunday. Conservative Gulf backing could make the coalition less inclusive, alienating Syrian minorities such as Alawites, Christians and Kurds and fanning ethno-sectarian violence. Western powers are keen to avoid such an outcome. "One of the main objectives of my diplomatic engagement and those of my Western colleagues is to keep the pressure on the national coalition to expand into the centre ground of Syrian opinion," said the Western diplomat. The coalition has dismissed such concerns, but fears are mounting among Syria's minorities. "A good number of Christians and Alawites don't see themselves represented neither in the regime nor the insurrection which they fear is increasingly dominated by radical Islamists," former senior Syrian military official and prominent defector Manaf Tlas told France's Le Monde newspaper. By John Irish and Mohammed Abbas Writing by Mohammed Abbas.
--------------------------------------------
U.S Gets it Wrong on Egypt Again
(CNN) -- Protests planned around Egypt -- particularly in Cairo's Tahrir Square -- on the second anniversary of the January 25 revolution are expected to be an explosion of dissent, revealing the deep divisions in the country between President Mohamed Morsy and the Egyptian people. Opposition to Morsy's authoritarianism is broader than the world recognizes. In making accommodations for Morsy's government, the United States is -- once again -- out of step with the Egyptian people. Egyptians may not know exactly what they want, but they know what they don't want. Although an effective political opposition has yet to coalesce, Egyptians from all sectors of society are united in their refusal to accept another repressive regime. Egypt is on a collision course. An ever growing, if periodically discouraged, portion of the population opposes the government and Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood, and supports the revolution's goals of social and economic justice, accountable government, and basic freedoms, including freedom of expression and protection of minorities. Yet the government is moving in exactly the opposite direction, with its authoritarian control over political, social, and religious life. The government's investigation of the wildly popular "Egyptian Jon Stewart" Bassem Youssef -- charged with insulting Morsy and undermining his command -- and the forced "retirement" of respected journalist Hani Shukrallah, editor of state-owned Al-Ahram's English-language website, are just two very public examples of the vice tightening on freedom of expression. In fact, the Arab Network for Human Rights says about 24 lawsuits for insulting Morsy have been filed against journalists and activists since his election in June. The regime is trying to put the revolution genie back in the bottle. But it is clamping down on a population that has discovered its voice. In opposition to this repression, Egyptians at all levels are increasingly engaged in politics. A Cairo cab driver -- ever the measure of popular sentiment -- recently debated the failings of the Constitution with a passenger. After reaching the destination, the driver leapt out, grabbed a dogeared copy of the Constitution he kept in the front seat, and pointed to a passage to prove his point to his passenger. The December demonstrations against President Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Constitution, which attracted an even broader segment of the population than those who stood in Tahrir Square in 2011, revealed the broadening chasm between the regime and the people in Egypt. Assembled outside the Presidential Palace were old and young, veiled and unveiled, rich and poor. Whether they arrived in chauffeur-driven cars or whether they marched from Cairo's outlying shantytowns, the hundreds of thousands joined together in their refusal to accept a state that squashed the dreams of the revolution and dictated political, social, and religious behavior. Many call the second wave of the revolution in the fall of 2012 the "Mothers' Revolution." Parents and grandparents went into the streets to protest the divided loyalties in their families between the Islamists (Brotherhood or Salafis) and those supporting a democratic, secular Egypt. In Egypt, secular means freedom from state control of religion, not nonreligious. The clash between these two visions of Egypt -- secular with freedom and social justice, or a religious state run by the Brotherhood with its version of Sharia law -- played out inside families and on the streets. Soldiers protecting the Presidential Palace during the December demonstrations were moved to tears when an Egyptian woman, referring to Morsy, shouted at them, "Why are you protecting this man who is pitting Egyptians against each other?" Mohamed El Gindy, a successful businessman who opposes Morsy and spent much of December camping in Tahrir with the young revolutionaries, has experienced this division within families firsthand. A relative who had joined the Salafis informed him that the extreme Islamist group had put El Gindy at No. 5 on its "hit list," which is widely believed by Egyptians to exist. The relative was unapologetic until El Gindy told him that he might as well put El Gindy's mother on the list, too, since the octogenarian also had joined the street protests. Egypt and its families may be divided, but on one subject, all are united -- in the belief that the United States is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government. Visible in the throngs at the December demonstrations were signs opposing Qatar and the United States -- yes, the U.S. and Qatar were lumped together as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood regime. "This is such a historic opportunity to restore the image of the U.S., but instead it is putting itself in the same position as Qatar. ... And this from President Obama -- so disappointing," Riham Bahi, a professor at American University in Cairo, said, reflecting views heard repeatedly last December in Egypt. Opposition leader and blogger Bassem Sabry was even more blunt: "With the Constitution in play, you are subsidizing an Islamist state." Sabry said he was always pro-U.S. "until the revolution." In addition, the Pentagon plans to proceed with the delivery of 20 F-16 jets to Egypt, a step that looks to Egyptians like a vote of confidence in Morsy. Unchanged since the revolution, U.S. aid policy toward Egypt still makes the military alliance its priority. Two years after the Egyptian Revolution, the U.S. government finds itself again backing an authoritarian regime against the popular will. As January 25 approaches, with massive protests planned against Morsy's government, this is a precarious position for both the U.S. and Egypt. In his second term, Obama should adopt a more agile and informed policy toward Egypt, one that matches the words often heard from the White House -- "The United States always has stood with the Egyptian people" -- with action. By Cynthia Schneider Cynthia Schneider is a professor in the practice of diplomacy at Georgetown University; dean at the School of Diplomacy, Dubrovnik International University; and a senior nonresident fellow at Brookings Institution. She is also a former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands.

Δεν υπάρχουν σχόλια: