Which Came First: The Radicalization, the Armed Jihadists, or the Monarchs Supporting “Democracy”?

There have been a series of reports on Syria that culminate in today’s report that most of the arms being shipped to Syria have gone to jihadists.

Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.

There were the reports of a different approach adopted by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with the former preferring to arm Islamists and the latter showing more concern about the consequences.

Another growing problem is a lack of co-ordination between Qatar and the Saudis – the likely subject of Wednesday’s talks in Doha between the Emir and the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar. King Abdullah is said to be growing impatient with the difficulties of the Syrian crisis. According to Syrian opposition activists, the Saudis now sponsor only rebel groups which are at odds with those backed by Qatar and Turkey, which are often linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Qataris are much more proactive than the Saudis,” said one well-placed Arab source. “The Saudis are not interested in democracy, they just want to be rid of Bashar. They would be happy with a Yemeni solution that gets rid of the president and leaves the regime intact.”

Intelligence chiefs from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and France reportedly met in Turkey in early September along with the CIA director general, David Petraeus. But they apparently failed to reach agreement on a co-ordinated strategy.

US officials say the opaque nature of the opposition and the creeping presence of foreign jihadis are behind their pressure on Riyadh and Doha. “They have both been given a yellow light by the Americans,” said a Lebanese minister aligned to the Future movement. “The Saudis see yellow as yellow, but the Qataris have seen it as green.

And rebels are now blaming the delay in receiving arms on their own radicalization.

Majed al-Muhammad, the commander of a Syrian antigovernment fighting group, slammed his hand on his desk. “Doesn’t America have satellites?” he asked, almost shouting. “Can’t it see what is happening?”

A retired Syrian Army medic, Mr. Muhammad had reached the rank of sergeant major in the military he now fights against. He said he had never been a member of a party, and loathed jihadists and terrorists.

But he offered a warning to the West now commonly heard among fighters seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad: The Syrian people are being radicalized by a combination of a grinding conflict and their belief that they have been abandoned by a watching world.

If the West continues to turn its back on Syria’s suffering, he said, Syrians will turn their backs in return, and this may imperil Western interests and security at one of the crossroads of the Middle East.

I suspect–in addition to reporting on this classified intelligence so Mitt can use it in Tuesday’s debate (Sanger explicitly invokes the debate)–what we’re seeing is some preliminary blame-casting for blowback, even as the problems with arming loosely vetted militias becomes apparent in Libya.

Who could have imagined that asking a bunch of conservative monarchs to arm rebels to overthrow an Iranian ally would not result in the flowering of democracy?

All that said, because the blame here is going to be significant, I’m not entirely convinced by Saudi claims they’ve bowed to US caution on arms.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. bell says:

    i continue to wonder about the usa’s role in supplying military arms in this war.. i doubt i am going to read about any of that in the nyt..

  2. bsbafflesbrains says:

    If Democracy was flowering here in the U.S. then these issues would take care of themselves. I think “our” seeds of democracy must be gmo seeds from Monsanto that you only get one bloom from and then they die.

  3. Brindle says:

    The creation of “failed states” in the ME is US foreign policy. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria looks to be the next domino.

  4. mzchief says:

    woo Canada /s:

    Officials at Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office responded to a QMI Agency report Monday about a surge of oil-rich Saudi men wanting to make Canada home – some of whom subscribe to an interpretation in the Qur’an that encourages multiple marriages.

    Under the Criminal Code, polygamy is outlawed in Canada.

    “Polygamy is illegal in Canada. It is contrary to Canadian values and has no place in our country,” said Kenney spokesperson Alexis Pavlich.

    – excerpt from “Officials say Saudi immigrants hiding polygamous marriage status not welcome” (Niagara Falls Review, by Mark Dunn, October 15, 2012)

  5. bell says:

    canucks are a bunch of dumb f’s when it comes to immigration.. it is all about ‘how much money do you have?’ and little much of anything else.. that is how i see it as a westcoast canuck myself.. as long as they have lots of money, it doesn’t seem to matter if they are a large segment of the wahabbi faith, so long as they don’t have an immediate connection to 9-11, lol.. thanks to harper a right wing wacko right up there in the same league as bush 2.

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