U.S. Secretly Backed Syrian Opposition Groups; TV Station May Have Ties To Syrian Muslim BrotherhoodBy
The Washington Post has reported that WikiLeak cables show that the U.S. State Department has secretly financed Syrian opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV station whose news director may have a brother with ties to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. According to the report:
The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.The London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow the country’s autocratic leader, Bashar al-Assad. Human rights groups say scores of people have been killed by Assad’s security forces since the demonstrations began March 18; Syria has blamed the violence on ‘armed gangs.’ Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria. The channel is named after the Barada River, which courses through the heart of Damascus, the Syrian capital.The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad. In January, the White House posted an ambassador to Damascus for the first time in six years.
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In 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported on moves by the U.S. Government to reach closer relations with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
In 1982 Hafez Assad, the father of the current Syrian President, launched massive military action against an uprising by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in the city of Hama. As a result of this action, large parts of the city were destroyed resulting in an estimated 20,000 deaths. Numerous Syrian Muslim Brothers fled the country and joined the global jihadist network and, until recently, there was no public evidence that the the remaining elements of Syrian Brotherhood leadership in exile were interacting with the global Muslim Brotherhood. This appeared to have been changing in the wake of the 2009 Gaza crisis when a previous post discussed a U.K. Gaza “victory celebration” that featured a list of participants that included Ali Sadruddin Bayanouni, the head of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in exile living in London, together with global Brotherhood leaders such as Kemal Al-Helbawy and Rachid Ghannouchi. Another post noted that Bayanouni said in a TV interview that he had met with global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi in Doha and that a report by a private forecasting group suggested that Qaradawi was helping to mediate a “rapprochement” between the Syrian Brotherhood and the Syrian regime.
For a comprehensive account of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, go here.
For a comprehensive account of Islamist activities in Syria, go here.