John Kerry Pledges $60 Million More To Syrian Opposition Dominated By Muslim Brotherhood


U.S. media is reporting that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged an additional $60 million in aid to Syrian opposition forces that include heavy representation by the Muslim Brotherhood. According to an L.A. Times report:

February 28, 2013, 6:05 a.m. ROME — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged an additional $60 million in aid to Syrian opposition forces Thursday, including food and medical support directly to armed rebels for the first time but turning aside their demand for weapons. Kerry, on his first foreign trip as America’s top diplomat, said that the extra assistance would help ‘the legitimate voice of the Syrian people,’ who have been trying in vain for nearly two years to topple President Bashar Assad. Kerry said Assad had ‘long ago lost his legitimacy…and must be out of power.’ The $60 million more than doubles the amount that the Obama administration has so far given to the political opposition in Syria, and, in a policy shift, some of the aid will be funneled directly to armed rebels for the first time. The food and medical supplies for the fighters, however, fall far short of their repeated requests for weapons and ammunition, which the U.S. has balked at sending for fear that they might wind up in the hands of Islamists who have joined the battle against Assad. The Obama administration also declined to provide more defensive gear such as bulletproof vests and armored vehicles. ‘We express our commitment to helping the Syrian people in order to achieve their goal to live in a free and a safe and a just society. Their goal is our goal,’ Kerry told reporters in Rome, following a conference of international diplomats and members of Syria’s fractious civilian opposition coalition. Syrian opposition leaders immediately expressed disappointment that Kerry did not move further toward the direct provision of weapons and other military aid to the rebels. ‘It’s good but not good enough,’ Saleh Mubarak, with the opposition Syrian National Council, told Al Jazeera English after Kerry’s comments. There had been reports before Thursday’s session that Washington might be moving to provide the Syrian rebels with some nonlethal military equipment, such as body armor and armored vehicles. The U.S. has given $54 million in aid to the political opposition and more than $350 million in humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees. Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, appearing with Kerry, said that a game changer was needed to resolve the intractable and bloody conflict in Syria. ‘The suffering of the Syrian people is forcing us to go above and beyond the efforts that have been made up to now. We must be able to reach a turning point,’ he said. ‘Seventy thousand victims are a huge weight on the conscience of the international community. We can no longer allow this massacre to continue.’ Flanking Kerry during his appearance in Rome was Moaz Khatib, who heads the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, an umbrella group formed last year under prodding from Washington and other allied governments. 

Read the rest here.

post from November reported on the formation of the new, broader-based National Coalition that included members from the Syrian National Council (SNC). A MEMRI report on the the National Coalition discusses the failure of the group to weaken the Muslim Brotherhood influence in the opposition. The NYT had earlier reported on efforts by the Syrian National Council (SNC), a group with heavy Muslim Brotherhood participation,  to resist the unification initiative. A post from late August reported that a third individual was identified who is tied to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and who is also a part of the SNC. Previous posts had noted that the SNC includes at least two other known members of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood- Louay Safi, a leader in the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and Najib Ghadbian, a board member of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID). The relationship between the SNC and Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi should also be noted. In addition, a Carnegie Middle East Center report indicates that Moaz Khatib, who heads the National Coalition, is himself quite close to the Muslim Brotherhood:

In ideological terms, al-Hasani is close to the moderate Islamist profile of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, although he is not formally affiliated with the group. He more closely identifies with the Islamism of the Brotherhood’s Damascene branch, which is associated with Issam al-Attar, a former spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria who was exiled by the Baathist regime in the 1970s, than with its current, more hard-line leadership from the Hama branch.  

Issam Al-Attar has been known for many year as head of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in Germany and his son is married to Youssef Nada, the infamous Muslim Brotherhood banker who formerly ran the now-defunct Al-Taqwa bank. The Syrian Brotherhood in Germany is also known to have close relations with their Egyptian counterparts in that country.

In 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported on moves by the U.S. Government to reach closer relations with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

For a comprehensive account of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in 2006, go here.

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