Secretary Of State Suggests U.S. Training Syrian Rebels


U.S. media is reporting the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has appeared to confirm that the U.S. is training Syrian rebels. According to a Fox News report:

Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to confirm Tuesday that the U.S. is training anti-Assad forces in the Syria conflict, saying the hope is to convince President Bashar Assad to ‘change his current calculation.’ Kerry, speaking to Fox News in Doha, Qatar, became the first U.S. official to acknowledge the off-site training on the record. He would not go into detail about the training, describing it as ‘one part’ of the U.S. effort and something that ‘a lot of countries’ are doing. ‘I think what President Obama is hoping is to build on what has already happened. The president put in place sanctions and that helps to strip some of President Assad’s ability to fuel his war machine,’ Kerry said.  A senior State Department official, though, later said Kerry was not confirming which specific countries were involved. ‘In discussing the training of opposition fighters, the Secretary was referring to the totality of effort by Allies and partners who attended the Rome conference. He explicitly declined to say which countries are involved in that aspect of our joint effort,’ the official told Fox News. The New York Times previously reported on the effort to train Syrian opposition forces, quoting unnamed officials, but this is the first time the State Department has spoken openly about it. ‘There are a lot of nations working at this,’ Kerry said of the effort to pressure Assad. ‘And so I think President Assad needs to read the tea leaves correctly.’ Kerry, who is on his maiden international tour as secretary of state, cited last week’s meeting in Rome where European nations joined the U.S. in offering support to the Syrian opposition. This included an additional $60 million in aid from the Obama administration and a commitment to provide non-lethal aid. Kerry described the international sentiment as a ‘conviction that no nation is going to stand by while he slaughters his people with SCUD missiles, and his jets dropping bombs. And … we’ve ratcheted up yet another level with the hope of convincing him and his allies that the time has come to really negotiate with the transitional government.’ 

A post from last mont reported that Kerry has pledged an additional $60 million in aid to Syrian opposition forces that include heavy representation by the Muslim Brotherhood. 

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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