Obama Admin invites Syrian 'Muslim Brotherhood' opposition leader for talks after backing new coalition.(Guardian).The Obama administration has invited the head of the newly recognised Syrian rebel coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, to Washington as the US attempts to build a sympathetic administration to slot into place and keep hostile Islamist forces at bay when President Bashar al-Assad falls.
The invitation to Khatib came at a meeting in Morocco of western and Arab nations backing the Syrian uprising at which the US gave formal recognition to the Syrian National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the "legitimate representative of the Syrian people".
The US move has been criticised as belated and insufficient, in part because of Washington's hesitation to supply weapons to the coalition while more radical groups in Syria, including an al-Qaida affiliate declared a terrorist organisation by Washington on Tuesday, are evidently armed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. "It might be one of the last moments in which the US can positively affect the situation on the ground," said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Centre, who was in the room at the meeting in Marrakech on Wednesday.
Robert Danin, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for the Middle East who is now with the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the US is right to be cautious, and that it is counting on any post-Assad regime being open to influence because it will require American assistance.
"It's not too little too late. It's little, but this is going to be a long, drawn-out saga. The regime is not about to fall tomorrow. It's obviously on the ropes but there's still time to regain influence here," he said. "There's going to be a day after when Syria will have tremendous needs. The argument is that by getting in later in the game with the opposition we have forfeited a certain degree of goodwill. That's probably true, but hard to measure.
"Here's the real challenge: coming up with a shared vision for a post-Assad Syria. That's a long road and they're going to need help. They're going to need financial help, they're going to need technical help. There'll be tremendous opportunities there for the United States to assist."
But Marina Ottaway, who specialises in the Middle East at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Washington's emphasis on support for a political coalition is mistaken.
"The Syrians know the action is inside the country and the US has been looking at the groups outside. No fighting group is really represented in the coalition. What the US is doing is creating this artificial organisation that I think is destined not to have much of an impact after Assad goes," she said.
"I have been watching liberation movements and armed groups and insurrections for 30 years and I cannot think of a situation where a government in exile in the end prevailed over the fighters inside the country. It would be extraordinary if they succeeded."Hmmmm......Great another 'Egypt - Iran' in the making.Read the full story here.
Related: US-Created "Syrian Opposition" Led by Big Oil Rep
The corporate-financier-funded Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported of al-Khatib that:
Moaz al-Khatib, an oil sector engineer and former imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, has garnered substantial praise since his designation, while Riad Seif and Suhair al-Atassi bring their own credibility to the coalition. They have now set up shop in Cairo and have received the full endorsement of France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council as the "sole representative" of the Syrian opposition. The European Union and the United States have endorsed the group in a more general fashion.VoltarieNet's Thierry Meyssan reported in an article titled, "The many faces of Sheikh Ahmad Moaz Al-Khatib" that:
Even more importantly, from Syrian citizens of various affiliations with whom I have met recently, it is clear that al-Khatib and his associates seem to draw praise for their opposition to the regime—as an imam, al-Khatib refused to follow the speeches imposed by the regime and was imprisoned—their resistance, and their tolerance. These endorsements are a first achievement, but a number of steps are necessary before Moaz al-Khatib becomes the real head of the Syrian opposition and enters into a substantive relationship with EU leaders.
Completely unknown to the international public only a week ago, Sheikh Moaz al-Khatib has been catapulted to the presidency of the Syrian National Coalition, which represents pro-Western opposition in the Damascus government. Portrayed by an intense public relations campaign as a highly moral personality with no partisan or economic attachments, he is in truth a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and an executive of the Shell oil company.