Boris Volkhonsky
November 8, 2012

As reported by the BBC News, British Premier David Cameron has pledged to begin talks with armed Syrian rebels in a bid to unite the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. “I wanted to hear for myself the stories of people who have been bombed and shot and blasted out of their homes in Syria by a deeply-illegitimate and unpleasant regime that is raining down death and destruction on its own people,” the BBC quotes Mr. Cameron as saying while visiting a refugee camp in Jordan.

Mr Cameron added: “There is an opportunity for Britain, for America, for Saudi Arabia, Jordan and like-minded allies to come together and try to help shape the opposition, outside Syria and inside Syria, and try to help them achieve their goal, which is our goal of a Syria without Assad.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague is said to have given his special envoy to the Syrian opposition, John Wilkes, the go-ahead to arrange the meetings with rebel groups opposed to the Assad government.

Indeed, thou hast said it.

So, it is not democracy or the notorious “human rights” that constitute the UK’s and the “like-minded allies”‘ primary goal. If that were the case, the list of the allies would hardly include Saudi Arabia which is by no measures an ideal of democracy and human rights.

It is “Syria without Assad”, and “after that let there be the flood”.

The flood may seem the least of many evils if Mr. Cameron and his “like-minded allies” succeed in their endeavor.

A good question one may ask Mr. Cameron is what kind of armed Syrian rebels he is going to assist.

As recent events have shown, there is no such entity as “the Syrian opposition”. There is an array of all kinds of radicals, warlords, ethnic and religious extremists opposed to each other sometimes even to a greater extent that all of them combined are opposed to President Bashar Al Assad.

The evidence was presented on Wednesday, on the eve of an opposition gathering in Doha, Qatar (by the way, another example of democracy and human rights). The gathering was part of an initiative of another “like-minded ally”, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who also sees a “united Syrian opposition” in her dreams. As reported by the Daily Telegraph, three of the dissident bodies included in the US-backed initiative refused to attend the gathering. The remaining groups, mostly represented by the current Syrian National Council, according to the Telegraph’s sources, have little influence on the ground. They may succeed in pumping money from Western and Gulf sources, but are unlikely to win the support of the street.

Another question Mr. Cameron is highly unlikely to answer is, wouldn’t he like “to hear for himself the stories of people who have been bombed and shot and blasted out of their homes” by the “deeply-illegitimate and unpleasant” rebels whom he is so eager to assist? Or, are they deeply legitimate and extremely pleasant?

And isn’t it the minority Alawite government of President Bashar Al Assad, which, despite the insurgency waged by West- and Gulf-sponsored rebels, is desperately trying to save the country from a bloodbath which will be the inevitable outcome of the radicals taking the upper hand? Or, maybe Mr. Cameron is not in the least bothered about the fate of Syrian Christians, Shiites, Druzez in “Syria without Assad”?

And the last but definitely not least question. Is Mr. Cameron’s memory so short-lived that he has forgotten the lessons of a not-so-distant history?

In the 1980s, the West was enthusiastically armed the Afghan insurgents with its primary goal being “Afghanistan without the Soviets”. They did achieve that goal. But what was next? The spread of Al Qaeda, the bloody attacks on Western installations the world over, and finally, the 9/11.

If the 1980s are too far away for Mr. Cameron to remember, there is another much fresher example – Libya, where the West ravaged the country and murdered its leader. The natural outcome of it was the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi and the murder of the US ambassador.

So, maybe Mr. Cameron should think twice before starting to implement his plans to build “Al Qaeda 2.0”?

Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies

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