Citing: Syria's rebels are not an al-Qaeda army. Richard Spencer. The Telegraph. February20, 2012.
I have just returned from spending some time with the rebel "army" in Syria, and if reports from around the world are to be believed I should be a fully-fledged jihadi warrior by now.
Peter Oborne, in the Sunday Telegraph, is the latest and as you would expect most cogent commentator yet arguing that Western support for the opposition to President Assad is profoundly flawed. It has made us bedfellows with al-Qaeda, he says, and he cites the current violence in Libya as evidence of the disaster that could lie in wait. Not only al-Qaeda but other foreign extremist Islamist elements have probably already infiltrated Syria, he adds.
For evidence of al-Qaeda's involvement, he quotes the US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who said recently that two bomb attacks in Damascus, widely claimed by rebels including recent defectors to have been staged by the regime, “had all the earmarks of an al-Qaeda attack”. All doubt has thus ended, Oborne says. "It’s official. Al-Qaeda is acknowledged as an ally of Britain and America in our desire to overturn the Syrian government."
But it's all pretty flimsy, isn't it? Leaving aside the intelligence, National or otherwise, of a Washington insider who doesn't know the difference between an earmark and a hallmark, just because something looks like an al-Qaeda attack doesn't mean it is one, particularly if the accusation is that the Syrian regime has dressed it up to look like one.
More importantly, as Oborne himself says later, these revolutions are complicated, and even if al-Qaeda is bombing Damascus it isn't necessarily the case that it is seeking the overthrow of President Assad. There has been plenty of cross-border flow of militants between Iraq and Syria over the years (as Clapper knows full well), which raises the question as to why al-Qaeda has only started attacking now?
Good question, no?
In Libya too, the evidence for actual, rather than incipient chaos is not as strong as it might appear – "if anything, the fighting appears to be getting worse, as the country breaks into hostile armed fractions – a fertile hunting ground for al-Qaeda," says Oborne. Yet this is demonstrably untrue. ...It's what?
The absence, not presence, of al-Qaeda is the most startling aspect of the new Libya.Why would that be the single most "startling" thing, if it were true? Why is Richard Spencer so frightened by an alleged lack of al Qaeda activity?
Amnesty International rightly pointed the other day to the barbarous behaviour of the once heroic Misrata brigade, and the prisoners they have tortured and, in 12 cases, killed.He goes on to cite this12 as a "figure," a total, when it's clearly an "at least" number.
That is damnable; but it is a figure that would be regarded as "great progress" in the case of our other Middle East ventures, and that is not as sick a thought as it seems to anyone who witnessed the horrors of Gaddafi and his brood. I will not quickly forget the sight of the remains of the scores killed and cremated by Khamis Gaddafi in a single incident in a shed-prison as he fled Tripoli in August.Yeah, compared to that, what the Misrata Brigades are doing now is... oh, wait...