Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reports from Syria
London Review of Books, Vol. 35 No. 4 · 21 February 2013
‘We reached a point in the fighting, in spring 2012, when we needed proper support. We needed heavy machine guns, real weapons. Money was never an issue: how much do you want? Fifty million dollars, a hundred million dollars – not a problem. But heavy weapons were becoming hard to find: the Turks – and without them this revolution wouldn’t have started – wanted the Americans to give them the green light before they would allow us to ship the weapons. We had to persuade Saad al-Hariri, Rafic Hariri’s son and a former prime minister, to go to put pressure on the Saudis, to tell them: “You abandoned the Sunnis of Iraq and you lost a country to Iran. If you do the same thing again you won’t only lose Syria, but Lebanon with it.”’ The idea was that the Saudis in turn would pressure the Americans to give the Turks the green light to allow proper weapons into the country.
Now suddenly, while on the ground the revolution was still in the hands of small bands of rebels and activists, a set of outside interests started conspiring to direct events in ways amenable to them. There were the Saudis, who never liked Bashar but were wary of more chaos in the Middle East. The Qataris, who were positioning themselves at the forefront of the revolutions of the Arab Spring, using their formidable TV networks to mobilise support and their vast wealth to fund illicit weapons shipments to the Libyans. And of course there were the French and the Americans.
. . . . . . . .
At the end of January, I met a friend of Abu Abdullah; he’d once been a wealthy man, a merchant, but he’d seen his wealth dwindle as all his businesses came to a halt. His lips were quivering with anger and he kept thumping the table with his fist.
‘Why are the Americans doing this to us? They told us they wouldn’t send us weapons until we united. So we united in Doha. Now what’s their excuse? They say it’s because of the jihadis but it’s the jihadis who are gaining ground. Abu Abdullah is $400,000 in debt and no one is sending him money anymore. It’s all going to the jihadis. They have just bought a former military camp from a battalion that was fighting the government. They went to them, gave them I don’t know how many millions and bought the camp. Maybe we should all become jihadis. Maybe then we’ll get money and support.’
Phi Beta Iota: A world class piece of scholarly jouranlism, and exactly the kind of knowledge that CIA and the Department of State and the US military should have, but do not. Boiled down to four words, “no intelligence, no integrity.” It’s not just the ineptitude, but the moral disengagement, the combination of ignorance and arrogance, the lack of accoutability, the lack of professionalism. We are twice shamed — by what is done in our name and at our expense — and by how very badly it is done.