Foreign Policy Magazine is a great source for getting the stories that everyone knew were true a year ago, but that the diplo establishment denied to its dying breath, discussed in detail.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of the Syrian revolution was one of those open secrets that few “mainstream” outlets would discuss for fear that it would undermine support for the Sunni Holy War/Arab Spring. And now, just like Obama’s failure in Afghanistan, discussed two weeks ago in FP, we get FP coverage of the Brotherhood takeover in Syria.
FP coverage of a topic that must not be covered usually means the establishment is trying to disentangle themselves from a disaster. Considering that the Syrian Civil War isn’t even over yet, it’s telling that the diplostablishment is already running away from it.
According to a figure present at the first conference to organize Syria’s political opposition, held in Antalya, Turkey, in May 2011, the Brotherhood was initially hesitant to join an anti-Assad political body. The group had officially suspended its opposition to the Baathist regime in the wake of the Israeli onslaught on Gaza in 2009
The key context there being that Gaza is run by Hamas, the local Muslim Brotherhood arm, and depended on Syrian and Iranian backing.
As the idea of a unified opposition group to lead the popular revolt gained momentum, the Brotherhood became more involved. A month after the meeting in Antalya, it organized a conference in Brussels, attended by 200 people, mostly Islamists — one of the first obvious fractures in the unity of the opposition. The Brotherhood subsequently organized several conferences that formed opposition groups to serve as fronts for the movement, allowing it to beef up its presence in political bodies.
Unsurprisingly the Brotherhood did it by setting up a whole bunch of front groups. (But the idea that they’re doing the same thing here is just crazy talk.)
That appears to be a common pattern. According to members of the Syrian National Coalition who were integral to the early opposition meetings, as well as activists close to the Brotherhood, groups that have served as fronts for the Brotherhood include: the National Union of Free Syria Students, led by Hassan Darwish; the Levant Ulema League; the Independent Islamic Democratic Current, led by Ghassan Najjar; the Syrian Ulema League, led by Mohammed Farouq Battal; the Civil Society Organizations’ Union, a bloc of 40 Brotherhood-affiliated groups; the Syrian Arab Tribal Council, led by Salem Al Moslet and Abdulilah Mulhim; the Revolution Council for Aleppo and Its Countryside, led by Ahmed Ramadan; the Body for Protection of Civilians, led by Natheer Hakim; the National Work Front, led by Ramadan and Obeida Nahas; the Kurdish Work Front, led by Hussain Abdulhadi; the Syrian Revolution Facebook page, which decides the names for Friday’s protests; the Hama Revolution Gathering; the National Coalition for Civilian Protection, led by Haitham Rahma; and the Syrian Society for Humanitarian Relief, founded by Hamdi Othman.
Additionally, some Brotherhood-affiliated figures denied they were part of the group and joined the SNC as “independents.” These include Nahas, the London-based director of the Levant Center; Louay Safi, a Syrian-American fellow at Georgetown University and former chairman of the Syrian American Council (SAC); and Najib Ghadbian, a political science professor who also works at the SAC.
And then we get to Stage 2.
The Brotherhood’s political domination became more pronounced in late September 2011, when opposition figures and forces met in two separate hotels in Turkey to form a political body representing all opposition forces.
By the winter of 2011, the Brotherhood had greatly expanded its influence. It was not only strong in the SNC — it had won supporters within the ranks of military defectors and the Local Coordination Committees inside Syria. Before the September conference, around 100 young activists traveled to Turkey, where the Brotherhood gave them media training and provided them with equipment. When the trainees returned to Syria, according to one of the organizers of the opposition meetings, they formed coordinating committees in dozens of small towns and cities to support the movement.
Brotherhood members also met with early defectors from the regime’s army. As one military defector told me, the Brotherhood asked for their loyalty, and in return, the group promised to pressure Turkey to create a buffer zone along its border with Syria. The effort was unsuccessful, but the Brotherhood later won the loyalty of Col. Riad al-Asaad, who formed the Free Syrian Army (FSA), replacing the secular-leaning Free Officers Movement.
And we have been told repeatedly that the FSA were the good guys, despite their repeated collaboration with Al Qaeda.
After the formation of the FSA, new brigades began to take religious names, instead of names of national figures or areas.
The Brotherhood continued to pour time and resources into building its influence within the rebel forces. The fighting factions backed by the movement include the Tawhid Brigade, supported by Brotherhood leaders in Aleppo, mainly Bayanouni and Ramadan; some elements in the powerful Farouq Brigades; the Body for Protection of Civilians, considered the military wing of the Brotherhood, led by Hakim; and Ansar al-Islam, based in Damascus and the surrounding countryside. The Brotherhood has brigades across the country whose names typically include the word “shield,” such as the Euphrates Shield, the Capital Shield, and the Aqsa Mosque Shield. It also coordinates in some areas with hard-line groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham, according to military defectors.
The Brotherhood additionally benefited from its influence in Turkey, Qatar, and Egypt. Al Jazeera, the Qatari-owned satellite behemoth, has polished the image of anti-regime Islamists in its coverage. The Brotherhood also carefully selected leaders who can be easily controlled or who have minimal leadership skills.
If this reminds you of Communist tactics, you’re correct. The Islamists have no original ideas.