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Backlash to U.S. moves in Syria

December 12th, 2012
06:00 PM ET

The Syrian Opposition Vice President

No diplomatic solution in Syria

By Samuel Burke, CNN

The United States’ former point person on Syria admits that there is practically no chance diplomacy will ever remove Bashar al-Assad.

Former Ambassador Frederic Hof told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday, “My sense is that this will be ultimately decided through force of arms on the ground” – despite the Obama administration’s reluctance to give heavy weapons to rebels.

President Obama announced on Monday that the U.S. would formally recognize the opposition as representative of the Syrian people, but that may not have a significant effect, at least for now.

“I think in terms of the military situation on the ground, quite bluntly, it changes nothing in the near term,” Ambassador Hof told Amanpour. But he believes that politically, it is good for Syrians in the long term.

Despite the violence in Syria, many groups are nervous about what would happen if al-Assad were to leave - particularly minorities who have been protected under Assad’s rule. But Hof believes that the U.S. recognition puts a face on the opposition and will help reassure the various factions.

At the same time it recognized the opposition, the Obama administration designated a group known as al-Nusra as terrorists—a move which was been met with backlash in Syria. 

READ MORE: Can Syrian rebels stop chemical war?

A vice president of the Syrian Opposition Council, George Sabra, told Amanpour that he cannot understand why the United States gave al-Nusra that label.

“The Syrian people consider al-Nusra as a part of the revolution,” Sabra said. He added that the West branding them as terrorists only adds to Bashar al-Assad’s claim that the civil war is not a natural uprising, but rather an invasion of foreign powers.

Ambassador Hof said that even though he is disappointed in the U.S.’s decision, the designation “unmasked this al-Nusra organization for what it is: al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

In spite of that, Syrians see al-Nusra making major gains in Syria. Free Syrian Army commanders on the ground told CNN that al-Nusra was instrumental in the seizure of a military academy near Aleppo this week.

“I think it’s understandable that people in Syria will reach out wherever they can and take tactical alliances,” Hof said. “They are fighting for their lives against an extraordinarily brutal and terroristic regime.”

A Facebook page supporting al-Nusra in Syria now has more than 20,000 supporters.

But Sabra said the group is not essential to the opposition, and that it is just one component of many groups that constitute the Free Syrian Army.

There’s very little political will from the American public to get involved in another war in the Middle East, but Sabra said that what his opposition group really needs is American weapons.

“We don’t need to see any foreign soldiers in our country. This is very clear,” Sabra told Amanpour. “But we need special weapons against tanks and jet fighters. We have enough fighters.”

Arab Spring knocking at Jordan’s door

Filed under:  Latest Episode • Syria
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Desaforado

    It is not the first time US back ups a group that at the end goes against it.

    December 12, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Reply
    • jeff

      Let's get some American boots on the ground, war is good for the economy.

      December 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  2. Shimmanni Park

    prowl to the end this enemy of people, the mass slaughterer of human beings, and grab him and collar him to the ground. Let's feed him to the toxic matter, inhale him the gas! Killing Assad is the immediate justice of the civilized nations!

    December 12, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Reply
    • Hayatte

      Really. As a christian syrian I back up the syrian army and I hate the islamists who are backing up because they kill us because of our faith. Civilized nations my ass...should gas you first and your alqaedas' friends.

      December 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Reply
  3. totalLIE

    "READ MORE: Can Syrian rebels stop chemical war?" HAHA are you kidding? The question is, how do we stop the REBELS from getting their hands on chemical agents thanks to Turkey.

    December 12, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Reply
  4. Ken Robinson

    No one with a brain expects a political solution, we expect a targeted assassination by his own people, who we might or might not cut a deal with. Depending on how many AL Qaeda types end up in the opposition rebel fight, which is a mixed bag of tribal, religious, and ethnic complex interest. It will look a thousand times worse than when Lawrence led the Arab revolt on Damascus. All unfinished business from world war one. All thinking adults with regional experience understand these simple truths. We do not have friends, we have interest.

    December 12, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Reply
    • jeff

      Let them fight it out, the region is over populated anyway.

      December 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Reply
  5. aurelius

    "Backlash to US moves to Syria". What in the world does that mean?

    December 13, 2012 at 12:36 am | Reply
    • cocopuf

      Exactly what I was wondering? Only the Syrians people (no outsiders) should be smart enough to avoid what is happening in Egypt. Alas, maybe doubtful.

      December 13, 2012 at 2:23 am | Reply
  6. Nikos Retsos

    The Arab hatred against the U.S. and Israel is so strong that any Syrian rebel group supported by the U.S. is automatically seen as "U.S. and Israeli" stooges – as I explain fully in my blog at the Telegraph. U.K. The U.S. recognition is just typical U.S. folly that preceded similar U.S. foreign policy misadventures in the Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars. Nikos Retsos, retired professor

    December 13, 2012 at 9:29 am | Reply
  7. Wim Roffel

    If the goal is to have a foreign head of state removed it is not called diplomacy, it is called war. The fact that it is a proxy war with Saudi Arabia and Qatar paying the bills and providing the weapons does not subtract anything from the fact that the US is waging a proxy war against Syria. Sending diplomats to Damascus with the message that Assad has to leave before any talks can take place only makes those diplomats complicits in this war.

    If you look purely to the interests of Syria it is clear that a real dialogue between Assad and the rebels is needed. Assad is not a lonely dictator: millions of Syrians, including many Sunni, prefer him above the rebels. They should have a say in the future of Syria. Unfortunately Obama and Clinton are not interested in the fate of the Syrians. Their only interest is some geopolitical game against Iran. Nothing illustrated their lack of interest better than their recent designation of the Shabiha as a terrorist organisation. Shabiha, meaning "thugs", is not an organization but just a term of abuse for armed non-military Assad supporters.

    December 14, 2012 at 5:11 am | Reply
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