In today’s New York Times, front page, upper-right, the headlines read:
ISLAMIST REBELS CREATE DILEMMA ON SYRIA POLICY
QAEDA ALLY VS. ASSAD
Lack of Secular Fighters Leaves the U.S. With Little Influence
No longer hidden away in oblique references buried in articles on page 16, but in the first sentence of the lead story, we read this:
In Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, rebels aligned with Al Qaeda control the power plant, run the bakeries and head a court that applies Islamic law. Elsewhere, they have seized government oil fields, put employees back to work and now profit from the crude they produce....Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists….Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.
The Islamist character of the opposition reflects the main constituency of the rebellion, which has been led since its start by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, mostly in conservative, marginalized areas.
The religious agenda of the combatants sets them apart from many civilian activists, protesters and aid workers who had hoped (emphasis mine) the uprising would create a civil, democratic Syria.
“My sense is that there are no seculars,” said Elizabeth O’Bagy, of the Institute for the Study of War, who has made numerous trips to Syria in recent months to interview rebel commanders.
Steven Heydemann, a senior adviser at the United States Institute of Peace, which works with the State Department…acknowledged that the current momentum toward radicalism could be hard to reverse.
Who would have ever expected that?The article goes on at some length. Read it here. Now, will someone please remind me why we are so hell-bent on deposing Assad and putting these guys in charge?