Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Syria coalition and Clinton’s no-show in Marrakesh

A stomach virus is forcing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to cancel her trip to the “Friends of Syria” meeting in Morocco that will focus on ratcheting up support for the Syrian opposition.
 On reading the news this morning, my subconscious instantly murmured, “Diplomatic illness.”
I guess the reason is that she was expected to announce there the Obama administration’s plain recognition of the newly formed Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”
Clinton was to announce that step in Marrakech on Wednesday.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns will take her place, but sober thinking makes me wonder if he will still make the declaration or circumvent it.
Since the proof of the pudding is in the eating, tomorrow’s denouement will show whether Clinton’s illness is physical or diplomatic.
At yesterday’s daily press briefing, a reporter asked State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, “So where do we stand now on the [Syrian] opposition, recognizing the opposition?”
While Clinton’s trip to Morocco was still on, Ms Nuland gave a muddled answer, saying: “Well, you know that we have, as the Secretary said, been looking at ways that we can deepen and broaden our support. We will be in Marrakesh on Wednesday – the Secretary will be – for the Friends of the Syrian People. I think we want to talk there about more support that we can give them along the lines of what she foreshadowed last week, but I don’t want to get ahead of announcements that we might make.
“I think, among other things, she’ll want to meet with them, she’ll want to hear from them both in her own meeting and in the broader meeting about how they see things going forward, both in terms of their own internal organization, about their connectivity with Syrians inside Syria, about their transitional planning, about the needs that they see for external support, how they would have us best direct the nonlethal support and humanitarian support that we are providing. So she’ll want to hear about all of those things. But she’s been clear that we’d like to offer them more support, and I think you’ll see some of that at Marrakesh on Wednesday.”
Other than Nuland’s nuanced answer and Clinton’s no-show in Marrakesh, there is a third downer for the Syrian opposition.
It’s a think piece titled “Don’t Let the Syrian Rebels Win” appearing in the new edition of the authoritative U.S. bimonthly newsmagazine Foreign Policy.
The author, Glenn E. Robinson, a specialist in Middle East political and security matters, suggests that “an outright victory by Assad’s enemies would be a disaster.”
Egypt’s brilliant columnist and talk show host Imad Adeeb, writing today for the Saudi newspaper of record Asharq Alawsat, says he met yesterday in Cairo with Rob Malley, a former Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton who is currently Program Director for Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group in Washington, D.C.
Dialogue with Rob Malley, says Adeeb, is a fascinating eye-opener – chiefly that “the United States has no decisive or conclusive policies. At times, it acts like a Third World country that deals with events piecemeal and on a daily basis, depending on the changes hour by hour. There is no logic governing U.S. policy except to reap benefits and maximize interests, regardless of victims falling in the process. That’s the lesson we need to learn”