In case you missed it, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Dublin on December 3 about the need to support positive change in Syria.
The United States stands with the Syrian people in insisting that any transition process result in a unified, democratic Syria in which all citizens are represented – Sunni, Alawi, Christians, Kurds, Druze, men, women. Every Syrian must be included,” Clinton told reporters. “And a future of this kind cannot possibly include Assad.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But there are some flies in the ointment. Relations between the United States and Syria have been bad for several decades now, so we have very little leverage to produce the results that Clinton wants.
The problem looks even worse if you look at what’s happening in Egypt, where we have much more influence. Let’s take Clinton’s statement point by point so you see what I mean.
- Unified and democratic: Egypt right now is in turmoil, following a power grab by President Mohamed Morsi. The State Department response? “The decisions and declarations announced on November 22 raise concerns for many Egyptians and for the international community.” Wow – that’s a show-stopper! Particularly since Morsi wasn’t even mentioned by name.
- All citizens are represented: The Egyptian Copts, Christians who have lived there for 2,000 years, can now be attacked with impunity on the street, their houses burned, while the Morsi government accuses them of somehow instigating the violence of which they are the victims. Record numbers are emigrating. The State Department response? It deleted the section on religious freedom from its annual reports on human rights. Coincidentally, this change first affected the reports covering the Arab Spring. Then, attentive readers will recall, Clinton blamed the attacks on the U.S. embassies on the Copts who produced a video about Mohammed.
- Women: Egyptian women have been protesting publicly against Morsi and his Islamist policies; Morsi has reportedly paid thugs to rape them. The State Department response? “We call for calm and encourage all parties to work together and call for all Egyptians to resolve their differences over these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue.” Boy that really told them, didn’t it?
- Regime change: This is the only part that may come to pass, and the only part where the U.S. government may actually have exerted influence. Of course, we didn’t do it exactly as Clinton implies. Rather, the State Department first pushed an opposition coalition heavily weighted toward the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and now appears poised to support an Islamist opposition military command. Meanwhile, arms shipped from Libya by the Central Intelligence Agency wound up in the wrong hands in Syria.
Good luck, Hillary, good luck! That’s what I say!
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