Surprise! Most Syrian rebels don't want democracy
A real shocker from the UN today - turns out that most of the rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria are uninterested in forming a democratic state.
But sure - let's go ahead and create a no fly zone and give these guys the weapons they need to win - so they can form their very own radical Muslim paradise in Syria when Assad is gone.
Speaking to reporters in Paris, Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro said his team of investigators had documented horrific crimes on both sides, although the scale of those committed by President Bashar al-Assad's forces was greater.
"It was said the rebels were angels, but there is only a minority of fighters with a democratic history who believe in the Syrian mosaic and want a state for all," he said.
"The majority of rebels are very far from having democratic thoughts and have other aspirations."
The gentleman just can't bring himself to identify those "other aspirations" held by the Islamists but the actions of al-Qaeda and other terrorists make clear that the US would be intervening on the side of some very nasty characters if we went ahead with plans to step up our support of the rebels:
The Islamist element of the Syrian conflict poses a quandary for Western powers and their Arab allies, which favor Assad's overthrow, but are alarmed at the growing power of militant Sunni Muslim fighters whose anti-Shi'ite ideology has fuelled sectarian tensions in the Middle East.
While Assad has repeatedly labeled opposition forces as "terrorists", Western powers have backed non-Islamist rebel fighters by providing aid and non-lethal assistance.
On Monday, the European Union effectively lifted an arms embargo that could allow countries to arm certain rebel forces by failing to agree to renew it.
Pinheiro declined to comment on that decision, but suggested identifying groups acceptable to the West was difficult.
"There is a very complicated distinction between the bad and the good rebels," he said.
Pinheiro leads an independent team of some two dozen experts mandated by the United Nations that documents crimes committed during the conflict, in which at least 80,000 people have been killed.
Its next report is due out on June 4 and will be based on interviews since February conducted abroad with victims and witnesses, as they have not been allowed into Syria.
"The report is dreadful in terms of a combination of secularization, radicalization and an escalation in violations of human rights and laws of war," he said.
Both government forces and armed rebels are committing war crimes, including killings and torture, spreading terror among civilians in the more than two-year conflict.
In real terms, the west is trapped in Syria. If we do nothing and the war continues, chances of it widening to engulf next door Lebanon and perhaps even Iraq increase dramatically in the near future. This would be intolerable not just from a humanitarian standpoint but would threaten a wider war as shias and sunnis would start choosing up sides all over the Middle East.
On the other hand, if we intervene and our help results in Assad being tossed, we hand a victory to extremists who are likely to prevail in any post-Assad political environment. Arguments on both sides of the issue of intervention should include the realistic notion that there will be no good outcome to whatever course we take and that guarding our own interests should be of paramount importance.