by Rob Prince
Global Research Canada, 29 November 2013
Mother Agnes Mariam, mother-superior of the monastery of St. James, the Mutilated in Qara, in the Qalamoun District of Syria, which is north of Damascus, visited Denver as part of a U.S. tour which is taking her coast to coast.S
he spoke at three public venues in two days and then rushed off to catch a plane to Lincoln, Nebraska, where she also has had several speaking engagements, covered by the Nebraska press.
Washington’s Shifting Global Priorities
Deconstructing the Syrian Opposition
Enter Mother Agnes-Mariam, who is telling the American people, gently actually, essentially what their government has been doing all along in Syria but what Washington itself doesn’t have the courage to relate. Mother Agnes-Mariam comes to the United States just at the time when the Obama Administration is trying to re-shape its Syria policy. But Obama has painted himself into a corner in so idealizing the role of the Syrian opposition. Mother Agnes-Mariam came to Denver with a message of peace – a call for a negotiated settlement of the Syrian crisis – as well as a warning. It is the peace message which the Obama Administration should be announcing to the American people but doesn’t seem to have mustered up the courage to do so as of yet, so they hide behind the robes of a Carmelite nun instead and let her take the heat.
Granted, as mentioned above, there are legitimate Syrian elements in the opposition who will have to have a voice in any settlement. But the United States – through its regional allies – has unleashed some very destructive forces in Syria and now has the formidable task of getting these “jinns” back into the bottle. The shift in policy has angered – if not infuriated – Washington’s regional allies – Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey – whom it appears were taken by surprise by the policy shift and are howling in pain and very openly angered at with the shift, about which they can do little.
“The peace message” was essentially that no side will “win” the military conflict in Syria, and that the crisis there – which is essentially now a civil war – can only be resolved through negotiations between the Assad government and its “Syrian-based” (and she stressed this particular formulation) opponents.
“The warning” was that while there is a legitimate Syrian opposition engaged in the fighting against the Assad government, that much of the so-called rebellion had been hijacked by Islamist fundamentalist radicals armed, trained and funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey (and others). Responsible for much of the bloodshed and terror – they seem to have a particular penchant to beheading people – the Islamists are mostly foreign elements recruited from throughout the region to fight. Their goal is the establishment of an Islamic state based upon Shari’a law. Mother Agnes-Mariam opposed their participation in the peace process, and calls for their expulsion from Syria. Although by no means an easy goal, unless the United States – through whatever mechanism it can find – can rein in these radical Islamist elements, there will be no peace in Syria.
Concerning the Syrian opposition Mother Agnes-Mariam’s main point is that the Syrian opposition has long been hijacked by radical fundamentalist elements, its main secular, domestic opposition having been shunted to the sidelines in the fighting. Similar scenarios have unfolded recently in both Libya and Mali, where opposition movements were hijacked by Salafist-Wahhabist elements.
At the same time Mother Agnes-Mariam actually sympathizes with the grievances of the Syrian opposition, that part of it that is domestically based. She expressed deep concern for the fact that the opposition has been hijacked by Islamist fundamentalist elements that get logistical, financial support and military training from American regional allies – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey. Although she didn’t mention it, these Islamist factions, trained in Jordan, Turkey and northern Lebanon, also have received both financial and military support from the United States Special Forces.
Rob Prince, is Teaching Professor at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies. In recent years, he has written extensively on North Africa. He is also the publisher of the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.
Global Research Canada