Paging John McCain… (again)… Muslim Brotherhood now most powerful Syrian opposition group

This is a bit of a continuation from yesterday’s post, where Republican Senator and self-identified “maverick,” John McCain, insisted that the U.S. arm the Syrian rebels because they’re a “repudiation of Al-Qaeda.”

Reuters is now reporting that the Muslim Brotherhood – the umbrella under which al-Qaeda resides – is the most dominant group among the Syrian rebels:

At a meeting of Syria’s opposition, Muslim Brotherhood officials gather round Marxists colleagues, nudging them to produce policy statements for the Syrian National Council, the main political group challenging President Bashar al-Assad.

With many living in the West, and some ditching their trademark beards, it is hard to differentiate Brotherhood from leftists. But there is little dispute about who calls the shots.

From annihilation at home 30 years ago when they challenged the iron-fisted rule of Hafez al-Assad, the Brotherhood has recovered to become the dominant force of the exile opposition in the 14-month-old revolt against his son Bashar.

Careful not to undermine the council’s disparate supporters, the Brotherhood has played down its growing influence within the Syrian National Council (SNC), whose public face is the secular Paris-based professor Bourhan Ghalioun.

“We chose this face, accepted by the West and by the inside. We don’t want the regime to take advantage if an Islamist becomes the Syrian National Council’s head,” former Brotherhood leader Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni told supporters in a video.

The footage is now being circulated by Brotherhood opponents, seeking to highlight its undeclared power.

“We nominated Ghalioun as a front for national action. We are not moving now as Muslim Brotherhood but as part of a front that includes all currents,” said Bayanouni.

Reuters doesn’t exactly fly under the radar and it’s reporting on the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Qaeda) is using stealth to do just that in Syria. That stealth is also being practiced by Turkey.

Mindful of international fears of Islamists taking power, and of the worries of Syria’s ethnic and religious minorities, the Syrian Brotherhood portrays itself as espousing a moderate, Turkish-style Islamist agenda. It unveiled a manifesto last month that did not mention the word Islam and contained pledges to respect individual rights.

With backing from Ankara, and following the political ascendancy of the Brotherhood in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya since Arab Spring revolts broke out two years ago, the group is poised to be at the top of any new governing system in Syria.

Extending the loose Brotherhood umbrella to Syria will raise pressure on the U.S.-backed Hashemite monarchy in Jordan, where the local Brotherhood has been sidelined by laws that favor tribal politicians allied with the security apparatus.

Iraq’s Shi’ite rulers could also find they have a hardline Sunni government as their neighbor, and Lebanon’s Shi’ite guerrilla group Hezbollah would lose its main Arab backer.

It would appear that what we’ve got here is a bit of in-your-face sleight of hand being practiced by the Brotherhood. Yet, McCain doesn’t appear to be able or willing to identify it as such.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, McCain was ridiculed by the Obama campaign for being computer-illiterate to the point of not being able to send an email. Based on these very obvious and self-evident truths, perhaps his entire staff has that problem.

Remember this?

Ben Barrack is a talk show host and author of the upcoming book, Unsung Davids


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