JERUSALEM – In the latest “Arab Spring” uprising, the U.S. is backing protesters, many of whom, informed Middle Eastern security officials tell WND, are now pressing to openly announce an affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Syrian opposition has been plagued by infighting, with competing divisions sparring with each other even since the movement began in September of last year.
Just last week, Syrian National Council leader Burhan Ghalioun announced his resignation after divisions within his council reached a climax only two days after the coalition voted to renew his term. Ghalioun has faced criticism from some opposition members for being too close to the Muslim Brotherhood and of trying to monopolize power within the SNC.
“I will not allow myself to be the candidate of division,” he said. “I am not attached to the position, so I announce that I will step down after a new candidate has been chosen, either by consensus or through new elections.”
The Muslim Brotherhood elements within the opposition want the SNC to declare it is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and its goals for the larger Middle East.
Such a declaration is being supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two major backers of the opposition, the informed Middle Eastern security officials said.
Already the Brotherhood has made gains in Egypt, Libya and other nations where the White House worked to back popular and violent uprisings in what has been called the “Arab Spring.”
The Syrian opposition has stepped up its rhetoric after its government was accused of a massacre last week in the town of Houla, where human rights groups say at least 92 people, a third of them children, were killed.
Syria has denied responsibility, saying instead it was the opposition that opened fire on civilians and army outposts.
Ghalioun yesterday threatened a “battle of liberation” against Bashar Assad’s regime unless the United Nations takes action under Chapter Seven, which allows for international military intervention.
“I call on the Syrian people to lead a battle of liberation and dignity, relying on its own forces, on the rebels deployed across the country and the Free Syrian Army brigades and friends,” he told a news conference in Istanbul.
Ghalioun said such a “battle” would be taken “unless the international community assumes its responsibilities under Chapter Seven” of the U.N. charter.
Spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ministry, Jihad Makdissi, meanwhile, squarely blamed the opposition for the deaths of the civilians in Houla, saying opposition fighters are using more advanced weaponry, including mortars.
Makdissi stated: ”It has been confirmed that hundreds of gunmen gathered at 2:00 o’clock on Friday afternoon, using pick-up cars loaded with up-to-date and heavy weapons, like mortars, machineguns and anti-tank missiles, which are newly used in the confrontation with the state forces.”
”The gunmen headed to al-Houla area,” he continued, “which is guarded by the government forces at five points where law-enforcement members and security are positioned, which lie outside the places where the massacres happened.”
‘U.S. arming opposition’
Reports of protesters obtaining more sophisticated weapons come after claims the Obama administration is coordinating arms shipments to the opposition.
U.S. officials have stated the White House is providing only nonlethal aid to the Syrian rebels, yet Middle Eastern security officials told WND the U.S. has been working with Arab countries to ensure the opposition in Syria is well armed.
Then last week, the Washington Post reported the U.S is helping to bring more and better weapons to Syria’s rebels, including anti-tank weaponry.
The Post report claimed the U.S. has been coordinating the weapons shipments, with Persian Gulf nations picking up the tab.
In response to the report, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland denied that Washington was playing a role in arming the rebels.
“With regard to any assertions with regard to lethal (aid), we are not involved in that,” she said.
“The United States has made a decision to provide nonlethal support to civilian members of the opposition. This is things like medical equipment. This is communications, things to help them, first of all, deal with the humanitarian aspects but also to help them to communicate better so that they can plan and be ready for the period of transition that we expect and want to see in Syria,” Nuland said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney seemed to confirm knowledge that other countries are sending weapons to the opposition.
“We continue to provide nonlethal support to the opposition,” he told reporters. “And while I can only speak for the United States, we know that others are pursuing different types of support, and I’d refer you to them to characterize the nature of their actions.”
Egyptian security officials, however, outlined to WND what they said was large-scale international backing for the rebels attacking the embattled regime of Assad – including arms and training from Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia being coordinated with the U.S.
Several knowledgeable Egyptian and Arab security officials claimed the U.S., Turkey and Jordan were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region.
The security officials also claimed Saudi Arabia was sending weapons to the rebels via surrogates, including through Druze and Christian leaders in Lebanon such as Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Saudi-Lebanese billionaire Saad Hariri, who recently served as Lebanon’s prime minister, and senior Lebanese opposition leader Samir Farid Geagea.
Al-Qaida, opposition collaborating?
One Egyptian security official told WND last week there is a growing collaboration between the Syrian opposition and al-Qaida, as well as evidence the opposition is sending weapons to jihadists in Iraq.
An Egyptian military attaché detailed the alleged collaboration between al-Qaida and the U.S.-aided opposition in Syria that operates under the banner of the National Free Army.
The purported cooperation extends to recent suicide attacks and bombings in Damascus and in the embattled Syrian city of Homs. The deadly attacks have been targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The military official told WND that Egypt has reports of collaboration between the Syrian opposition and three al-Qaida arms:
Jund al-Sham, which is made up of al-Qaida militants who are Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese;
Jund al-Islam, which in recent years merged with Ansar al-Islam, an extremist group of Suuni Iraqis operating under the al-Qaida banner;
Jund Ansar al-Allah, an al-Qaida group based in Gaza linked to Palestinian camps in Lebanon and Syria.
The Egyptian military official said there is evidence the Syrian opposition is transferring some weapons to jihadist allies in both northern Lebanon and Iraq. Any weapons transfers to Iraq could potentially be used against the Iraqi government and U.S. or international interests in that country.