Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Charles Lister and the "moderate" Syrian rebels

"In addition to his work with Brookings and subsequently the Middle East Institute, Lister is also a part of the 'Track II Syria Initiative'.  During the course of this work, which in his own description has been "100 percent funded by Western governments", Lister has evidently formed close links with members of a number of armed groups inside of Syria.  At times, his role appears to have been effectively to act as a West-facing public relations agent for these groups, announcing their name changes and mergers and carrying out damage limitation exercises in the wake of their frequently brutal violence.  No incident revealed this more starkly than the horrific beheading of a young Palestinian boy by the Nur al-Din al-Zinki Brigade in July 2016.  Lister had previously championed al-Zinki -- a recipient of both funding and arms from the US Government -- as one of the groups that formed the 70,000 supposedly 'moderate' fighters in Syria that David Cameron claimed existed in November 2015.  When footage of the beheading emerged online, Lister tweeted almost immediately that he had just spoken to the group and that it would issue a statement in response to it shortly.  Later the same day, Lister reiterated his argument that it was "utterly absurd" to compare al-Zinki and other groups to ISIS or al-Qaeda and that this was "literally beyond debateable".  To do so after having just watched the group's members taunt and then behead a child was shocking.  Furthermore, Lister's paradoxical plan for ostensibly "winding down" the conflict in Syria -- written after the al-Zinki beheading had occurred -- included the US dramatically increasing arms shipments to rebel groups."