According to Wikileaks Cables as posted at Al-Akhbar English it is clear that bringing democracy and human rights are the convenient way for the USA for selective regime change. This is done in the Arab region where the major rich partners of the USA are neither democratic in any way, nor even recognizing many basic human rights.
Deceptive US Diplomacy
The World must define exactly what the US administrations mean by “Diplomacy”, “Democracy”, “Human Rights” and “Foreign Policy”. These values are great but the USA must adhere to decent laws and acceptable code of conduct. The USA must not make immoral shortcuts to achieve their real goals; or pretend to serve these principles while actually peoples are being used and their ambitions are exploited, including the Americans.
Date: 9/23/2009 13:36
Origin: Embassy Damascus
Over the past six months, SARG security agents have increasingly questioned civil society and human rights activists about U.S. programming in Syria and the region, including U.S. Speaker and MEPI initiatives.
Over the past six months, civil society and human rights activists questioned by SARG security have told us interrogators asked specifically about their connections to the U.S. Embassy and the State Department. XXXXXXXXXXXX questioned about MEPI-funded Democracy Council activities as well as visiting State Department officials.
It is unclear to what extent SARG intelligence services understand how USG money enters Syria and through which proxy organizations. What is clear, however, is that security agents are increasingly focused on this issue when they interrogate human rights and civil society activists. The information agents are able to frame their questions with more and more specific information and names. XXXXXXXXXXXX suggest the SARG has keyed in on MEPI operations in particular.
Except for the Netherlands’ public stalling of the EU Association Agreement over human rights, Syrian activists have heard little in the way of support from the international community.
Date: 7/8/2009 13:03
Origin: Embassy Damascus
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Syria Website published a “letter” on June 11 accusing external Damascus Declaration committees of violating the Damascus Declaration National Council’s bylaws on electing members to the General Secretariat. XXXXXXXXXXXX and explained the Muslim Brotherhood’s protest stemmed from the external Damascus Declaration committees’ failure to coordinate with the MB in setting up the external political structures meant to compliment the Damascus Declaration’s internal structures.
The rancor expressed in the MB’s letter suggested a growing fissure between expatriate Damascus Declaration representatives, especially between the MB and the small, but politically connected and increasingly active Movement for Justice and Development (MJD). More worrisome, however, is recent information suggesting the SARG may already have penetrated the MJD and learned about sensitive USG programs in Syria.
Since 2005, internal squabbles among political parties signatory to the Damascus Declaration have stalled, but never obstructed, the organization’s forward progress. Disputes ranged from how vocal the organization should be in condemning U.S. policies in the region (ref A) to whether the Damascus Declaration should distance itself from the MB.
Nasserists and nationalists of varying stripes, especially those in the Arab Socialist Democratic Party, whose participation in the Damascus Declaration was permitted by the SARG as a wedge to create division among reformist ranks, proved especially adamant in their rejection of the MB. The Nasserists, XXXXXXXXXXXX told us, insisted the MB’s involvement provoked the SARG; for the Damascus Declaration to continue safely, MB participation would have to be jettisoned.
MJD vs. Muslim Brotherhood
Since 2008, expatriates have formed Damascus Declaration committees throughout Europe and the United States. Initially, XXXXXXXXXXXX remarked, little coordination existed among the nascent “external committees” in the U.S., Britain, Belgium, France, and Germany. The MB, despite having a developed network in Europe and being signatory to the original Declaration, was left on the margin.
The MB did not comment on the formation of the committees, nor was the MB’s input sought by those putting the committees together, XXXXXXXXXXXX said. XXXXXXXXXXXX added that the purpose of these committees was to put in place a temporary, seven person panel that could elect a small number of external representatives to the General Secretariat, an idea consistent with the founders intentions for the General Secretariat’s structure.
XXXXXXXXXXXX asked the representative of the London-based Damascus Declaration committee, Anas al-Abdah — who was also the leader of the Movement for Justice and Development, a self-professed moderate Islamic organization (ref B) — to contact the MB and invite them to participate in the formation and elections of the ad hoc political panel.
“After a year,” XXXXXXXXXXXX lamented, “nothing has been achieved. Abdah claimed he tried to contact them, but this is hard to prove.” XXXXXXXXXXXX added that other external Damascus Declaration committee members had reported back that they too had attempted to contact the MB without success. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us XXXXXXXXXXXX doubted attempts at contact commenced until it was effectively beside the point — that is, after the MB broke with the NSF and disavowed opposition activities in response to the Israeli attacks on Gaza. By then, he said, it was too late; the MB felt slighted by the external committees. When the MB broke from the NSF, XXXXXXXXXXXX said, “I tried to push XXXXXXXXXXXX to contact them directly,” to ask them to participate in the formation of the external political structure. “I said directly, not through (Anas) Abdah because I know competition among groups outside causes problems,” XXXXXXXXXXXX recounted. XXXXXXXXXXXX
According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, it was the external committees’ disregard for MB participation that prompted the Brotherhood to draft and publish its incendiary letter. XXXXXXXXXXXX said “some people are now saying the MB isn’t serious about joining in the Damascus Declaration’s work” and that the letter is just an excuse — they have already renounced opposition activities and do not plan to resume them against Syria. XXXXXXXXXXXX cautioned, “I think this comes from outside, not in Syria,” and that it is not true. XXXXXXXXXXXX argued MB participation in the Damascus Declaration was essential, observing, “The MB is the largest Islamic group in the country; the MJD is just a few people.”
MJD: A Leaky Boat?
XXXXXXXXXXXX had told us in the past (ref B) that the MJD (1) had many members who were formerly with the MB; (2) was at odds with the MB and sought to marginalize it abroad; (3) was seeking to expand its base in Syria, though it had not been successful; and (4) had been initially lax in its security, often speaking about highly sensitive material on open lines. The first three points speak directly to the ongoing feud and the MB’s recent letter of protest. XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX told us security services had asked whether XXXXXXXXXXXX had met with anyone from our “Foreign Ministry” and with anyone from the Democracy Council (Comment: State Department Foreign Affairs Officer Joseph Barghout had recently been in Syria XXXXXXXXXXXX; we assume the SARG was fishing for information, knowing Barghout had entered the country. Jim Prince was in Damascus on February 25, XXXXXXXXXXXX
Born not as a political party, but as an umbrella organization composed of many different groups, the Damascus Declaration has been handicapped by internal divisions among unlikely allies: the Kurds, the MB, liberals, national socialists, communists and others. XXXXXXXXXXXX MJD’s organizational successes so far might best be explained as the by-products of its relationship with XXXXXXXXXXXX and the USG. Evidence the organization has a sizable, influential constituency inside and outside Syria is difficult to discern. Post has seen no reporting on the size MJD’s base in Europe and the U.S. XXXXXXXXXXXX; therefore it would not surprise us if an external committee member like Anas Abdah, who heads both the Damascus Declaration’s external London committee and the MJD, would drag his feet when asked to contact the MB.
XXXXXXXXXXXX report begs the question of how much and for how long the SARG has known about Democracy Council operations in Syria and, by extension, the MJD’s participation. Reporting in other channels suggest the Syrian Muhabarat may already have penetrated the MJD and is using MJD contacts to track U.S. democracy programming. If the SARG does know, but has chosen not to intervene openly, it raises the possibility that the SARG may be mounting a campaign to entrap democracy activists receiving illegal (under Syrian law) foreign assistance.
Date: 4/28/2009 13:24
Origin: Embassy Damascus
This cable represents a follow-up to “Re-engaging Syria: Human Rights” (ref A) and outlines ongoing civil society programming in the country, primarily under the auspices of the Bureau of Human Rights and Labor (DRL) and the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).
Both MEPI and DRL fund projects on which Post has varying degrees of visibility. Some programs may be perceived, were they made public, as an attempt to undermine the Asad regime, as opposed to encouraging behavior reform. In an effort to assist any Department level discussions on the SARG’s attitude toward human rights, this cable describes a possible strategy for framing the human rights discussion as an area of “mutual concern” for Syria and the U.S.
The New Policy Front
As the Syria policy review moves apace, and with the apparent collapse of the primary Syrian external opposition organization, one thing appears increasingly clear: U.S. policy may aim less at fostering “regime change” and more toward encouraging “behavior reform.” If this assumption holds, then a reassessment of current U.S.-sponsored programming that supports anti-SARG factions, both inside and outside Syria, may prove productive as well.
The U.S. attempt to politically isolate the SARG raised stumbling blocks to direct Embassy involvement in civil society programming. As a result, the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and the Bureau of Human Rights and Labor (DRL) took the lead in identifying and funding civil society and human rights projects. Though the Embassy has had direct input on a few of these efforts, especially with DRL, most of the programming has proceeded without direct Embassy involvement.
DRL funded four major Syria-specific programs in the previous fiscal year. The grant recipients were (1) Freedom House, which conducted multiple workshops for a select group of Syrian activists on “strategic non-violence and civic mobilization;” (2) the American Bar Association, which held a conference in Damascus in July and then continued outreach with the goal of implementing legal education programs in Syria through local partners; (3) American University, which has conducted research on Syrian tribal and civil society by inviting shaykhs from six tribes to Beirut for interviews and training; and (4) Internews, which has coordinated with the Arab Women Media Center to support media youth camps for university-aged Syrians in both Amman and Damascus. In addition to these programs, the Embassy provided input on DRL grants awarded to Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), International War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), and The International Research and Exchange Board (IREX). Though Post does not directly monitor any of these programs, we have appreciated the opportunity to meet with representatives of CIPE and IWPR.
In addition to smaller local grants, MEPI sponsors eight major Syria-specific initiatives, some dating back to 2005 that will have received approximately USD 12 million by September 2010. A summary of MEPI produced material on these programs follows:
-Aspen Strategic Initiative Institute, “Supporting Democratic Reform” (USD 2,085,044, December 1, 2005 – December 31, 2009). The institute, situated in Berlin, works with indigenous and expatriate reform-oriented activists and has sponsored conferences in international locations that brought together NGO representatives, media, and human rights activists from the Middle East, Europe, and the U.S., paying particular attention to Syrian Kurds. MEPI noted that “while this program has offered little intrinsic value and will not likely be continued beyond the terms of the grant, XXXXXXXXXXXX
-Democracy Council of California, “Civil Society Strengthening Initiative (CSSI)” (USD 6,300,562, September 1, 2006 – September 30, 2010). “CSSI is a discrete collaborative effort between the Democracy Council and local partners” that has produced XXXXXXXXXXXX “various broadcast concepts” set to air in April.
-Regents of the University of New Mexico, “The Cooperative Monitoring Center-Amman: Web Access for Civil Society Initiatives” (USD 949,920, September 30, 2006 – September 30, 2009). This project established “a web portal” and training in how to use it for NGOs. MEPI noted, “this program has been of minimal utility and is unlikely to be continued beyond the term of the grant.”
-International Republican Institute (IRI), “Supporting Democratic Reform” (USD 1,250,000, September 30, 2006 – August 31, 2009). “The project supports grassroots public awareness campaigns and the conduct and dissemination of public opinion polling research. XXXXXXXXXXXX
-MEPI has also proposed continued programming for IRI and the CIPE, as well as supporting independent journalists through joint efforts with NEA/PI.
Challenge Ahead: Programming In Syria
Regarding the most sensitive MEPI-sponsored programs in Syria, Post has had limited visibility on specific projects, due in no small measure to SARG-imposed constraints. XXXXXXXXXXXX. Through the intermediary operations of the Movement for Justice and Development (MJD) (ref B), a London-based moderate Islamist group, MEPI routes money XXXXXXXXXXXX. Our understanding is that the aforementioned Democracy Council grant is used for this purpose and passes the MEPI grant money on to the MJD.
The SARG would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change. This would inevitably include the various expatriate reform organizations operating in Europe and the U.S., most of which have little to no effect on civil society or human rights in Syria.
Strategic Thinking: Next Steps
The current review of policy toward Syria offers the USG an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to human rights through the strategic and incremental opening of dialogue between the two countries. The core issues facing a human rights strategy for Syria are (1) how best to advise the SARG that its tolerating dissent will be a key issue as our bilateral relationship moves forward; and (2) how to bring our U.S.-sponsored civil society and human rights programming into line a less confrontational bilateral relationship.
Conversations between U.S. and SARG officials have examined the parameters of what might constitute a “common interest” between the two countries, “shared concerns” upon which to center future bilateral discourse and achieve concrete results. This strategy might prove equally effective in raising human rights with the SARG by clearly articulating how recognizable and sustained behavior change in relation to human rights would enhance SARG’s image, which currently represents a stumbling block to advancing bilateral relations. In the past, both the Department and the White House have made public statements condemning the SARG for its human rights record; these statements have not, unfortunately, produced positive results. Visiting Congressional delegations have also made public statements that have not been met with the desired action by the SARG.
The SARG reacts defensively to public announcements, so more private channels of communication might reinforce a “common interest” theme, allowing the SARG to act without being perceived as bending under U.S. pressure.
Should the current administration wish to send such a message, action on any one of the following five concerns might shift the SARG’s image into a more positive light. (1) The release of specific imprisoned high-profile civil society and human rights activists; (2) credible movement to resolve the citizenship status of stateless Kurds; (3) loosening media restrictions, including Internet censorship; (4) lifting travel bans on Syrian citizens; and (5) following up on promises to establish a “Senate” that would create a legislative space for opposition politicians to work in.
The perennial challenge is how to build programming in Syria without drawing SARG scrutiny to Syrian contacts and Embassy personnel. XXXXXXXXXXXX. If our dialogue with Syria on human rights is to succeed, we need to express the desire to work in Syria to strengthen civil society in a non-threatening manner. We also need to ensure that programming here is fully coordinated, that the Embassy has the resources it needs to administer the programs, and that the programs are compliant with U.S. economic sanctions against Syria.
While DRL- and MEPI-funded programs have explored new areas where we can achieve results, some of our time-honored programs may also prove to be extremely effective. The attractiveness of U.S. culture is still a powerful engine for change in Syria. It is revealing that when the SARG sought to punish the U.S. for its alleged role in the October 26, 2008 attack in Abu Kamal, they avoided political targets and instead shut down the three main sources of American culture in Damascus: the American Culture Center (ACC), the ALC, and the Damascus Community School. Countering with more cultural programming, more speaker programs, and the IV exchange program remain our best tools for having a direct effect on civil society. To this end, VIPs coming to Syria might be uniquely positioned to request and receive opportunities for addressing public audiences.
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