Syria: Nobel Winners, Dodgy Deals, Clinton and Osama bin Laden’s Ally

Marking abandonment of the last shred of pretence of observing the rule of law, the Nobel Peace Prize winning European Union Foreign Ministers are to meet with the leader of the Syrian insurgency in Brussels on Monday December 10th, according to Lebanon’s Daily Star.

Mouas al-Khatib, now heading the self-styled Syrian National Coalition: “will attend at least part of the meeting a spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign affairs chief “, confirmed today.

The Ministers strategy to end the tragedy in Syria is to arm the insurgents, it seems and: “ … to look at ways of loosening an arms embargo in order to help rebel forces, EU diplomats said.”

Al Khatib, the paper points out, has already visited London and Paris, where the “coalition” has been recognized as the: “sole representative of the Syrian people.”

EU Foreign Ministers did not endorse full recognition at a meeting on November 19th, though considered the “coalition” to be: “legitimate representatives” of the (un-consulted) Syrian people. The “sole representative” is clearly hoping for the jackpot at this gathering.

Later in the week the EU, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other allies are meeting factions of the insurgency in Marrakech, Morocco.

In the week the US has designated one of the Syrian groups, the Nusra Front, to its list of “terrorist organizations”, alleging its links to al-Qaeda, the decision would seem to have been made for Clinton also to announce in Morocco, recognition of the al-Khatib collection as fully “the legitimate  representative” of the Syrian people: “an endorsement Washington hopes will help the group mature into a transitional government.”

(“Treason: betrayal of one’s sovereign or country, especially by attempting to overthrow the government. Any treachery or betrayal.” Collins Oxford Dictionary.)

Last week EU Member States decided to review the embargo on Syria “designed to cut off supplies” to the government, quarterly instead of annually: “to facilitate the supplies of non-lethal equipment to the rebels if necessary.” So “loosening the arms embago” and assistance in illegality in every way, bestowed by the collective Nobel Laureates.

It has to be wondered, given US concern regarding the Nusra Front’s links with Al Qaeda, whether anyone has read Mouas al-Khatib’s CV.

The highly educated 52 year old, Damascus born al-Khatib is President of the Islamic Civilisation Society, and a Member of the Board of Trustees of Sheikh Badr al-Din al-Hassani Institute for Islamic Studies. A graduate of the Department of Applied Geophysics at Damascus University, he also holds a Diploma in Political Science and International Relations.

The US Administration will not have missed his impeccable oil industry credentials.  He worked at Syria’s al-Furat Petrolium Company from 1985-1991. The company was part owned by the Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell (Shell Oil.) He maintained contacts with the company.

On the death of his father in 1992, he inherited his place as preacher at Damacus’s Umayyad Mosque (“The Great Mosque.”)  Built in 634, it is custodian of a shrine believed to hold the head of John the Baptist, revered as a Prophet by both Christians and Muslims. However, he was banned from preaching in the historic and illustrious place of worship by Bashir al Assad’s father, Hafez.

Al-Khatib then founded the Islamic Civilisation Society and taught Sharia Law  and Islamic studies in Damascus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria, Turkey, the UK, USA. He settled in Qatar – now a Syria opposition facilitator in the region.

Between 2003 and 2004 he returned to Syria as a lobbyist for Shell Oil when Bashir al Assad, having inherited the Presidency from his father in 2000, was opening up the country to oil and gas concessions.
He then returned again in 2012 to make what many considered inflammatory speeches, was arrested, imprisoned, then pardoned. He  again left the country.

Many of his writings were initially remarkably conciliatory, but then became more and more militant. Now Syria National Coalition Member Mahmoud al-Hamza: “states that the Coalition agreement signed by al-Khatib stipulates that a peaceful settlement will not be persued.”

“The formation of the National Coalition ‘rules out any talks with Mr. Assad and stipulates that his regime must be toppled’ is a victory for the war party and spells disaster for Syria and the region.”

He should have a warm welcome in Europe and North Africa next week. However, Washington would appear to have missed something:

Mouas al-Khatib was implacably opposed to the Iraq invasion, regarding Western presence to be sacrilegious. Osama bin Laden held the same view. He is widely stated as having aligned himself to Osama bin Laden at the time.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger's Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.) Read other articles by Felicity.