US Portrayal of Syria Rebels 'Misleading, Dangerous'

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Obama administration might send U.S. military advisers to train Syrian rebels.
    
Officials say the idea is being discussed at the highest levels. If approved, it would significantly expand a CIA training effort currently taking place in Jordan.
    
Some question the wisdom of directly supporting the rebels.
 
'Misleading' Testimony
    
During Secretary of State John Kerry's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week, he said the Syrian opposition is becoming more moderate.
 
"The opposition has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership and more defined by its adherence to some, you know, democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority-protecting constitution, which will be broad-based and secular with respect to the future of Syria," Kerry told the panel Wednesday.
 
But Middle East analyst Jonathan Spyer feels Kerry's assessment is not only misleading but potentially dangerous.
 
"I would say Secretary Kerry's estimate does not accurately reflect the reality in rebel held parts of northern Syria which I have personally visited," Spyer told CBN News. 
 
"I think it's dangerous in the sense that it's creating a rosy and false picture of the situation on the ground in the rebel held part of the country," he said. "As an analyst it is my duty here  to present a clear a picture as possible of the situation as I have seen it."
 
Spyer says the picture inside Syria's rebel groups is not a pretty one.

Who are these rebel forces and what do they stand for? To help understand the situation, CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell spoke with Jonathan Spyer, an analyst with the IDC in Israel.


 
"Some of these rebel groups are very, very extreme indeed," he warned. "It's become a very dangerous place, full of jihadis, full of criminal elements also; by no means a burgeoning center for democracy if that is what somebody wants to try to sell." 
 
Who Are the Rebels?
 
Spyer says there are three main rebel groups.  One is al Qaeda. 
 
"Then there is still a larger group called the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front. These are the guys that we often hear described as the moderates," he explained. "These are the people that I think Secretary Kerry and those around him are talking about when they're talking about moderate."
 
"I spent some time with one of these important brigades within that group, called the Tawid Brigade, in Aleppo city and I would not describe them as moderate," he continued. "I would say these people from a Muslim Brotherhood type outlook."
 
"It doesn't mean they are necessarily organizationally connected to the Brotherhood but it's that kind of politics, the kind of politics we're familiar with by Hamas around here or Morsi and the Brotherhood down in Egypt," Spyer said.
 
"It's that kind of politics and I would question very much the description which we're hearing a lot in the media right now of those people as moderates.  Those people are Islamists, not al Qaeda but Islamists," he told CBN News.

Congress will soon decide if they believe there are moderates inside Syria they can trust. 

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