WikiLeaks just released classified U.S. diplomatic cables indicating that since the second term of George Bush and continuing at least into part of the Obama term, the U.S. has provided funding to opposition groups in Syria. 

As reported by The Washington Post:

The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.

The London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow the country’s autocratic leader, Bashar al-Assad. Human rights groups say scores of people have been killed by Assad’s security forces since the demonstrations began March 18; Syria has blamed the violence on “armed gangs.”

Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria. The channel is named after the Barada River, which courses through the heart of Damascus, the Syrian capital.

The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad. In January, the White House posted an ambassador to Damascus for the first time in six years.

Why release these cables at this moment, when Bashar al-Assad is trying to suppress protests by blaiming foreign conspirators

Was it just coincidence that the cables were released as violence mounted in Syria?  Either this was a cynical ploy by WikiLeaks to take advantage of the violence in Syria to generate publicity, or WikiLeaks recklessly disregarded the dangers such a release presents to the protesters.

The support given to opposition groups in years past may have no connection to the people in the streets, but the WikiLeaks disclosure surely will be used by al-Assad as an excuse for even more brutal repression.

WikiLeaks has given al-Assad a major gift, and the people of Syria will pay the price.

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