Whatever the hearts-and-minds rhetoric at the United Nations, in Syria the Obama administration is feeding the flames of Sunni extremism, and proving once again the truism that the American state is an enemy of the Syrian people (as it’s an enemy, like all states, of all peoples, including the American).
We expected strikes on ISIS. Some of the strongest strikes (and the strikes are far stronger than in Iraq), however, have been aimed at Jabhat al-Nusra (the Victory Front), the organisation from which ISIS split. Nusra is certainly an extremist Salafist group, and is openly linked to al-Qa’ida. Because its ideology terrifies not only minorities but also huge swathes of the Sunni population, it’s also a strategic obstruction in the way of the Syrian revolution. In August 2013 it participated (with ISIS) in the only documented large-scale massacre of Alawi civilians in the conflict. On the other hand, Nusra (unlike ISIS) was until yesterday actually fighting the regime, not other rebel groups. From January, along with every rebel formation, it’s been fighting ISIS too. And its leadership is entirely Syrian. Many Syrians, not necessarily extremist Salafists themselves, admire Nusra’s victories against their most immediate enemy – the Assadist forces dropping barrel bombs and raping and torturing at checkpoints. A sensible answer to Nusra would be to provide weapons and funds to Free Army forces who would then be in a position to gradually draw men from the organisation, slowly making it irrelevant (most men don’t care about the ideology of their militia’s leadership; they care about food and ammunition). But the Americans are allergic to working with the people on the ground most immediately concerned by the outcome, and bomb from the air instead. Nusra is now abandoning front line positions (in some areas the regime may be able to take immediate advantage). One Nusra leader has already spoken of an alliance with ISIS against the Americans.
Syria’s new daily routine: the Americans and Gulf Arabs bomb the Salafist extremists while Assad bombs the Free Army and Islamic Front (and of course civilians – as usual it isn’t being reported, especially not now the televisual US war is on, but about a hundred are being killed every day). The headline in regime newspaper al-Watan reads “America and its Allies in One Trench with the Syrian Army against Terrorism”. The opposition reads it this way too. Several demonstrations yesterday condemned the American strikes, called for America’s fall, and for solidarity with ISIS and Nusra. A sign at one protest read: “Yes, It’s an International Coalition Against Sunnis.”
The Americans are also bombing Syria’s oil fields. The justification for this is that ISIS makes a million dollars a day selling the oil – to Assad, among others. Again, the answer is to arm the Free Army so it can take the oil fields from ISIS. And again, America scorns the people on the ground, the owners of the resource, and bombs instead. Are Syrians expected to be grateful for this further assault on their infrastructure?
By far the biggest murderer, ethnic cleanser and destabiliser in Syria is Assad – but he remains untouched. This new bout of the ‘war on terror’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the well-being of the Syrian people. Nusra was targetted on the pretext that a cell called ‘Khorasan’ represented an imminent threat to the American ‘homeland’ (but you don’t kill dozens of men, and surrounding women and children, in the course of careful police work). This ridiculously short-sighted campaign (surely increasing the terrorism threat in the medium and long term) is entirely concerned with domestic American political and security obsessions. The backdrop of revolution and counter-revolutionary genocide is no more than interesting scenery.
As Obama said at the United Nations, it’s certainly important to shine a light on Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, on Arab education systems, on mosque discourse, and to confront Islamist identity politics in its milder as well as more severe forms. (And it’s crucially important to prevent wealthy Gulf individuals from financing ISIS and similar groups). But alongside the larger context, there are immediate practical causes of the chaos in Iraq and Syria. ISIS grew out of dictatorship, invasion, repression and war, and from the abandonment of the struggling Syrian people. The United States, along with Assad, Malki, Iran and Russia, is directly responsible for this tragedy. Perhaps its own official culture – which sneers at “dentists, farmers and students” seeking to liberate themselves, but worships shock-and-awe ‘solutions’ imposed from above – should also be examined.
One positive story from the past few days: following airstrikes against ISIS in Deir ez-Zor province, a group of ISIS fighters drove into the desert heading for the Iraqi border. Here they were met and killed by a local resistance group called al-Kufn al-Abyad. Neither the Free Army nor the Islamic Front are present in Deir ez-Zor, but still local people are organising to take on fascism, from whichever direction it comes.
Finally, a question. The UN Security Council has supported a resolution to stop “foreign terrorist fighters” crossing borders. Will this designation include the barbaric Iranian-backed Shia terrorists from Iraq and Lebanon – probably more numerous than Sunni foreigners – fighting on Assad’s frontlines?
Raed Fares, activist from Kafranbel, says this:
We have tried to no avail to awaken the world’s conscience in order that they may help us be rid of the head of all terrorism, criminality, murder and destruction: the Assad family and all its supporters, as well as terrorism cells they created and used against us, including Daesh (known also as the Islamic State) and Halish (known as Hezbollah, a Shia militia) and their offshoots. Since the beginning, all our efforts went towards this goal.
Now, they have created a coalition – they have unified, racing in a storm, as usual led by the United States, promising they will fight terrorism! In this context, we must remember the following points:
1. Bashar Assad is the head of all terrorism. He has killed more than half a million Syrians, displaced more than ten million, detained more than two hundred and fifty thousand, maimed more than half a million and destroyed most of the country using all types of weapons to do this, from knives all the way to chemical weapons. He has killed Syrians in ways that have not been seen by the world over the centuries.
2. Halish (name used for the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah) is terrorism in all its forms, and it comprises of foreign soldiers who have taken part in killing Syrians and perpetrating unthinkable atrocities against them. Moreover, Hezbollah is actually on America’s terrorism list!
3. Daesh (also known as the Islamic State) is a roving terrorist group, killing Syrians and displacing them. The group has killed the elderly, children and women and displaced thousands of Syrians.
4. There are Islamist groups in Syria who have fought the regime and did not approach the Syrian people with the intent to harm them; in fact, quite the opposite! They have dealt with Syrians in the capacity of brotherhood and respect. Those that may have committed excesses did not do so out of any ideological resolve.
5. We called on the Arabs and the Muslims at the start of the revolution, and they sent us individuals without weapons when what we needed most was political and military support of NATIONS in order to be victorious against Bashar Assad.
With all this being said, we are at a crossroads today. If the coalition will use selective logic and ignore all of those mentioned, choosing only to strike one group and the Islamists fighting the regime, leaving the very source of terrorism, then by God this is something that is neither logic nor wisdom can accept. It is something that will only increase our hate for the head of this coalition and all its allies, and it will solidify the image of America as the “Great Satan”.
Assad, Halish and Daesh are the only ones who should be targeted, or else be certain of the terrorism you will reap with every new Syrian child born, and know that this will be a direct product of your handiwork.
Finally, we started this revolution knowing that we do not have the ability to face this regime’s army. Despite this, we took this path and we will remain upon it. The entrance of another military power does not worry us, because we knew since the beginning that we do not have the ability to face the sheer size of these forces, yet we began this revolution. Even if the whole world stands behind this oppressor, we chose this path March 2011 and we will not deviate from it. The only thing that will stop any of us is death.