Syria’s opposition frustrated by its reluctant ‘allies’

Jihadis would be eclipsed by Assad removal

Members of the “Liwaa al-Sultan Mrad” brigade, operating under the Free Syrian Army, sit together as they rest in Aleppo – “Defeating the regime was actually possible until the first months of this year.”PHOTOGRAPH:  REUTERS/MOLHEM BARAKAT

Members of the “Liwaa al-Sultan Mrad” brigade, operating under the Free Syrian Army, sit together as they rest in Aleppo – “Defeating the regime was actually possible until the first months of this year.”PHOTOGRAPH: REUTERS/MOLHEM BARAKAT

Sat, Sep 21, 2013, 02:00

We are being killed, help us! The Syrian revolution erupted from the hopeful aspirations of the Arab Spring, a wave of revolutions in many Arab countries that have sought to rid the region of our oppressive tyrants.

From the beginning, those Syrians who marched for freedom were confronted with violence, repressive brutality at first, then an open war that reached its apex last month with the dastardly use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians.

The regime’s murderous efforts have been bolstered by sincere support from its allies – financial, strategic support and manpower from Iran, military and diplomatic backing from Russia. In contrast, the Syrian resistance has thus far received only limited support from the Friends of Syria – a group of Arab, western and other states which were supposedly formed to be a legal international framework to support those Syrians who are being persecuted by their own government.

These Syrians have called many times for international assistance since the summer of 2011, even before they were forced to resort to arms for survival, and before a single Jihadi group was heard of.

However, these “friends” did not respond to the increasingly desperate pleas for help.

Since the beginning of 2012, the struggle inside Syria has become frozen in a regional and international war by proxy: friends of the regime, Russia, Iran and Hizbullah, are doing their best to ensure a decisive victory of the Assad regime over the revolutionaries, while “our friends” are not helping the revolution to defeat its enemy.

The conservative statist logic of the western and Arab parties prefers a continuation of the Syrian regime which retains its active military and police powers, in order to confront what they consider potential security dangers to their interests and to “stability in the region”. These powers have thus far chosen the devil they know.

What I want to say is it is untrue that the great powers are radically divided on the Syrian conflict. Nor is it true that this division is what ensures a wide margin for the regime to manoeuvre and assist its ability to murder its subjects for the past 915 days.

Hizbullah intervention

What is true is that on one side you have those who want the regime to stay, and on the other you have those who do not want to see it leave. The latter side, the United States – and Israel behind the curtain – has intervened to restrict regional and international forces from substantially helping the Syrian resistance.

Defeating the regime was actually possible until the first months of this year, when all that the Syrian resistance needed was anti-aircraft and anti-tank weaponry. And they could have perfectly completed the mission, without any direct military intervention from outside powers. Only four months ago, Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah chief, claimed the rebels could have celebrated their victory in Damascus were it not for his militia’s intervention.

The desire of our friends to maintain the untenable status quo has turned the struggle inside Syria into an unending conflict, with vast destruction of the economy, the undermining of the social fabric and the senseless loss of tens of thousands of lives. This increasingly unstable and war-torn environment is the ideal breeding ground for the emergence of radical jihadists, as all precedents testify.

From the American perspective, there is hardly a more contradictory policy. But here also we have precedents. Washington had toppled the Iraqi regime in 2003, and Iran reaped the results; then it abolished the Iraqi state and the nihilist groups of al-Qaeda were the beneficiaries. Now, preventing the fall of a regime grappling with a revolution benefits only the friends of the regime.

Russia is determinedly returning to the international arena, making itself a compulsory address in international interactions concerning Syria. Moreover, Iran is installing its lines of defence far from its borders, in the heart of our torn country while its own files, including the nuclear one, recede from international focus.

Jihadists are also among the beneficiaries. Are they among the regime friends? Perhaps not. But surely they are among the enemies of the revolution, as many events have shown in the last few weeks.

The tragic losers in this dynamic are the Syrian people, in addition to Syria the country and state. More than 120,000 Syrians are dead, one-third are displaced, a quarter of buildings are destroyed and nearly 100 per cent of people are without hope.

As much as I can gather from my personal follow-up, a new beginning without Assad – along with the return of public services and the appearance of signs of a new state in the country – will have immediate effects on the jihadists, who in reality are more threadbare and less cohesive than the impression from afar portrays them.

Only what is good against the Assad regime is beneficial against the extremist jihadis; it is not true that what is good for the jihadis is bad for the regime.

Deprived of victory

What is true is that what is good for the revolution, the Free Syrian Army and the democratic activists inside and outside of the country, is bad for the regime and the jihadis.

Our conditions were hard for the second half of the past 30 months because the big actors engineered the survival of the regime from behind the curtain, thus preventing us from achieving our goal and depriving us of our cause.

As Syrians engaged in the revolution, we know very well that we cannot tell the Americans, and the west in general, to leave us alone.

However, we can say in the name of justice, freedom, and human dignity, the values that drive our revolution: help us achieve the immediate goal of this revolution – getting rid of this infamous public killer in the ancient homeland of the alphabet.

Yassin al-Haj Saleh is a Syrian writer and a former political prisoner, who has been in hiding in Syria since the beginning of the uprising in 2011.

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