Brahimi Won’t Make any Difference

by DR. SAMI ALRABAA August 24, 2012

The new UN envoy, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, who is taking over from former Kofi Annan, will also fail to broker a cease-fire in Syria.

When he soon meets with Mr. Bashar Al Assad, the president of Syria, the latter will repeat his rhetoric about the opposition: his "army is simply fighting a bunch of terrorists." The other side, the insurgents, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) will never talk to president Bashar. "He committed lots of crimes against his own people," they told me in Aleppo.

However, there are people in the Syrian opposition who would be willing to negotiate peace with high ranking officials in the current Syrian regime, for example, with Farouk Al Shara', one of the vice presidents. In one of my latest visits to the Middle East, I met Ms. Ikhlas Badawi in Turkey, a former member of parliament, who defected to the opposition more than 4 weeks ago. "Relatively speaking, Al Shara' is a moderate member of the Syrian regime" Ms. Badawi told me.

In Qatar I also talked to Mr. Muhammad Husam Hafez, the former Syrian ambassador to Armenia and to Mr. Faruq Taha, the former ambassador to Belarus, both had defected to the opposition. They also told me that they would not object to talking to Faruq Al Shara'. Both diplomats said that they had the impression, Al Shara' "is not as bad as the rest of the regime's gang".

Ms. Badawi rejected the use of the term "civil war" in Syria. She said, what is going on in Syria is not a civil war. "A civil war is like that one which took place in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990. Different factions fought against each other. In Syria, it is a war between the opposition and the regime. We are all fighting the regime: Muslims, Christians, even some Alawites have joined the opposition."

Since the beginning of the uprising, the regime of Mr. Al Assad has rejected all kinds of mediation and negotiations with the opposition. The regime officials and their media insist that the state of Syria is fighting terrorists who are backed by foreign powers. Now, more than at any other time, the regime has intensified its determination to fight the war against the insurgents until the end. "The Syrian army is using all kinds of weapons against us. We just hope that they won't turn to chemical and biological arms," Abu Saud, a leading rebel in Aleppo said.  

A close friend of the Assad family and former teacher of President Bashar Al Assad and his brother Maher told me that Bashar might be willing to talk to the opposition to reach peace. But his brother Maher is a tenacious ruthless man of power. He categorically rejects the idea of talking to the opposition.

"Both brothers, Bashar and Maher, were brought up in a family where they have been incessantly told, they would inherit power, much power, and they should do everything possible to stay in power, by all means. Values like democracy and human rights have not been part of their education and repertoire," that friend, who doesn't want to be named, added.

Al Assad's close friend also remarked that Bashar and Maher believe that their father, Hafez, was a hero. And his legacy must be kept alive.

During my last visit to Damascus two weeks ago, I met Sameer (he doesn't want his last name to be published for security reasons), a Lieutenant General at the Syrian Army, who had served in the fourth brigade, led by Maher Al Assad, for the last 3 years. He told me, "The man is very brutal and ruthless. Actually it was him who ordered shooting at demonstrators in Dar'a, in the south of Syria at the beginning of the uprising. He urged his soldiers to shoot at any demonstrator. He told them, once protesters are shot at, they would never take to the street again. People would be intimidated and scared."

Sameer added, "Do you know that Maher tried to kill his brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, the husband of his sister, Bushra? Fortunately, Asef' survived that shot."

Sameer argued, "If Maher were not there, the uprising would not have spiralled to what it is now. Thanks to him we have a civil war, and lawlessness is now everywhere."

As long as the Syrian regime is backed by Russia and China, the regime is determined to carry on the fight against the rebels, despite all kinds of political, economic, and security problems, the regime is increasingly facing. That might take 10-15 years, like the civil war in neighbouring Lebanon. At the end, all factions survived.

Lat week I was in Aleppo. There I met a dozen insurgents. They come from all parts of the world, from Syria, Pakistan, Chechnya, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, etc. All are motivated Islamists. One of them, Abu Mousa, a Jordanian, told me that he was a friend of Abu Qatada, the clergyman who is being prosecuted in the UK. He suggested (jokingly), Britain should not deport him to Jordan. "They should send him to us here to fight the Syrian regime, they should not send us satellite phones, we have got enough of them. He is most welcome here. We need people like Abu Qatada."

Munir Triki, a fighter from Tunisia praised Islamists. "You see, we Muslims here come from all parts of the world to help our brother Muslims against the enemies of Allah/God. We are the kings of the Arab Spring. We liberated Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt form the oppressors, from the friends of the West. That is why; I think, the West hates us. We Islamist do not only talk, but we act."

Maybe Munir is right. When I was in Libya during the uprising and heard the insurgents shouting slogans from the Quran, like Allahu Akbar! (God is great!), I thought: uh oh, if those Islamists win the war, they will establish an Islamic state.

They won the war against Mou'ammar Al Ghaddafi, but lost the elections, at least they did not win the absolute majority. In Tunisia the Islamists who won the majority of the parliament's seats are introducing a moderate Islam. Muhammad Mursi, a Muslim Brother, became the president of Egypt, but he has not introduced the Shari'a which most liberals and seculars fear.

Back to Brahimi, the new UN envoy to Syria. Most insurgents believe that Brahimi's mission is futile. This is what the insurgents believe. Abu Naser, a leading insurgent told me it is a waste of time and money. "It is going to be a kind of void diplomacy, maybe good for the media, but not for us. Peace will be back to Syria as soon as the Assad regime disappears. And we're working on that," Abu Naser concluded.

I asked Abu Naser, what he thought of the Syrian National Council (SNC). His answer was clear. He said, "It's a bunch of Syrian exiles who are enjoying life in the West. They do not represent us. Brahimi can broker with them whatever he wants. But all won't apply to us. We are living in two different worlds. Period!"

Dr. Sami Alrabaa, an ex-Muslim, is a professor of Sociology and an Arab-Muslim culture specialist. He has taught at Kuwait University, King Saud University, and Michigan State University. He also writes for the Jerusalem Post and is the author of the book: “Veiled Atrocities”, published by Prometheus, New York 2010 .

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