Syria: Daily Death & Destruction Go On While the World Watches

by DR. SAMI ALRABAA February 25, 2013

The revolution in Syria is unlike any in the Arab Spring. Since its rise, two years ago, it has been developing differently and is moving daily from bad worse. Maybe the most similar one is the Libyan revolution, where the opposition had to topple the Gaddafi's regime by force.  

The revolution in Libya started off in Benghazi in the east of the country. It became the hub of the revolution, politically and militarily.

The Libyan opposition leadership gathered in Benghazi and from there it coordinated the fight against the troops of the former dictator Mu'ammar Al Gaddafi. This was very crucial for the success of the Libyan revolution.

The Libyan rebels received all kinds of weapons and advice they needed from the West. In addition, the UN Security Council's resolution declaring Libya a no-fly zone paralyzed the regime forces and helped the rebel forces move forward to topple the Gaddafi regime.

In Syria, the situation has been completely different. The majority of Syrians first took to the streets and peacefully demanded democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. The Assad regime responded with fire, believing that that would deter people from demonstrating against the regime of Bashar Al Assad.

The Assad regime proved to be dead wrong. Peaceful demonstrators started arming themselves and became increasingly determined to fight the Assad regime, and remove it by force.

"We had no other choice. If your brutal enemy fires at you, you have to defend yourself. Lots of innocent protesters were killed. Do you want us to wait until the regime eliminates all of us?" Ibrahim Awadh, a rebel fighter, said.

Most people opposing the Assad regime, including the Syrian National Council (SNC) and later the National Coalition (NC), firmly believe now that the Assad's regime can only be toppled by force unless Bashar Al Assad and his supporters agree to sit at the negotiation table and work out a peaceful deal, which day after day has proved to be impossible.

So far, the Syrian regime has practically rejected all peace initiatives. Rhetorically, it accepted all the proposals submitted by the UN envoy, Al Akhdar El Ibrahimi. But on the ground, it carried on its indiscriminate bombardment and killing. It also rejected the latest controversial initiative of Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib, the president of the NC. Al Khatib offered negotiations with officials from the regime whose "hands have not been blemished with blood,"

The Syrian regime ignored Al Khatib's offer. President Bashar Al Assad and his media usually dub the opposition as "agents" of the West and the rebels as "terrorists."

On the ground, it seems that the Assad regime is stubbornly determined to carry on the bombardment of all those areas controlled by the armed opposition.

Bashar Al Assad and his supporters are determined to eliminate the so-called "terrorists" and if need be "destroy the whole country."

Bashar Al Assad himself said in an interview, he prefers to die in Syria, and he would never negotiate with the rebels who he calls "terrorists."

Hence, the Syrian Army and Assad's militias are indiscriminately bombarding all kinds of buildings where rebels are suspected hiding.

In most major Syrian towns, numerous buildings have been ripped off, the ground is littered with burnt remains and streets are shell-shocked.

The Assad's regime and his media repeat ad nausea, the regime is allegedly fighting ‘Islamist terrorists." The regime claims that if the "terrorists" win the fight, they would take over and establish an Islamic fanatic regime inspired by Al Qa'ida. Certainly this what the West fears. And therefore the West is quite hesitant with regard to arming the rebels.

Unlike the situation in Libya at the beginning of the revolution, the armed opposition, the Free Syrian Army is not centrally organized and commanded. Besides, the rebels get their arms somehow and somewhere.

In addition, over the past four decades, the Assad regime never allowed the formation of opposition political parties. George Sabra, the deputy in the NC, is the chairman of a clandestine leftist party, which has maybe a hundred members. Dissidents have been jailed and tortured. Sabra himself spent 14 years in prison under appalling conditions.

Hence, there are no popular political leaders among the opposition who the rebels, or at least some of them would listen to or receive orders from.

Consequently, there are all kinds of rebel groups; Islamists and secularists, mixed, small and big groups.

When I was in Syria a couple of days ago, I visited several battalions like Ahrar Al Sham, Jabhat Al Nusra, and other rebel militias.

When I asked some fighters from Ahrar Al Sham if they cooperate with and coordinate with other fighters in other rebel groups, Abdulazis Al Jamous responded, "No, I only know those in my group."

I said "People in the West say that the Syrian opposition fighters are fractious and deeply divided."   

Al Jamous responded, "That is rubbish. All rebel groups are fighting for the same aim: We are all fighting for a democratic, free Syria. We want to establish a democratic and free society."

I asked Jamal Abbas from Jabhat Al Ansar if his battalion has any connection with the NC. He answered, "Who are those people? What are they doing? They live in cozy villas in Qatar enjoying life, and we are doing the dirty job for them. Honestly, I don't want to have anything to do with them. Have they provided us with weapons? No. Have they given us money to buy arms? No. For us they are useless."

His friend Ali Khoudary interrupted, "If they (the NC) help us to get the right arms, we'd recognize them and accept their leadership. But they are doing nothing! They simply hold press conferences and give interviews."

Back to Islamist rebel fighters. In a short interview with Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib in Doha/Qatar, he told me that the West is exaggerating the impact of the "so-called Islamists" among the Syrian rebel groups, and added, "Every fighter against the Assad regime is welcome. However, I'm against every kind of extremism. Let's first liberate Syria from the Assad dictatorship."

Nabeel Abdelbaset, a sociologist at Damascus University and now an exile in Germany, told me, "Indeed, the West is exaggerating the influence of Islamist rebels. When I was in Syria I met some of them. They are really motivated, brave, and disciplined. In every society there are extremists, also in Syria. But it's a minority. The majority of Syrians are moderate Muslims."

Therefore, Abdelbaset regrets the decision of the European foreign ministers who recently rejected lifting the arms embargo imposed on the Syrian rebels. "Their fear that the Islamists might take over after the collapes of  the Assad regime is unjustifiable. Further, the decision is actually music to the ears of Bashar Al Assad. And that embargo would simply prolong his stay in power." Abdelbaset added.

Britain is the only country in Europe that pleaded for lifting up the arms embargo imposed on the Syrian rebels.

President Obama and his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton have also rejected supplying the rebels with arms. However, we all know that in terms of rhetoric, Obama is a world master. He uses every public opportunity to condemn the Assad regime and urges the world to help the Syrians. But when it comes to offering practical help to remove Assad and his regime, Obama changes topics.

Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib has repeatedly urged the West to supply the rebels with arms, especially anti-aircraft missiles.

Ibrahim Awad, a fighter rebel says, "If we had anti-aircraft missiles, we would have defeated the Assad regime long ago. The regime's army is superior in terms of aircraft bombardment, where hundreds of innocent people are daily killed. But who cares?"

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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