February 23, 2013

Syria is now Iraq, and soon Turkey and Jordan will be Syria…

    Saturday, February 23, 2013   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

The danger in Syria is not that it is a new kind of a crisis; the danger is that it is becoming a replication of another one. The twin terrorist bomb attack in the capital Damascus on February 21, 2013, which took the lives of at least 100 civilians and injured another 235, echoes what has been happening in Iraq for ten years. This alarming trend shows that the Gulf States, Turkey, and the West have created a beast in Syria that they no longer can control.

The idea that violence can be used to remove “unfriendly” or “unreliable” regimes is a dangerous precedent. The first victim of this logic is the non-violent, civil protest movement that saved Tunisia and Egypt from the kind of destruction seen in Libya and Syria.

The events in Syria turned the Arab Spring into a hellish summer and transformed the dignity revolutions into despicable sectarian strife, the same byproduct of the invasion of Iraq. The danger lies in the fact that the sectarian strife in Syria has its international and regional backers. When the U.S. administration blocked a UNSC condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Damascus, it signaled to war criminals that there is a context under which their acts will go unpunished: when the victims are subjects of a regime that a superpower does not like, their lives become less significant.

The U.S. explanation for not voting for the resolution is baffling. The administration argued that it blocked the resolution because the resolution did not condemn the regime for other acts of atrocities. In other words, it is like saying that these victims will not be spoken for unless Russia agrees to condemn the regime for other acts. In a way, the Syrian civilians are turned into bargaining chips in the hands of the superpowers. Their lives and their dignity are traded for political gains. This behavior is either puerile or unconcerned or both. But it will encourage a wave of tit-for-tat killings and kidnappings, already happening along the Lebanese-Syrian border, which would further endanger the lives of many other people.

This duplicity is troubling and counterproductive to the extreme. The violence in Syria, if not resolutely contained soon, will not be limited to the Syrian border. After all, the fire of sectarian strife that was stoked in Iraq is replicating itself now in Syria because, then, the Syrian regime ignored it (if not aided it) when it was happening in Iraq. Now, it is the turn of Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. If these countries do not act now to end the violence in Syria, the violence will come to them.

The U.S. and E.U. emerging strategy to arm “moderate” opposition groups and use them to fight against “extremist” Islamists (like al-Nusra and its affiliates) before they help them depose of Assad will not work. Because, at its core, this strategy relies on immoral and illegal tools: violence, murder, and terrorism. Fundamentally, this strategy relativizes human life and human dignity and therefore it will perpetuate the cycle of violence to levels that cannot be contained by geographic borders.

No one should suggest that authoritarian regimes such as the one in Syria (or all the other remaining Arab countries) be appeased and kept in power as an alternative to extremist Islamists. That would be a false dichotomy. The Tunisian and Egyptian peoples removed dictators without the tools of terror and the fire of weapons. The Syrian people, too, can persevere through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. Surely, they will endure the brutality of the regime and surely prisons will be filled and many people will be killed, but they will not face these levels of atrocious horror, horrendous terrorism, and ghastly war. And importantly, they will keep faith, for themselves and for humanity, in non-violence as a symbol of true courage and as a tool of social change with dignity.


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Islamic Societies Review Editors

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