Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Mowaffaq Safadi

Deadly game of poker? What is ‘this nonsense in the Syrians plight?

We knew the more peaceful we were, the more violent the government would be

In pre-2011 Syria, the word “revolution” never had a positive connotation in my head.

The military coup in which the Ba’ath party took power in 1963 is called a “revolution” in Syrian school curriculums. One of the three state newspapers was called Revolution.

The word was associated with the dysfunctional, bureaucratic and backward state Syria was – and still is.

Then a man burned himself alive in Tunisia. A revolution broke. The government was ousted.

Egypt had its revolution. Then Libya and Yemen.

All of a sudden, the word revolution obtained this new, beautiful meaning for me. It made so much sense; a Syrian revolution was surely inevitable.

Amid the anticipation for change, Syrians were sure of one thing – if this does not go well, it will go really, really badly.

Everyone knew what the Syrian government was capable of and willing to do to maintain power. Haunting stories of Hama massacres in the 1980s circulated secretly. Government brutality was common knowledge.

We thought: “We’ve got this barbaric regime that we’re trying to get rid of, we need to protest. The government is probably going to portray protesters as traitors out to provoke a civil war.”

The Syrian regime has always kept things just under boiling point, so when something like a revolution breaks out, it can easily turn it into an armed conflict. Something to be fought and won.

We knew the government would want to make things look extremely complex, so no international force would be keen on intervening, and may even prop up the status quo. We knew the more peaceful we were, the more violent the government would be.

It was a horrifically simple equation: enough of us would have to die before the rest of the world did something to help. I guess we had watched too many American films.

It was a gamble, and we didn’t have a good hand.

But taking in to consideration what happened in Libya, we felt lucky. The Assad regime being, unlike us, well versed in the reality of international politics, called our bluff. You know the rest.

Today, after five years of whatever the past five years have been, I find it very difficult to keep myself concerned with what’s going on in Syria.

I find it absurd that some people still identify as Syrians.

Statistics and numbers don’t help either. The Syrian Centre for Policy Research published a report on conflict in Syria – war has killed 470,000 people. The rest of the world and us seem not to agree on the definition of the word “enough”.

Meanwhile, the Assad regime is still allowed to continue war tactics from the Middle Ages. Besieging hundreds of thousands of civilians in their own neighbourhoods and villages. Starving them into defeat, dropping barrel bombs on them on a daily basis, and occasionally gassing them to death. While the rest of the world is busy discussing whether Islam is an evil religion in its nature or not.

The certainties, values and beliefs that I was made of have completely shattered. I think that would apply to many other Syrians today. Wouldn’t that explain the torrent of refugees who are trying to get as far as they can from that poker game they have so magnificently lost?

Note: The Syrian regime called the bluff in 2012 when it decided to let the regular army confront the opposition forces at the expense of diminishing Assad power and his clan.

Syria’s moderate fighting forces? It doesn’t exist

In the runup to the vote on airstrikes in Syria, controversy revolved around David Cameron’s claim to parliament that “about 70,000” Syrian opposition fighters on the ground who do not belong to extremist groups could help fight Islamic State.

That figure, produced by the joint intelligence committee, has since proved unverifiable, but Cameron’s problem isn’t mathematical. It’s conceptual.

There may be fewer than 70,000 fighters; there may be more. The flaw is to rely on the existence and participation of “moderates”

According to intelligence committee officials “moderate fighters” are those who “renounce terrorism”, which is supposed to mean that they are not members of either of the jihadi groups Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaida’s franchise in Syria) or Isis. These are broad criteria.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

“Most rebel fighters’ main goal is to topple Bashar al-Assad.

As a result, they will make a rational decision to join groups that are mainly fighting Assad’s regime, particularly those that equip them with the best weapons to do so.

Other fighters may have more immediate livelihood concerns, such as supporting their families.

They will be keener on joining groups that are active in relatively stable areas and offer a decent salary, not those involved in heavy clashes on a day to day basis.”

Those in the west who assume there is a coherent anti-Isis alliance are deluded. Reality is far messier|By Mowaffaq Safadi

As a Syrian who lives abroad but still closely follows the dynamics of the civil war in my country of birth, it has became clear to me that for many young men being a fighter has become more of a job than a calling – a career path they feel they have to follow for lack of alternatives.

As in any job market, employers will compete for the biggest talent by providing different benefits.

Many rebel fighters simply do not care about the affiliation of the group they are joining – whether it is with al-Qaida, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, the international coalition, the British government or anyone else.

The international geopolitical situation simply isn’t the first thing on a rebel fighters’ mind when considering joining this group or that one.

Of course there also are ideologically driven fighters – Syrian Islamists, cross-national Islamists, Kurds, or even pro-Assad Alawites – who will join groups that line up closest with their ideological belief system.

The point is that it is virtually impossible to bracket these fighters into distinct moderate or non-moderate categories. Fighters join and quit groups depending on the changing status quo. Today’s “moderate fighters” may not be moderate for ever

The intelligence committee speaks hopefully of moderate fighters committed to a “pluralistic Syria”.

But to many Syrians, who have no significant role in the debates about their future, Syria as a country does not exist any more. It is unlikely to come back into existence in the future, and if it does, it is unlikely to do so as a pluralistic Syria.

Talk of such a nation at this point is therefore one of the few jokes Syrians of all stripes can currently laugh about together – which is to say pluralistically (Talking of those outside the zone under the total control of the government)

Even if there were groups vouching to fight for a pluralistic state, one wouldn’t necessarily take them at their word.

For the last 50 years, the totalitarian Ba’ath regime has managed to suppress historical disputes among different ethnic and religious communities.

With the civil war, all these conflicts have re-emerged and will be manifest for years and years to come. No group that vows itself committed to it has a clue what a pluralistic Syria would look like. They would work with the British government only because it would be practically beneficial to do so.

Many issues involved in working with these groups seem to have been disregarded.

One such is the fact that several groups that may look moderate from a distance are already at war with each other.

Two alliances have recently emerged in northern Aleppo. The Democratic Syria forces, which mainly consist of international-coalition-backed Kurdish Democratic Union party forces (PYD), and Jaish al-Thowar, of which the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forms the majority.

On 27 October, these two groups raided Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood and the city council, following Russian airstrikes that targeted the Free Syrian Army – which had, until that point, controlled the area. As a result the “moderate” Free Syrian Army has accused the “moderate” Democratic Syria Forces and Jaish al-Thowar of being in cahoots with the Russians and now it is actively engaged in battles against them.

Jabhat al-Nusra shows just how Eurocentric is the intelligence committee’s definition of “moderate fighters”. From a Syrian perspective, Jabhat al-Nusra seems fairly moderate compared to Isis at the moment. It is arguably quite popular locally – maybe because, unlike Isis, Jabhat al-Nusra is mainly made up of native Syrians. (Not so)

And despite having its own “national project” (Jabhat al-Nusra’s slogan), it rules with a lighter touch than other controlling groups, and provides much needed services: a basic judiciary, policing, and even its own bakeries.

When Jabhat al-Nusra decided to attack the US-backed secular Hazm movement in March, after accusing it of being an “agent of the west”, Hazm decided to disband rather than retaliate, and the majority of its fighters joined the Shamiya Front.

Which raises the question: what will David Cameron’s moderate fighters do when Jabhat al-Nusra in turn brands them “agents of the west”? Will they fight back?

Or will they disband, as Hazm did, to spare “the blood of the mujahideen”? We don’t know.

Worryingly for David Cameron, neither does he.






May 2022

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