Domestically, it’s been easy to lose the human factor in the media’s reporting of the Syrian civil war. Last night, President Obama gave a somewhat confusing speech, understandable given the change in circumstances, regarding the road ahead for Syria and the possible disarmament of that country’s chemical weapons program. The phrase “trust but verify” has been used often enough that you’d think Reagan himself had risen from the grave. There’s also the political component both in this country and around the world. How would such a disarmament plan proceed? How could it be done? Who would do it? But, if you’re a member of the Syrian Free Army or simply a Syrian man who opposes Assad’s totalitarian rule the way ahead is much simpler.
Here in Syria, there is a regime that has been killing its subjects with impunity for the last 30 months. The notion that there is a mysterious civil war that is inextricably linked to the nature of the Middle East and its complicated sectarian divisions is far from the truth.
To the author, Yassin al-Haj Saleh, it’s simply a matter of life and death and the chain of events that have led to the thousands of deaths in that country originate not from an armed rebellion but from a dictator’s unwillingness to give an inch of power to the changing forces in his country as a result of the Arab Spring. American politicians and analysts have expressed more and more concern about jihadists among the Free Syrian Army’s ranks, last count circa 50,000, but Mr. Saleh reminds us that it was not this way in the beginning.
It is misguided to presume that Mr. Assad’s downfall would mean a jihadist triumph, but unfortunately this is the basis for the West’s position. A more accurate interpretation is that if Mr. Assad survives, then jihadism is sure to thrive.
The final point is debatable, certainly, especially since foreign jihadist troops have, in most ways, enabled the FSA to continue fighting. Many agree that were this not the case then the FSA would have already been defeated. However, Mr. Saleh is quite correct in his assertion that the jihadists are there to stay as long as Assad is in power. The question left unanswered though, now that the world has delayed strong regime changing intervention for so long, is what would a post-Assad FSA victory look like? Would it favor a new constitution or Sharia law?
It is the innocents that have suffered most in this war, as in all wars, and Mr. Saleh properly reminds the world of this.
We Syrians are human beings of this world, and the world must stop the Assad regime from killing us. Now.
Urban guerrilla warfare is brutal. There’s no way around this fact just as there’s no way around the fact that FSA soldiers are forced to hide in cities and areas where they have support and these cities and areas invariably contain civilians. It is for this reason the Syrian refugee numbers are nearly two million.
Regardless of where one comes down though, Mr. Saleh reminds us that this is a fight that real people, common men and women, are bearing the burden of. World leaders forget this truth at their own peril, and ours.
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