Submitted by George Callaghan…
Syria’s civil war has been raging since 2011. This internecine conflict will not stop until President Al Assad rules over the whole country. Over 200 000 people have been killed, many more have been maimed for life and millions of Syrians have fled the country.
Whatever the failings of the Assad administration it is the only lawful authority in the Syrian Arab Republic. His government is recognized as the legitimate government by scores of other governments. Nobody recognizes ISIS, the Al Nusra Front or the Syrian Democratic Army as a rightful government. Dr Al Assad’s government holds the United Nations seat for Syria. Therefore, his role as the Syrian head of state is legally unquestionable.
Syria is a multiparty state. For decades it has been guided by the Ba’ath Party. One of the laudable things about the Ba’athists is their secularism. In a region menaced by theocracy the Ba’ath Party has ensured that Syria is an island of rationalism and individual liberty in a sea of absolutism and obscurantism.
A Syrian friend to me that President Assad and his soldiers are ‘fighting for the right of a woman to walk down the street wearing a pair of shorts.’ For a woman to do this in a Sharia state would be enough to have her killed. Even if the slaying were not legal in many Sharia states the killers – most likely her own family – would be sure to get off scot free. Such a foul crime is unimaginable under enlightened Ba’athist rule.
Under President Assad everyone has the right to practice any religion or to practice none at all. Women can wear what they want, pursue any profession to the highest level and make choices in their personal lives. Music, dancing and sport flourish. You are allowed to eat and drink what you want. Something as basic as the right to choose your own diet is a right that people in many other Arab lands are deprived of. Ba’athist rule is a guarantee of cosmopolitanism and individual freedom.
Freedom of expression was not as extensive in Syria in 2011 as many would have liked. People complained about the conduct of elections and the heavy handedness of the police. Even if all these accusations are fair the situation would not be improved by the victory of ISIS. In fact, it would become hugely worse. You might have wanted the Syrian Democratic Forces to win they are not going to. They are too few and too feeble. They are widely perceived as an American fifth column. The United States is widely detested in Syria for causing the civil war and for arming and funding Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory.
The choice is simple: Assad or ISIS. You might want someone cuddlier than Assad to win but it is not going to happen. People need to face up to this reality.
The Syrian Government is held in high regard throughout the Arab World. Syria’s fraternal support for the Palestinians in their time of need has endeared to the Palestinian people. Syrian security assistance to Lebanon was warmly appreciated by many Lebanese.
President Al Assad is an ophthalmologist. He is renowned as a dedicated medical practitioner. His aim is to heal and not to harm. However, as a physician he realizes that sometimes a cancer must be excised to save the body. So too with Syria he has been obliged to authorize the use of force. Despite this the Syrian Government has entered into dialogue with rebel groups. These attempts to find common ground and achieve a peaceful resolution to the conflict have come to nought.
The savagery of ISIS can scarcely be overstated. These barbarians wish to drag the country back to the Middle Ages. Their iconoclasm and their wanton brutality is second to none.
Some have complained about the presence of Iranian and Russian troops in Syria. Syria is an independent country with the inviolable right to determine its own defence policy. Damascus is entitled to form a military alliance with any other country. Soviet and then Russian troops have provided security assistance to Syria for decades. President Assad requested and received military support from Syria’s longstanding allies. The complaint about Iranian and Russian soldiers on Syrian soil is impertinent. The reason why Syria needs such help is precisely because of the machinations of foreign foes. The United States and Israel have the impudence to gripe about Russian and Iranian soldiers being in Syria. Israel has illegally occupied Syrian soil for decades despite numerous United Nations resolutions demanding the restitution of the Golan Heights. Russian and Iranian troops are necessary for Syria’s security partly due to Israel’s hyper aggressive stance and the presence of United States troops in Israel. Israel has bombed Syria on numerous occasions over the past 8 years despite Syria taking no offensive action against Israel during that time.
Washington DC fulminates about ‘Islamic extremism’ which it has funded and armed for decades. Trump appealed to the basest Islamophobic prejudices and the literally embraced the absolute ruler of the most Islamist extremist country in the world: Saudi Arabia. King Salman’s government has sent money, arms and volunteers to ISIS. This is all confirmed by the US Government. Despite being full aware of this the US Government still sells weapons to Saudi Arabia knowing these weapons will then be passed on to ISIS. The United States will then rant about the mortal peril that ISIS poses to the Middle East. Then the US will shower Syria with bombs. Mostly the US will deliberately bomb the Syrians who are fighting against ISIS and not bomb ISIS. Yet again the military-industrial complex in America will shriek about the terrorist problem that it purposefully created. The war industry in the United States is thinking: Oh what a lovely war!
In this ghastly civil war there have been civilian deaths. Assad’s foes have slaughtered civilians by the tens of thousand. People have been put to the sword simply for happening to belong to the ‘wrong’ ethnic or religious community. By contrast the Syrian Army represents the united strength of the nation. It includes Sunnis, Shias, Christians, Druze, Kurds, Turcomans and Armenians. The president himself is an Alawi Shia married to a Sunni.
Unfortunately, some civilians have been killed by the Syrian Armed Forces. Civilian casualties are inevitable in modern warfare with powerful weapons. The Syrian Armed Forces ought to take greater pains to minimize civilian deaths. There have been persistent allegations levelled at Damascus concerning the use of chemical weapons. These have been consistently denied by President Assad.
Russia and Iran have sent troops to battle alongside their Syrian confreres. China, Iraq, Venezuela, North Korea and other nations now stand four square behind President Bashir Al Assad. Only when ISIS and its confederates are extirpated can Syria return to peace and progress.