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A Third Way for Syria: A vibrant secular democracy for its people
2012-02-29 14:41
MediaKurd >
There are increasing concerns about the rise of a possible Islamist alliance in Syria should the brutal Assad regime be toppled.

That Islamist alliance ringing Syria includes Turkey and Qatar. Saudi Arabia, while desirous of a change in Syria to thwart Iran’s hegemonic designs in the region may not be in alignment. The main Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC), while nominally including Kurds, Christians and other minorities has prominent Muslim Brotherhood leadership. Dr. Louay Safi of the Muslim Brotherhood backed Syrian American Committee is political chair of the SNC. He arranged for the SNC to meet with Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood extremist Imam, Yusuf al Qaradawi who supports Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.

The Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis on February 25th with more than 60 delegations voiced “legitimacy” but refrained from full recognition of the SNC. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Hague endorsed the SNC. The Friends of Syria Tunis gathering ended with calls for a possible international peacekeeper force and tougher sanctions against the Assad regime in Damascus. Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal walked out of the Tunis meeting saying: “Is it justice to offer aid and leave the Syrians to the killing machine?” The Saudis support arming the opposition which is problematic.

Both Russia and China were condemned by Secretary of State Clinton at the Tunis conference for vetoing UN Security Council Resolutions concerning the Assad Regime’s brutal repression. Meanwhile, a majority of Syria’s diverse population sat on the sidelines cowed by the brutality of the Assad Regime. The Free Syria Army, composed of mainly Sunni defectors from the Syrian Army, has the endorsement of Ayman al-Zawahiri of al Qaeda. Al- Zawahiri ascended to the leadership of al Qaeda following the assassination of Osama Bin Laden last May. Al-Qaeda cadres from both Libya and Iraq are reported to have entered Syria. Qatar, which supplied weapons to the Libyan militias, has been reported to be supplying weapons to insurgents in southeastern Syria via Jordan. Presently, the repressive Assad campaign is wreaking daily havoc on the embattled city of Homs. Estimated casualties are approaching 7,000 after a nearly year-long effort by the Alawite minority led Syrian military to stifle open revolt. Moreover, there is rising concern in official Washington of possible use of Syria’s vast caches of unconventional chemical and biological warfare weapons against its people and the threat of their possible transfer to terrorist groups in neighboring countries should the Assad regime be toppled.

Of particular note is what Obama is doing to ensure that, should the repressive Baathist regime be toppled. The Muslim Brotherhood in the guise of the Syrian National Council (SNC) will be waiting in the wings to impose a theocratic form of fascism to replace the decades long secular one. As we have commented in an Iconoclast post with regard to the vast caches of Syria’s unconventional WMD, “Even more sinister elements like the Muslim Brotherhood leaders of the Syrian National Council could control the country should Assad be toppled.” That is, notwithstanding the contrived referendum vote on a new constitution for bloodied Syria, virtually guaranteeing another decade of corrupt brutality by Bashar al-Assad.

There is an answer to this farrago of conflict over a future for the battered people of Syria.

A third way for Syria should encourage a vibrant secular democracy for its people. The monster in the Middle East is not Israel; rather it is the brutal Baathist regime of Bashar al Assad. A regime equipped with vast stockpiles of unconventional terrorist weapons. Syria deserves a future free of both the repressive brutal Baathists and an Islamist alternative. An Islamist alternative could be led by “democratic” Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda allies in the opposition Syrian National Council. A majority of Syrians – Kurds, Druze, Ismailis, Christians, Sunni liberals and non-Baathist Alewi- sit on the sidelines cowed by these dreadful choices. They want to formulate their own alternative future.

That future could be one that The Syrian Democratic Coalition (SDC), an emerging group of diverse Syrian organizations, espouses. This group came together to help bring an end to the Assad regime and promote the transformation of Syria into a secular democracy. The coalition is founded upon a belief in the separation of religion from state and is dedicated to establishing a new constitution and transparent federal republic in Syria. A Syria that equally protects minority rights, promotes gender equality, and embraces the United Nations Declaration for Human Rights. We need to give that vision a chance to mature and gain common ground in bloody Syria. It doesn’t need more arms in the hands of Iranian and Islamist backed militias. Rather, what the Friends of Syria should consider is paving the way to transfer Syria’s mammoth caches of unconventional weapons for destruction to an international military alliance. That would free a future non-repressive Syria to both reject nuclear Iran and make peace with willing neighbors, Israel and Lebanon.

M. Zhudi Jasser, spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Coalition, founder of Save Syria Now! and President of the American Forum for Islam and Democracy commented on this proposal:

We are realistic as to the difficulty of this process of finding and working with the right groups in a toxic environment created by Assad. However, that does not warrant an isolationist approach or handing it over to Islamists. The SNC brings in the old—the same old power structures of Islamists and their networks while the SDC and other networks will bring in the new and give a future to Syria and the Middle East. Our US policy needs to think out of the box. Create a new paradigm in the Middle East based on liberty rather than an old paradigm choosing between the lesser of two evils; secular fascism versus theocratic fascism. Theocracy lite (i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood) will never be our close ally. Short term vision is myopic and sells out our future. Long term vision is with the emerging coalition of non-Islamists. Syria needs support for a vision that enables the courageous doing the work inside not to lose their own revolution to Islamists or anyone else. If it succeeds it can be a template for the “right” way to help change in Middle Eastern nations.

Presidential candidates in 2012 should raise this ‘vision’ for Syria that Jasser has ably articulated. Perhaps, Jasser and colleagues in the SDC can raise this during platform discussions. As Jasser has commented; it is time for some out of the box thinking to lay down the underpinnings for a future secular democratic Syria.
Tags: Syrian Democratic Coalition, Friends of Syria, Tunis Conference, Dr. Louay Safi, Syrian American Council, Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syrian National Council, Dr. M. Zhudi Jasser, Save Syria Now!, American Forum for Islam and Democracy, Baathist Assad regime, Kurds, Syrian Christians, Druze, Islmaili, non-Baathist Alewi, Sunni liberals, US foreign policy, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey , Qatar, Jordan