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Islamists Hijacking Conflict In Syria, Bolstering Al-Assad

Burning suicide bomb cars, Damascus, May 10, 2012, from Sana, the official Syrian news outlet

Originally published May 11, 2012

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said all along that foreign terrorists are invading Syria and he is defending his country. He has been proven right, and those foreign terrorists are destroying any chance the opposition had of getting meaningful reform in Syria.

A deadly double-car bombing in a neighborhood in Damascus that houses a Syrian security building killed over 70 people and injured almost 400 on Thursday. Casualty figures are still being assembled. The recent bombings in Damascus are classic Islamic terrorist tactics, and are reinforcing al-Assad’s position and justifying his actions. They thought they could take advantage of the Syrian rebellion to influence and turn the rebellion to the creation of an Islamic nation like Iran, instead they are ruining everything. On Friday, Syrian security forces shot and killed a man who had 2,645 pounds of explosives in a car. The average car only weighs 3,500 pounds, and can only carry around 1,000 pounds of passengers and cargo. The report doesn’t say if blowing out all the tires gave the bomber away. Friday’s incident took place in Aleppo, the second biggest city in Syria.

Opposition activists both in and outside Syria say that there has been an infiltration of foreign Islamists into Syria who are carrying out these bombing attacks. They are not coming from the Free Syrian Army or citizens opposed to the regime. They are worried that the attacks, and the clear association with Islamic terror organizations, will caused the international support of the opposition to collapse.

Which leads to a difficult question…..What are these Islamists hoping to accomplish? The al-Assad regime has been a supporter of terrorism, most specifically of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hezbollah’s activities against Israel. So, are they hoping to destroy the opposition by proving al-Assad’s position and preserve the regime? Syria is also one of the most secular countries in the Middle East. The ruling regime is made up of members of a minority sect, the Alawites, and there is no government imposition of a specific Islamic sect. There has always been a certain degree of protection in Syria, as there was in Egypt, for Islamic sects and non-Islamic religions. Are they trying to take over the rebellion and turn Syria into an Islamic nation like Iran?

These attacks are shredding the ceasefire agreement. The double bomb in Damascus went off dangerously close to where the United Nations monitors were. There is only one thing the opposition can do to preserve their ability to force change in Syria – they must root out these foreign terrorists and let the regime know where to find them.

The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend. It is necessary to be very selective of which enemy one aligns with. It’s the single greatest lesson for people in the Middle East. Both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were opposed to the emerging independent governance of the Kurdish region of Iraq in 2000-01, but for different reasons. To Hussein, they were defying his rule. To bin Laden, they were not purist establishing a fundamentalist Islamic state. Bin Laden was Hussein’s enemy, because bin Laden wanted to recreate the Caliphate and that meant he would have to personally take over control of Baghdad, one of the five cities of the Arab Golden Age. Hussein stood in the way of bin Laden’s ambition. But to fight the joint enemy of the Kurds, bin Laden and Hussein sometimes exchanged messages at a single al Qaida camp and those communications were used by the Bush administration as part of the justification for invading Iraq.

The al-Assad regime must prove that it is not using these terrorists, who may have ties to organizations supported by the regime, to bolster al-Assad’s claims of defending his nation from an outside invasion. The opposition must prove that these terrorists are not part of their effort to oust the al-Assad family and allies from their forty-year grip on power. This third player must be isolated and destroyed so that the only people who matter in this rebellion can get back to trying to stop the killing and make the reforms.

Update, May 15, 2012:

There are now foreign journalists on the ground in Syria.  Among the stories they have reported in the past three days, while we were off-line, government snipers attacked a funeral, shooting over 20 mourners; around 25 government troops have been killed; bombs have been detonated by the foreign terrorists and a U.N. monitors’ vehicle hit a roadside bomb, no casualties.   Though the killing is described by civilians as “diminished” it is continuing, with conflicting reports as to responsibility. 

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