As previous readers may know, I think that decisive foreign policy is needed now more than ever on behalf of the West. Not in pursuit of pointless wars which cost much and achieve little, but in defense of rebels which are fighting a losing battle for democracy and freedom.
The Syrian rebels represent an oppressed majority, that of Sunni muslims within the country of Syria. Muslims generally fit into one of these two categories, I am given to understand. Generally, the Sunni sect tend to be less extreme, and less hostile to Western powers.
The Assad regime is firmly rooted in and supported by the Alawite ethnic sect, which is Shia to the core. It is supported by Shia Iran, and by Shia Hezbollah. The recently pledged support of those two parties have been a great blow to the efforts of the rebels.
And now, President Putin of Russia has officially claimed support for the Assad regime. This leads for a mountain of opposition to the fledgling freedom fighters, who are already badly trained, armed, equipped and organised.
There are more army deserters each day, motivated largely by their appalled reactions to the atrocities they are forced to commit, which then flock mainly to the Free Syrian Army. Which is just one of many fragments of the rebel movement, of which the main players are these:
National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces
Set up in November 2012, as the rebels realised that they had better put up a united front. to the world. According to its website, these are its guiding principles:
- Absolute national sovereignty and independence for Syria
- Preservation of the unity of the Syrian people
- Preservation of the unity of the country and its cities
- Overthrowing the Syrian regime, dismantling the security forces, and holding responsible parties accountable for crimes against the Syrian people
- Not to engage in any dialogue or negotiations with the regime
- Uphold our commitment for a civil, democratic Syria.
Syrian National Council (SNC)
Formed in 2011. These are its principles:
- Working to overthrow the regime using all legal means
- Affirming national unity among all components of Syrian society and rejecting all calls for ethnic strife
- Safeguarding the non-violent character of the Syrian revolution
- Protecting national independence and sovereignty, and rejecting foreign military intervention
National Co-ordination Committee (NCC)
This is an organisation which is very much opposed to foreign intervention, which apparently is ‘as bad as tyranny’. It is open to dialogue with the government, and is committed to a non-violent approach.
Free Syrian Army (FSA)
Formed in August 2011 by army deserters, it ranks are mainly formed of deserters. It claims to field 40,00 soldiers, but in reality is more likely to have 10,000.
No doubt there are other, smaller fractional groups which are more extreme, but surely there is a way to deal with them. Why not arm, equip and fund the groups which are likely to offer a future for Syria, whilst ignoring those which fuel extremism? They will surely wither and die from lack of support.
It’s a risky move, I don’t deny, but when Russia, Iran and Hezbollah ally themselves against an embattled and fractured democracy movement, it is surely our duty to support the rebels. The reason for it being risky is that it may lead to an increased conflict between Sunni and Shia sects, which will then spread to the rest of the region.
But I ask you, is that worse than a middle-eastern future dominated by hardline Shia dictators? If we act now then we could make a difference.