Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit 1 Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend (1 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Stats   3 comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

In Defence of the Syrian Arab Army

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 3 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Must Read 1   Well Said 1   Supported 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com

- Advertisement -

 
Hands off Syria rally, Sydney by Tim Anderson

Attacks on the Syrian Arab Army have come from all sides, most western media claiming it has been 'brutal', defends a 'dictatorship', or represents an 'Alawite regime'. While the army has confronted violence with violence, a series of 'false flag' accusations have been leveled at it, the most recent over the use of sarin gas.

However, in defence of this army, I ask two questions: one, after two years of foreign-backed attacks, mostly from religious fanatics, how would secular Syria have survived without its national army? and two, what legitimate function does any army have, if not to defend a nation from foreign-backed attempts to violently dismantle the state and constitution or, alternatively, to partition the country?

To properly understand the gravity of the attacks on the secular Syrian state we have to appreciate that all violent insurrections in Syria in the post-colonial period have come from the Muslim Brotherhood's attempts to impose a form of political Islam, dismantling a secular Arab nationalism established by the Baathist system. The idea of a 'secular' uprising is simply a convenient western myth.

Indeed, the major regional competition has been between secular nationalism and political Islam. When Egypt's Gamel Abdul Nasser was the great hero of the former, the big powers promoted the Saudi monarchy as the Islamic alternative.

In Daraa in March 2011, just as in Hama in February 1982, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood seized its opportunity for violent insurrection. Their opening gambit was the same: rooftop snipers killed police and civilians, the army was drawn in and then blamed for 'killing civilians', leading to cries for foreign assistance. In the recent conflict, thousand of foreign fundamentalists have been flocking to Syria (mostly paid by the Saudis and Qatar) precisely because it is seen as a religious, and not a national, conflict.

- Advertisement -

A 28 March 2011 statement by Muhammad Riyad Al-Shaqfa, Syrian Muslim Brotherhood boss, leaves no doubt that their aim is sectarian, the enemy is 'the secular regime' and that 'we have to make sure that the revolution will be pure Islamic, and with that no other sect would have a share of the credit after its success'.

Amongst current western media cliches is one that the Syrian conflict is becoming 'increasingly sectarian'. This is linked to simple characterisations of the conflict as one 'between Sunni and Shia', or 'between the majority Sunni community and the Alawite regime'. These cliches are quite misleading.  

The Muslim Brotherhood, for historical reasons (mainly its competition with secular Arab nationalism and dependence on Saudi sponsorship), has long represented a particular extremist sect within Sunni Islam. In doctrinal terms this is a salafism, which makes use of 'takfiri' ideas, by which all other sects can be considered apostates or unbelievers (infidels, kafir) and, for that reason, open to attack. This is an extreme sectarianism, which in Syria has given birth to the genocidal, salafi slogan 'Alawis to the grave, Christians to Beirut'. The FSA has acted on this.

Yet this is not a 'Sunni' view. Opinion polls in Syria and around the world show that Sunnis, including conservative Sunnis, are inclined to be tolerant to people of other faiths. A recent Pew Research Centre poll found that, while strong Muslim majorities in many countries support sharia to be "the official law of the land', similarly strong majorities also support freedom of religion for people of other faiths.

Syria's secular nationalism, enforced by the Baathist regime but reinforced by Shami or Damascene Islam traditions, has nurtured a powerful ecumenicism that sees Christians recognise Ramadan and Muslims recognise Easter. In other words, Syria, on the cross roads of civilisations, has an even stronger tolerant tradition than others.

This is a great problem for the Muslim Brotherhood, which has relied on 'takfiri' ideas to advance its political cause. The Brotherhood dominates both the exile 'opposition' and the armed groups that make up the 'Free Syrian Army', and does have some support amongst the Sunni merchant classes. But it relies on sectarianism. It is the Brotherhood, along with its foreign- and Al Qaeda-linked allies, that has promoted the idea of the Assad government as 'an Alawite regime', murdering Alawi and Shiia civilians, in attempts to incite wider community conflict.

The Brotherhood pretends to represent all Sunnis, or at least 'real Sunnis'. In practice most Sunnis reject them. The western media reported a series of FSA commanders in Aleppo (an overwhelmingly Sunni city) complaining about lack of support from the local people. 'I know they hate us' one told The Guardian, while Time magazine reported another saying: 'The Aleppans here, all of them, are loyal to the criminal Bashar, they inform on us'. This was later confirmed by a report carried out for NATO, which estimated that 70% of the Syrian population backed President Assad, and that much of this support came from secular Sunnis who were horrified by FSA atrocities.

The Syrian state, whatever its other flaws, has certainly represented a strong secular tradition. There are many signs of this. President Bashar al Assad himself is married to a Sunni woman. The Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Hassoun, is a strong Sunni supporter of the secular state. Sheikh Mohamad Al Bouti, murdered along with 42 others by an FSA suicide bomber in March 2013, was a senior Sunni Koranic scholar who backed the secular state. The western media tag on these men as being 'pro-Assad' rather misses the point.

Syria's secular tradition is nowhere stronger than in the Syrian Arab Army. Making up about 80% of Syria's armed forces and with half a million members, half regulars and half conscripts, the army is drawn from all the country's communities (Sunni, Alawi, Shiia, Christian, Druze, Kurd, Armenian, etc). However they identify as 'Syrian' and 'Arab' and confront a sectarian enemy that brands itself 'real Sunnis'.

A key objective of the Brotherhood's insurrection was always to split the Syrian Arab Army along sectarian lines. Indeed, a number of army officers did defect, mostly those with family links to the Brotherhood. FSA atrocities against Alawis and Christians (most of which were blamed on the government) must have raised community feelings. However, towards the end of 2011 the FSA-aligned spokesperson in England, Rami Abdel Rahman, who calls himself the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said less than 1000 soldiers had deserted.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3

 

Tim Anderson is an academic and social activist based in Sydney, Australia

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon


Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Syria: how the violence began, in Daraa

The Libyan Tragedy: lessons for the western left

Al Jazeera's attacks on Syria: some background

In Defence of the Syrian Arab Army

Syria's "false flag' terrorism, Houla and the United Nations

Hugo Chávez, Venezuela and the Corporate Media

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
2 people are discussing this page, with 3 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

Thank you Mr. Anderson for this well written artic... by Lilly Martin on Friday, Jul 5, 2013 at 3:30:28 AM
The Assad government was not perfect, of course (n... by jean labrek on Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 4:21:01 PM
Very Interesting Article___Some people beleive the... by jean labrek on Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 4:07:45 PM