Sun, Sep 08, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Arab states want rid of al-Assad, but without US bombs

By Wadah Khanfar

The US has refused to describe the enforced removal and detention of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi as a coup, despite the killing and wounding of thousands of civilian protesters by Egyptian security forces.

Given the continuing revolutionary fervor in the region, in which the Islamists play a leading role, the US has shown complicity in Egypt’s coup by continuing to fund its army. Hence a wide section of Islamic-linked Syrian revolutionaries will never welcome any major role for the US in the country’s future.

It was clear from the very beginning, when the Syrian regime first drenched itself with the blood of civilians, that its swift departure would prevent, not inflame, sectarian polarization in the country, and would move Syria towards democratic change. At the time, none of the al-Qaeda-aligned jihadist groups were present.

Yet US policy was uncertain, based on doubts over the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in Syria; the future of the country after the fall of al-Assad; and guarantees of no threats to Israel’s security. Parallel to the West’s overly cautious approach was the support given by Russia and Iran to the regime, which allowed it to continue its massacres, confident that it would not be held accountable.

Throughout the two-year terror in Syria, US intervention has been mostly negative. The US pressured Arab states in the region to prevent the delivery of advanced weaponry, especially anti-aircraft missiles, to the Free Syrian Army (FSA). This was on the pretext that such weapons could fall into the hands of extremists, despite attempts by the FSA to reassure the Americans. Indeed the US demanded that the FSA fight the jihadist factions, which risked the revolution’s total disintegration.

Yes, the international community needs to take a strong stand over the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its people. It must be said though that a strong moral stand should be taken against all killing of civilians, whatever the means.

What is now required is that the US and western countries allow Syrians to accomplish their revolutionary objectives by themselves — to eradicate the regime with their own hands. The West should not prevent them acquiring the means to decide the struggle militarily, and should encourage them to continue trying to build Syria according to the rules of real democracy, without excluding or marginalizing any party or group.

The Syrian people have proven their remarkable bravery in the struggle against tyranny; given the chance, I am convinced they will demonstrate a similar level of responsibility in building a new democratic nation.

Wadah Khanfar is a former director-general of al-Jazeera television.

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