Hezbollah’s blood is being shed in Syria and not along the borders with Israel. Iran spends hundreds of millions of dollars like a crazy gambler who just lost a game. Its actions in Syria resemble those of a man hurt and acting madly. Assad’s regime bleeds heavily for the first time after it lived for forty years cutting the veins of others. Russia is being arrogant and is aiding a defeated regime with weapons, conferences and vetoes.
The scene looks appropriate for U.S. President Barack Obama. It is like a successful business executive making much profit whilst taking little risk and spending only a few dollars. Obama wants to transform Syria into an Iraq for the Iranians and into a trap for Hezbollah and Russia; he also wants to get rid of Bashar al-Assad’s regime for less than the price of a phone call!
In reality, this is what is happening so far, perhaps without prior planning. But President Obama must be careful that the trap might actually be for him and for others. No one can bear to watch the situation in Syria any longer. First of all, we are confronted with a horrific humanitarian tragedy. Second, we are at the beginnings of the most dangerous build-up of “Al-Qaeda” since the September 11 attacks; and “Al - Qaeda” is now gaining sympathy, land and aid. Therefore, all what was achieved in the past ten years is under the threat of evaporating in Syria. Iran and Syria want Zawhiri to inherit Assad after Damascus falls. This means that if the fall of Assad’s regime is inevitable, then hello “Qaeda” who will ruin what the revolution set out to achieve! This is how the future outlook of events seems to be taking place.
Over 15,000 fighters is the estimated number of forces in the extremist Al-Nusra Front, which is fiercely fighting Assad’s army and seizing centers, checkpoints, a lot of neighborhoods and a few cities. It is being accepted by citizens to the point of admiration because it is fiercely and bravely taking on the enemy and given it spends a lot on the daily humanitarian needs of the people.
One of those following up on the developments in Syria told me that Al-Nusra Front carries “Qaeda’s” features on the intellectual level but it tries to act differently to gain the sympathy of residents in order to recruit their sons. This is how the size of the fighters in the movement increased. And this is how the front’s capabilities’ amplified compared to the Free Syrian Army, which although the number of its fighters is three times that of the front, is suffering from scarce capabilities and mounting pressure.
But what is the relation of the extremist front with the policy of free war Obama is rallying behind? The answer is in the possible result.
When “Qaeda” gains a foothold, it will be ingrained and more important than all that was attempted in its efforts from Afghanistan to Mali. It will not be easy to dispel it from Syria in both cases, whether Assad’s regime falls or stays.
Aid and protection
We all know that what shielded Assad from losing power was not his military strategy. It wasn’t even the large amount of aid from his allies, Russia and Iran. It was the result of leaving the opposition alone and armed with simple weapons and having to fight against all these factors at once. If aid and protection had been offered to the opposition, especially with the huge difference in the balance of power which has been taking place for two years, the regime would have fallen in one month.
What we would like to say to President Obama is that whilst Syria’s war may resemble , for the U.S., a ‘perfect battle’ where rivals bleed without incurring any costs on the American side. However, the cost maybe incurred during the war’s next chapter when “Al-Qaeda” gains control of most Syrian lands and of defeated Syrian emotions. France in the past was less concerned about participating in wars against terrorism. But we see it today engaging in a difficult, perhaps long, confrontation in the Sahara’s south and northern Mali. This war is a result things being overlooked; the war in Syria may become like that later on.
Save the Syrian people from massacres and do not let them find in “Al-Qaeda” and its resemblances their only aide or else, otherwise do not blame them if they do so in the future.
This article first appeared in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 18, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.