No to Arab fighters in Syria |
Asharq Al-Awsat - 25 June, 2012
Author: Dr. Hamad Al-Majid
Those who support the participation of Arab militants in the fight to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria are convinced by the reported presence of Iranians and Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese in battles against the Free Syrian Army (FSA). However, this is only one side of the equation. In terms of the FSA and the Syrian opposition, the participation of Arab and Muslim fighters in their battles would do more harm than good. The Syrian regime’s media already rejoices, along with the Iranian regime, whenever it obtains evidence of Arab fighters’ involvement in clashes with Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Whenever we talk about the participation of Arab volunteer fighters in Syria, and before that in Iraq, we automatically recall the Afghan scenario, which was damaged extensively by the call for an Afghan jihad. The fighting conditions there provided a fertile environment for the bacteria of extremism to grow, and some Arab fighters then returned to their countries carrying this bacteria, spreading extremist ideologies and damaging a number of Muslim states as a result. Indeed, many are still reeling as a result of this fever, which consists of two main components: destruction and takfir [denouncing others as infidels].
Al-Qaeda rapidly grew in Afghanistan after terrorism’s “big bang”; the September 11th attacks of 2001. Whether directly or indirectly, this event led to the occupation of Iraq and Somalia, the growing insecurity in a number of Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia, and the incarceration of thousands of young people in prisons for many years, infected by a bacteria transmitted to them by fighters returning from Afghanistan. This is not to mention the great damage inflicted upon Islamic Dawa and charity work, whereby countless worthy causes suffered from misappropriated funds and donations, exploited by those infected with extremism. Likewise, let us not forget that some Arab fighters participated in conflicts between jihadist Afghan movements who are responsible for the destruction of their own country.
As a result of the Afghanistan experience, the idea of Arabs going to fight in Iraq during the US occupation was initially met by many with apathy and coldness, whilst others warned against it. Nevertheless, some preachers considered it a duty to rid the Iraqis of their occupiers, and soon Arab fighters travelled there, with catastrophic results. Some contributed to fuelling sectarianism by blowing up a number of Shiite shrines in response to Shia extremists, who had blown up number of Sunni mosques. Indeed, some of the Arab fighters in Iraq were so infused with extremism that they were reprimanded by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number one man.
Thus it is not strange of surprising that we find the same coldness these days towards the idea of Arab fighters participating in battles to overthrow the al-Assad regime. Some news sources have reported the recent infiltration of Arab fighters into a Syrian town populated by the Alawite sect, seeking to blow up a marketplace in retaliation for Bashar al-Assad’s actions. Incidents such as these, if proven, will be a critical blow for the FSA, for it relies on noble means in its fight against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and we do not want to see a repeat of the Afghan scenario.
The problem here is that these Arab fighters, whilst I appreciate their enthusiasm to get rid of this bloodthirsty, fascist regime, do not care about the repeated calls from the FSA and the Syrian opposition, who remind us that their shortages are not in terms of manpower, but rather in terms of funding and weaponry, just as the Afghan mujahedeen factions used to say. Nevertheless, some Arab fighters are travelling to Syria in order to take part, without being aware of the problems that their participation is causing.