Which country was first to support the Afghani Taliban against the Communist threat? Which country entered Iraq under the pretext of bringing down a dictatorial regime, then left destruction in its wake and planted seeds of sectarian intolerance? It was the United States without a doubt. So, is history repeating itself in Syria? Let us take a closer look at the situation.
In order to make sure, we should first look at some of the details of the situation in Syria. The conflict in Syria is no longer a conflict between the regime and the opposition. The opposition suffers from an internal conflict and is made up of different and varied groups which number nearly 1000. This plurality causes the reason for the Syrian civil war to be forgotten in the midst of the conflict. The majority no longer bothers with the democratic process, which was the basic goal of those youths who were tortured by the devil of a regime because their writings on their schools’ walls called for democracy. They were a reason for the civil war. It seems that no one bothers with the future of the Syrian people.
Syria has turned into a quagmire of extremist groups wishing to benefit from the current climate of chaos. The most important of these terrorist groups is Jabhat al-Nusra, an extension of al-Qaida which does not fight the Syrian regime alone, but with the Free Syrian Army. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, DA’SH, which separated from the group, declared war on Jabhat al-Nusra, and both fronts are fighting over “who is the most brutal?” Onto this stage comes the Islamic Front, which is comprised of two extremes entering the equation. The first blow fell against the Syrian Free Army, which involved the seizing of the Syrian Free Army headquarters in Henali. Suddenly, the Islamic Front reinforced its position with the admission of dissidents from the Syrian Free Army into its ranks. The Islamic Front targeted DA’SH, while seizing its positions on the Turkish borders, and this success makes the mujahideen army, which recently formed around Aleppo, an ally of the Islamic Front.
Now all eyes are beginning to look to the States. “Where is America in this turbulent atmosphere?” Closer examination shows that all the players in the climate of violence summarized above are extremist groups, none of which supports democracy or is tolerant of differing religions or opinions and all of which hate even each other’s views. They only aim to enforce their own strict, harsh opinions and follow their own deviant beliefs, just as they all carry a hatred of the West. In any case, it would seem that the Islamic Front is the side which America believes it can support and is the only alternative which it can work with, given that the Free Army was greatly weakened at the Geneva II conference.
One of the details we forget is the frightening image of a jubilant Bashar al-Assad, responsible for the killing of 130,000 people. The internal fighting between the extremes serves his goal perfectly. Discussions only revolve around extremists when Syria is mentioned. The great powers indifferently discuss the awful scenes to reach a “solution to al-Assad,” as if al-Assad were innocent of all this savagery! Is he not the one responsible for the chemical attack on Ghouta, the city which was destroyed, and the children who asked “What did we do to al-Assad? How do we forget so quickly?” How easily and quickly the bloody dictator became legitimate.
The world should be well aware of the statements by the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmad Davutoğlu on this point that were issued a few days ago, in which he said, “Certain circles showcase threats of al-Qaida and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant so as to manufacture a perception that the Assad regime is the lesser of two evils.” However, the al-Assad regime does not fight al-Qaida. The existence of al-Qaida gives an air of legitimacy to the regime. Similarly, the pressure on the regime gives legitimacy to al-Qaida. Thus, they benefit and support each other.
This power will result in an increase in killings carried out by the al-Assad regime. Therefore, the United States should frame its strategy carefully in order not to repeat the mistakes it made in Afghanistan.
America, which has tried to maintain its distance from the Middle East during the Obama administration, will not be able to succeed in doing so because it will not be able to escape the extremist violence launched by the Iraq War. Iraq, which America destroyed, is not “less violent, more democratic, and more prosperous,” as deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken claimed in 2012. Violence is still present in Iraq in a way the country has not seen before. The number of bombings has risen to 40 suicide bombings per month. Similarly, the United Nation’s report has indicated that 8000 Iraqis were killed in 2013 alone. That makes a higher rate than any year since 2008.
Thus, America should participate with more than just a few calming words. Rather than just choosing an extremist group or dictator from among many, it should try a different policy. America should form an alliance with moderate Muslims, not with weapons but with an investment in education. It should support the educational regime working to neutralize the intolerance that makes extremists more radical. Muslim leaders have confirmed this important fact.
Should the United States be in the Middle East? Yes, it should be, but without tanks, weapons or drones and with its sense of freedom, brotherhood, love and democracy. America and the Middle East can be useful to each other. However, we have not shared the benefits yet because we are trapped among weapons, bombs and drones. This is not consistent with the nature of the Middle East. The Middle East is not intractable, but we need to put an end not only to the outdated ideas of superiority and primitiveness, but also to the failed methods that the United States has often pursued. We need to target two things we have not attempted previously: education and alliance.