Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website

Thu93 2020

Last update18:06 PM GMT

Back to Homepage
Font Size : 12 point 14 point 16 point 18 point
:: Issues > Islamic Movements
Syria’s Choice
Syria’s Choice
Damascus should not be rewarded for its ?nuanced? position on Islamist terrorism
Seven years after 9/11, Washington policymakers remain fundamentally confused about the nature of Islamist extremism, the ideas behind it and the states that manipulate it. In few places is this problem more obvious than in the U.S. relationship with the secular Assad regime in Syria
Tuesday, October 21,2008 13:20
by Hassan Mneimneh, The Weekly Standard

Seven years after 9/11, Washington policymakers remain fundamentally confused about the nature of Islamist extremism, the ideas behind it and the states that manipulate it. In few places is this problem more obvious than in the U.S. relationship with the secular Assad regime in Syria.

After the most recent iteration of the on-again off-again Washington-Damascus relationship--a meeting between the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice--Muallem described the meeting as a "positive beginning of a dialogue" while the state-controlled Syrian press heralded it as the United States coming to its senses and joining Syria in the fight against the common threat of radical Islamism. Never mind that some of those radical extremists threatening us are in the employ of the Assad regime and may well have been behind a recent bombing in Damascus that killed 17. Never mind, also, that the price that Syria is actively seeking for its promise of cooperation is the restoration of its influence on Lebanon--a dominion that it had to abandon in the aftermath of the Cedar Revolution of 2005.

Damascus has long epitomized a "nuanced" understanding of Islamist terrorism. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah have earned Syria"s endorsement and significant material backing. Similarly, authorities in Damascus have fueled the insurgency in Iraq, a platform championed as praiseworthy "resistance to U.S. occupation." Under the watch of Syria"s intelligence services, the most virulent radical jihadist networks have relied on Syria as a thoroughfare through which to channel streams of suicide bombers and other jihadists into

Iraq. And while they have vociferously denied official leverage over such networks, Syrian authorities, when exposed, have displayed an astonishing ability to redirect radical jihadists to less conspicuous terrain such as to Northern Lebanon.

Damascus has nurtured jihadism as a bogeyman at home and abroad, an insurance policy against the specter of regime change, and a scapegoat for crimes otherwise traceable to its state security forces. To be sure, a dangerous strain of the Muslim Brotherhood has menaced the Assads from the shadows for many years. But since a Syrian military massacre in the Brotherhood enclave of Hama in 1982, their specter has been far fainter than the government has allowed.

The Syrian regime perfected its bifurcated approach to Islamist militancy over the course of its decades-long occupation of Lebanon. Groups such as Hezbollah were managed by the dominant Syrian security services. Other factions such as Asbat al-Ansar and the 2000 Dinniyeh group were deemed more useful when employed as proxies from controlled enclaves--Palestinian refugee camps and remote mountain refuges--to be unleashed at key tactical moments. The February 2005 assassination of Syrian rival and former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri occurred in an environment saturated with Syrian services, though in the pro-Syrian narrative it was a crime attributed to a jihadist cell.

In 2006, shortly after Damascus was forced to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared in northern Lebanon, a pro-Syrian faction delivered a Syrian-supplied arsenal to the Sunni Jihadist group Fatah al-Islam. The group, under the command of Jordanian terrorist Shakir al-Absi (who had just completed an unusually short stint in Syrian jail), launched a costly challenge to the struggling democratic government of Lebanon. Only American, Arab, and international support enabled the Lebanese armed forces to prevail.

In the Syrian government"s lengthy record of employing radical jihadism, it has deemed the repercussions of this approach counterproductive only when its interests have in turn been targeted. And even then, attacks inside Syria have been intentionally recycled to tighten the regime"s grip on Syrian society and to underline Syria"s notional role in fighting global terrorism. But the most recent terrorist act committed in Damascus indicates that trafficking with jihadists has indeed become an increasingly risky mechanism for Syria.

Syria"s leadership may have overestimated its ability to ride the tiger. It is not clear who bears responsibility for the terrorist attack in Damascus--whether it is Fatah al-Islam or jihadists destined for Iraq. Contemplating a return to Lebanon, Damascus lays the blame on Islamists in Northern Lebanon. Either way, it clearly marks the backfiring of Assad"s manipulation of radical Islamists.

And what do all these machinations matter to Washington? Assad and his circle see a possible rapprochement with the United States playing into a new role for the regime: partnership in the war on terror. But Condoleezza Rice, her employees and her successors should remember that as Syria turns the full force of its tyrannical regime on one jihadist enemy, reinserting itself into the frail democracy that is Lebanon, it will continue to nurture Hamas, Hezbollah, and others who are little different. Syria"s choice should be simple: an end to support for all terrorism and respect for Lebanon"s independence, or America will sit on the sidelines and watch a dictatorship that lived by the sword

die by it.

Hassan Mneimneh, a native of Beirut, is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Posted in Islamic Movements  
Related Articles
Sami Ma’touq killed by Syrian Intelligence elements
Syria: Assassinator should not escape justice!
Syrian democracy activists face 15 years in prison
Mothers Appeal For Justice, To:President of the Syrian Republic Bashar El-Assad
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information’s Website is Entirely Blocked in Syria
Syria Muslim Brotherhood Denounces Damascus Bombing
Saydnaya Prison in Syria, Forgotten Opinion Prisoners, Information are Absent, Barred Visits
Al-Bayanouni Calls For Lifting Lid On Syrian Regime, Stresses On Change From Inside
Syria Brotherhood: Syrian Regime and Its Illegitimate Counterparts Will Collapse Soon
In Syria No Voice Overrides the State Security Apparatus
Syria: Stop Sednaya Prison Massacre
Resurrecting the Wall of Fear: The Human Rights Situation in Syria
Syria: Harsh Verdicts Against Syrian Muslim Brothers
US rebuked Over Syria Nuclear Case
A Humanitarian Campaign for the Release of Prisoners of Conscience in Syria
SHRC Slams Media, Political Silence to Human Rights Issues in Syria in Arab Summit
Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood Calls for Stopping Israeli Holocaust in Gaza
ٍSHRC Seventh Report on the status of ‎Human Rights in Syria 2008
Syrian Human Rights Committee reports “Accelerated Deterioration” of human rights in Syria
Citizen Dies of Torture in Syrian Prison, Another Jailed
Muslim Brotherhood in Syria Lashes out at Damascus Declaration Arrests
Syria: first lawsuit against withholding a website postponed
Qurabi on Syrian Human Rights Situation, Military Tribunal of Egypt’s MB
Hezbollah author Augustus Norton: “Egypt is far from being able to enjoy truly competitive elections
Arab Regimes Blame Hezbollah For Escalations
Hezbollah said it will respect the recently adopted UN resolution
Islamist sunni-shia convergence: Lebanese Ikhwan announces it will join Hezbollah in reconstruction
Bush’s Hezbollah hangover
How Hezbollah Defeated Israel
Syria’s MB Opens UK Media Office, Urges Hezbollah Ease Tensions
Senior MI official: Hezbollah has more firepower than before war
Death of Citizen at hands of Syrian Police
Comparing Three Muslim Brotherhoods: Syria, Jordan and Egypt
Rights Group Demands Syrian House Scrap Law 49
Lebanon’s Islamic Group: Fatah Islam Tied To Syrian Agenda
Syria’s MB Denies Receiving Any US, Arab Funding