United States has a role and responsibility in Syria

Source: Alaska Dispatch News


Radwan Ziadeh | September 30, 2014


It has been three and a half years since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March 2011 that came after the mass demonstrations in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.


The Syrian regime has transformed gradually into a powerful military force engaged in a desperate conflict with the Syrian people. Bashar al-Assad seeks to drain Syria of its financial and human resources, and, more critically, destroy its social fabric by creating an odious sectarian and civil conflict. The peaceful revolution was confronted with live bullets, which harvested the souls of the finest of Syria’s youth, such as Ghyath Matar, Hamza Al-Khatib and many many others.


In the eyes of the regime, no rules of war exist. Thus hospitals, residential areas, mosques, and churches, have all been targeted and the security branches are overflowing with stories of people dying under torture. Thus, we find the Syrian people struggling for the three past years not just to maintain their resistance, but, more importantly, their coherence against a policy that aims to break them.


Syria today is undergoing a transition. Large swathes of Syria are liberated and beyond the reach of the government. Bashar al-Assad has turned from the president of a country into the mayor of Damascus and some of its suburbs. He is unable to leave his palace without being preceded by his military. Also al-Assad’s loss of control over the border crossings with Turkey and Iraq means, in a political sense, that he has lost the ability to establish his rule over strategically important geographical areas. Though he certainly can shell and burn these places, he cannot regain control over them.


Nonetheless these liberated areas, at the same time, are mostly disconnected geographically and can be easily targeted from the air, which prevents them from becoming safe zones. The absence of a central authority makes it difficult and complicated to manage them. Basically, the more Assad stays in his palace, the more painful the transition becomes.


These ongoing actions by the Assad government created a vacuum of power that has been filled by al-Qaida and most recently what’s called ISIL (The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), which received a lot of attention from the Western media after their beheading two American journalists. ISIL has committed many crimes against the Syrian people, especially in the area they control called Al-Raqa. They prevent women from going to schools, close all public spaces and do horrific things in the name of Islam in public squares like lashing and beheadings of those who refuse their orders, as has happened to many Syrian activists.


This is the dilemma the Syrian people face right now between  the Assad government bombarding their homes every day and ISIL, which controls their lands and rules them in the name of Sharia. According to the United Nations, victims now number 191,000 casualties, plus 3 million refugees and 9 million displaced people.


The United States should not allow this to continue. The U.S. has a responsibility and role to help the Syrian people end this nightmare and open a democratic future for them. Of course, the air strikes against ISIL announced by President Obama are a good step. But much more important, the Obama Administration needs a strategy to end the Assad government which allowed ISIL to rise.


Dr. Radwan Ziadeh is the founder and director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies in Syria and co-founder and Executive Director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C.  Ziadeh spoke in Anchorage at the Alaska World Affairs Council on Sept. 26.  




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