November 3, 2008

Killing a Crocodile

Last week the United States military conducted a raid inside Syria and killed Al Qaeda leader Abu Ghadiya in a shootout in the village of Sukariyeh. Syria’s government raged against the violation of its sovereignty and staged a massive anti-American protest in downtown Damascus. But, according to the Times of London, the Syrian government itself may have quietly green-lighted the raid in advance.

No one should be surprised if that turns out to be true. It makes perfect sense.

“Syria's interest is to see the invaders defeated in Iraq,” Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara said in 2003. And so, for years, Bashar Assad’s government supported the flow of Al Qaeda terrorists into Iraq. The reason should be apparent enough. Syria is a state sponsor of terrorism and does not want to be “next.” The last thing either the Syrian or Iranian governments have wanted to see was a quick, easy, successful, and locally welcomed regime change in Iraq. The Iraqi insurgency was their life-insurance policy. It kept American troops busy somewhere else and hollowed out any potential American appetite for the demolition of another belligerent dictatorship in the Middle East.

Assad’s support for Al Qaeda is mostly cynical, though. He hardly shares the group’s ultimate goals. Another reason he helps them make their way to Iraq is because, in all likelihood, he’s delighted to watch them impale themselves on American forces.

Syria’s ruling Baath Party is a secular nationalist regime made up overwhelmingly of minority Alawites, whom the likes of Al Qaeda would like to see murdered en masse. Alawites are one of the Middle East’s relatively obscure religious minorities--like the Arabic Druze and the Kurdish Yezidis--who exist well outside the theological mainstream of the region. They’re a secretive and heretical offshoot of Twelver Shiism, and their beliefs are fused with Christian and pagan elements. Some of their rituals resemble those of the indigenous and ancient Phoenicians. They drink wine in a rite that resembles communion. They believe women do not have souls. Unlike Christians and Muslims, Alawites do not proselytize. Outsiders are not even allowed to convert. They make up around ten percent of Syria’s population, and can only rule the country through the brute force of an oppressive police state.

They aren't at all well-liked by Syria's Sunni Muslim majority, which considers them “infidels.” Stirring up sectarian tensions is, not surprisingly, a serious crime inside Syria. The last thing Assad wants is Lebanonization or Iraqification inside his own country. Those kinds of political problems are strictly for export.

Read the rest in COMMENTARY.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 3, 2008 10:23 AM
Comments

Assad’s support for Al Qaeda is mostly cynical, though. He hardly shares the group’s ultimate goals.

Much like Saddam's offer of asylum to Usama Bin Laden, or when he sent the Iraqi Air Force to Iran in 1991.

It's surprising that people have such a difficult time with the "allies of convenience" concept. It's not like it wasn't central to WW II, the most-studied conflict in history.

Sadly, for Iraqis, what Iran and Syria fear most is liberal democracy.

Posted by: TallDave Author Profile Page at November 3, 2008 11:47 AM
Assad’s support for Al Qaeda is mostly cynical, though. He hardly shares the group’s ultimate goals.

Much like Saddam's offer of asylum to Usama Bin Laden, or when he sent the Iraqi Air Force to Iran in 1991.

It's surprising that people have such a difficult time with the "allies of convenience" concept. It's not like it wasn't central to WW II, the most-studied conflict in history.

in the democratic primaries alone, you see republicans voting for hillary, not because they like her, but to prolong the nomination and bloody obama.

Posted by: j. marzan Author Profile Page at November 4, 2008 3:37 AM

They’re a secretive and heretical offshoot of Twelver Shiism,

Minor stylistic quibble: calling any sect 'heretic' directly implies that (other) sects are 'the' legitimate group and may cause unnecessary offense. It is more diplomatic to say "most members of [group] considers X to be heretics".

I don't much care about the theology, but I do think it is good to avoid offending people unnecessarily.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at November 11, 2008 4:26 AM
Post a comment









Remember personal info?




Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Read my blog on Kindle



blogads-blog-button.png


Recommended Reading




Warning: include(): http:// wrapper is disabled in the server configuration by allow_url_include=0 in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2008/11/killing-a-croco.php on line 253

Warning: include(http://michaeltotten.com/mt_essays.php): failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2008/11/killing-a-croco.php on line 253

Warning: include(): Failed opening 'http://michaeltotten.com/mt_essays.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php:/usr/local/lib/php') in /home/mjt001/public_html/archives/2008/11/killing-a-croco.php on line 253