Alors que les commentateurs les plus lucides comme Victor Davis Hanson en sont à prier que l’accident industriel qui occupe depuis bientôt quatre ans la Maison Blanche n’ait pas fait trop de dégâts …
Et qu’avec la réélection d’un président chrétien, la démocratie jusqu’ici modèle du Nigéria est en train de révéler ses vraies couleurs …
Pendant qu’après avoir laissé massacrer sans compter la majorité sunnite de leur pays, les soutiens alaouïtes (une secte chiite) et chrétiens de la famille Assad se préparent à subir, à leur tour et dans l’indifférence générale, un chaque jour un peu plus probable nettoyage ethno-religieux …
Et qu’en attendant leur propre solution finale dû’ment programmée du côté de Téhéran, les habituels méchants israéliens plus au sud pourraient bien se révéler être – l’Histoire a de ces ironies – la dernière planche de salut de leurs ennemis syriens …
Retour, avec l’islamologue américain Raymond Ibrahim, sur l’étrange et potentiellement criminel aveuglement de l’Occident face au poker menteur à laquelle sont en train de se livrer sous nos yeux les tenants islamistes du prétendu « Printemps arabe » …
January 31, 2012
The Obama administration supports « democracy » and « self determination » in the Middle East — two euphemisms that, in the real world, refer to « mob-rule » and « Islamic radicalization, » respectively. Yet, as Jimmy Carter recently put it: « I don’t have any problem with that [an « Islamist victory » in Egypt], and the US government doesn’t have any problem with that either. We want the will of the Egyptian people to be expressed. »
Sounds fair enough. The problem, however, is that Muslim clerics openly and unequivocally characterize democracy and elections as tools to be discarded once they empower Sharia law. Thus Dr. Talat Zahran holds that it is « obligatory to cheat at elections — a beautiful thing »; and Sheikh Abdel Shahat insists that democracy is not merely forbidden in Islam, but kufr — a great and terrible sin — this even as he competed in Egypt’s elections.
The Obama administration can overlook such election-exploitation because the majority of Muslims are either indifferent or willing to go along with the gag — with only a minority (secularists, Copts, etc.) in Egypt actually objecting to how elections are being used to empower Sharia-enforcing Muslims.
But what if Muslims do not win elections? What if there are equal amounts of non-Muslims voting—and an « infidel » wins? What then? Then we get situations like Nigeria.
While many are aware that Boko Haram and other Islamic elements are waging jihad against the government of Nigeria, specifically targeting Christians, often overlooked is that the jihad was provoked into full-blown activity because a Christian won fair elections (Nigeria is about evenly split between Christians and Muslims).
According to Peter Run, writing back in April 2011,
The current wave of riots was triggered by the Independent National Election Commission’s (INEC) announcement on Monday [April 18, 2011] that the incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, won in the initial round of ballot counts. That there were riots in the largely Muslim inhabited northern states where the defeat of the Muslim candidate Muhammadu Buhari was intolerable, [but] was unsurprising. Northerners [Muslims] felt they were entitled to the presidency for the declared winner, President Jonathan, [who] assumed leadership after the Muslim president, Umaru Yar’Adua died in office last year and radical groups in the north [Boko Haram] had seen his ascent [Christian president] as a temporary matter to be corrected at this year’s election. Now they are angry despite experts and observers concurring that this is the fairest and most independent election in recent Nigerian history.
Note some key words: Muslims felt « entitled » to the presidency and seek to « correct » the fact that a Christian won elections — which they assumed « a temporary matter. »
Of course, had elections empowered a like-minded Muslim, the same jihadis would still be there, would still have the same savage intent for Christians and Westerners — Boko Haram means « Western education is forbidden. » But there would not be a fullblown jihad, and Obama would be singing praises to Nigerian democracy and elections, and the MSM would be boasting images of Nigerians with ink-stained fingers.
Yet the same jihadi intent would be there, only dormant. Like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — whose ultimate goal is « mastership of the world » — they would not need to expose themselves via jihad, and would be biding their time and consolidating their strength.
Now, back to the Egyptian clerics, specifically Sheikh Yassir al-Burhami — yet another leader in Egypt’s Salafi movement, who teaches that Muslims must preach peace when weak but wage war when strong. Discussing the chances of a fellow Salafi, Burhami asserts:
We say — regardless of the outcome of the elections — whether he [his colleague, the aforementioned al-Shahat] wins or loses, we will not permit an infidel [kafir] to be appointed to a post where he assumes authority over Muslims. This is forbidden. Allah said: « Never will Allah grant to infidels a way [to triumph] over the believers [Koran 4:141]. » We are not worried about losing elections or al-Shahat losing votes. We will not flatter or fawn to the people.
What will you and your associates do, Sheikh Burhami — wage jihad? Of course, that will not be necessary: unlike Nigeria, most of Egypt is Muslim; one way or another, « elections » will realize the Islamist agenda.
Thus, whether by word (al-Burhami) or deed (Boko Haram) those who seek to make Islam supreme prove that democracy and elections are acceptable only insofar as they enable Sharia. Conversely, if they lead to something that contradicts Sharia — for instance, by bringing a Christian infidel to power — then the perennial jihad resumes.
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
January 28, 2012
The mystery remaining about the Obama administration’s foreign policy is not whether it has worked, but whether its failures will matter all that much. That is no rhetorical question, given that it is hard to permanently damage, in just three years, the position abroad of the United States, given its vast military power and enormous economy.
The Obama administration’s policy was predicated on three assumptions. First, world tensions and widespread dislike of the United States were due to George Bush’s wars and his cowboyish style. Therefore, outreach and reset would correct the Bush mistakes — given that unrest did not really antedate, and would not postdate, the strutting Bush. The unique personal narrative and heritage of Obama and his tripartite name, of course, would earn America fides in inverse proportion to Bush’s twang and evangelical way of speaking about God.
Yet most problems really did transcend Bush, and so reset accomplished little. Hugo Chávez is more hostile to America than ever, whether symbolically by accusing the Obama administration of spreading cancer among Latin American leaders or concretely by entertaining Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There is no new warmth from Cuba or Nicaragua — as there never could have been from their Stalinist heads of state.
Putin has as much contempt for Obama as he did for Bush. Our policies remain the same: trying to encourage Russian reform without causing a war or neo-Soviet adventurism.
The decision to reach out to Assad with recognition and an embassy failed; Syria became more unhinged and violent, not less. The verdict is still out on the Arab Spring; the Obama administration stopped taking credit for it once the illiberal Muslim Brotherhood began its ascendance. The Palestinians are now talking of a third intifada, and they hope that, when the shooting starts, their new friend the United States will hector Israel in a way it did not under Bush.
Outreach to Iran was a disaster; the serial face-to-face talks and the quiet neglect of the Iranian dissidents did not work. Now we are reduced to the sort of catch-up sanctions that would have earned Bush the charge of warmongering from the Left. Unofficial US policy seems to be a silent hope that tiny Israel does the unthinkable that a huge United States would not, while Saudi Arabia expands its pipelines to nullify the value of the Strait of Hormuz in a way we are refusing to do at home with Keystone.
Obama likes Prime Minister Erdogan even more than he hates Prime Minister Netanyahu. But what he thinks the Israelis have done to the Palestinians pales in comparison to what he must know the Turks have done to the Kurds, Greeks, and Armenians. It is open to question whether Erdogan will be calmed by such affability or will find it useful should he wish to settle old scores with the Kurds, on Cyprus, or in the Aegean.
Lecturing China while borrowing ever more money from it does not work.
I don’t think Japan and South Korea feel any safer with Obama in office — despite claims of a new focus on Asia at the expense of old Europe. The more Obama talks of eliminating nuclear weapons, the more both these neighbors of North Korea will probably consider acquiring them.
There is no need to review the reset flip side of estrangement from the Czech Republic, Britain, Israel, and now Canada — allies who believe in staid things like democracy, human rights, and alliances in times of peril. It is hard to calibrate US policy toward the EU, since the entire enterprise is unraveling, and the Europeans seem puzzled that we are emulating the very failure they are learning from. Mexico is more violent and unstable than ever before, and more emboldened to sue US states in American courts of law. Fast and Furious promises not to deport any more illegal aliens, and the administration’s lawsuit against the state of Arizona did not have a warming effect on our relationship.
The second Obama idea was the dream of reenergizing the United Nations and working to eliminate all nuclear weapons. But the likelihood is that the atomic club will be larger, not smaller, when Obama leaves office. The madness of North Korea transcends the US presidency, although for now it is playing out in ridiculous matters of succession.
Obama claimed he was doing UN work in Libya; but in truth he exceeded a UN mandate for humanitarian help and no-fly zones by stealthily bombing “from behind.” How odd that by ignoring the US Congress and the War Powers Act and instead championing but not obeying the United Nations, Obama snubbed both in a way his cowboyish predecessor never had. Restricting oil leases on federal lands by 40 percent and stopping the Keystone pipeline did not translate into a gas-guzzling America’s doing its fair share to lower world oil prices and protect the global environment from careless new Third World exploration and exploitation.
Third, Obama promised to win the good war in Afghanistan, and to end the bad war in Iraq, in addition to junking or amending the supposedly unconstitutional and counterproductive war on terror. Here there is some confusion. He got out of Iraq, but on the Bush-Petraeus timetable long ago negotiated with the Iraqi government. In Afghanistan no one believes the situation is better — four commanders and three years after Bush left office. Obama tweaked the war on terror in cynical fashion, mixing euphemism and realpolitik. Rhetorically, we learned of overseas contingency operations and man-caused disasters, while mention of Islamic terrorism became taboo.
Yet Obama, in fact, embraced or expanded all of the Bush-Cheney protocols — from Guantanamo and tribunals to renditions and Predator drones — on the apparent tripartite and correct assumption that (1) these measures were both lawful and vital to the security of the United States; (2) opposition to them had been entirely partisan and would evaporate once he put his own brand upon them; and (3) the Republicans would be flummoxed, unsure whether to damn Obama for his blatant hypocrisy and the damage he had done through his earlier opportunistic attacks on the very policies he would come to expand — or to be relieved that a liberal Democrat was continuing the Bush war on terror and employed its tools, which brought such dividends as the end of bin Laden and the Predatorization of top Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders.
Did the Obama setbacks matter all that much? So far, in the very short term, perhaps not.
Few envisioned that the Arab world and the European Union in their own respective ways would implode, quite apart from anything the United States did. The recession has put China on the defensive, and heightened the contradictions between free markets and closed minds. Russia is in serial crises from demography to democracy. The tsunami reminded the world how vulnerable an aging and shrinking Japan really is.
Meanwhile, here in the US, fracking and horizontal drilling redefined our oil and gas outlook, despite, not because of, the Obama administration. The insolvency of Mediterranean Europe has taken attention from the near insolvency of the US Treasury. The EU pact, and styles of governance in China, Russia, and the Arab world, remind us that the US Constitution remains exceptional. And the stagnant American economy has muffled domestic objections to vast cutbacks in defense and our new follow-rather-than-lead foreign policy.
In other words, we are back to the deceptive quiet of a 1913, 1938, or 2000, consumed by internal problems, suspicious of the world abroad, assuming that foreigners’ challenges are worse than ours, and convinced that no one would be so stupid as to start a stupid war.
Let us hope no one does. But if someone should be so crazy, others might follow. Then we would learn that our old allies are now neutrals; our new friends are enemies; and the old deterrence will be as hard to regain as it was once to acquire.
Deep down, the Obama administration seems to believe that Assad’s tyranny is preferable to the opposition
January 6, 2012
Nearly a year into Syria’s agony, the Arab League last week dispatched a small group of monitors headed by a man of the Sudanese security services with a brutal record in the killing fields of Darfur. Gen. Mohammed al-Dabi, a trusted aide of Sudan’s notorious ruler, Omar al-Bashir, didn’t see anything « frightening » in the embattled city of Homs, nor did he see the snipers on the rooftops in the southern town of Deraa.
A banner in Homs, held up by a group of women protesters, saw into the heart of the matter: « All doors are closed, except yours, Oh God. » Indeed, the solitude of the Syrians, their noble defiance of the most entrenched dictatorship in the Arab world, has played out against the background of a sterile international diplomacy.
Libya had led us all astray. Rescue started for the Libyans weeks into their ordeal. Not so for the Syrians. Don’t look for Bashar al-Assad forewarning the subjects of his kingdom—a veritable North Korea on the Mediterranean—that his forces are on the way to hunt them down and slaughter them like rats, as did Moammar Gadhafi.
There is ice in this ruler’s veins. His people are struck down, thousands of them are kidnapped, killed and even tortured in state hospitals if they turn up for care. Children are brutalized for scribbling graffiti on the walls. And still the man sits down for an interview last month with celebrity journalist Barbara Walters to say these killer forces on the loose are not his.
In a revealing slip, the Syrian dictator told Ms. Walters that he didn’t own the country, that he was merely its president. But the truth is that the House of Assad and the intelligence barons around them are owners of a tormented country. Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, was a wicked genius. He rose from poverty and destitution through the ranks of the Syrian army to absolute power. He took a tumultuous country apart, reduced it to submission, died a natural death in 2000, and bequeathed his son a kingdom in all but name.
Thirty years ago, Assad the father rode out a ferocious rebellion by the Muslim Brotherhood, devastated the city of Hama in Syrian’s central plains, and came to rule a frightened population that accepted the bargain he offered—political servitude in return for a drab, cruel stability.
Now the son retraces the father’s arc: Overwhelm the rebellion in Homs, recreate the kingdom of fear, and the world will forgive and make its way back to Damascus.
A legend has taken hold regarding the strategic importance of Syria— bordered by Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq—and the Assad regime has made the best of it. Last October, the Syrian ruler, with a mix of cunning and bluster, played off this theme: « Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake. Do you want to see another Afghanistan, or tens of Afghanistans? Any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. »
There is no denying the effectiveness of this argument. The two big autocracies in the world—Russia and China—have given this regime cover and sustenance at the United Nations. A toothless resolution brought to the Security Council last October was turned back, courtesy of these two authoritarian states, and with the aid and acquiescence of Brazil, India and South Africa. (So much for the moral sway of the « emerging » powers.)
For its part, the Arab world treated the Syrian despotism rather gingerly. For months, the Arab League ducked for cover and averted its gaze from the barbarisms. Shamed by the spectacle of the shabiha (the vigilantes of the regime) desecrating mosques, beating and killing worshippers, the Arab League finally suspended Syria’s membership.
An Arab League « Peace Plan » was signed on Dec. 19, but still the slaughter continued. The Damascus dictatorship offered the Arab League the concession of allowing a team of monitors into the country. Bravely, the Syrians came out in large numbers last week to greet them and demonstrate the depth of their opposition to the regime. Some 250,000 people reportedly greeted them in the northern city of Idlib; 70,000 defied the regime in Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus. Nevertheless, the killings went on.
The Western democracies have been hoping for deliverance. There is talk in Paris of « humanitarian corridors » to supply the embattled Syrian cities with food and water and fuel. There has been a muted discussion of the imposition of a no-fly zone that would embolden and protect the defectors who compose the Free Syrian Army.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a true cynic throughout. An erstwhile ally and patron of Assad, he finally broke with the Syrian ruler last fall, saying « You can remain in power with tanks and cannons only up to a certain point. » But the help Ankara can give is always a day away. The Syrian exiles and defectors need Turkey, and its sanctuary, but they have despaired of the false promises given by Mr. Erdogan.
The U.S. response has been similarly shameful. From the outset of the Syrian rebellion, the Obama administration has shown remarkable timidity. After all, the Assad dictatorship was a regime that President Obama had set out to « engage » (the theocracy in Tehran being the other). The American response to the struggle for Syria was glacial. To be sure, we had a remarkable and courageous envoy to Damascus, Ambassador Robert Ford. He had braved regime bullies, made his way to funerals and restive cities. In the bloodied streets, he found the not-so-surprising faith in American power and benevolence.
But at the highest levels of the administration—the president, the secretary of state—the animating drive toward Syria is one of paralyzing caution. Deep down, the Obama administration seems to subscribe to the belief that Assad’s tyranny is preferable to the alternative held out by the opposition. With no faith in freedom’s possibilities and power, U.S. diplomacy has operated on the unstated assumption that the regime is likely to ride out the storm.
The tenacity of this rebellion surprised Washington, and due deference had to be paid to it. Last month, Frederic Hof, the State Department’s point man on Syria, described the Damascus regime as a « dead man walking. » There was political analysis in that statement, but also a desire that the Syrian struggle would end well without Washington having to make any hard choices.
Syrian rulers and protesters alike ought to be able to read the wind: An American president ceding strategic ground in the Greater Middle East is no threat to the Damascus regime. With an eye on his bid for re-election, President Obama will boast that he brought the Iraq war to an end, as he promised he would. That applause line precludes taking on Syrian burdens. In Obamaland, foreign policy is full of false choices: either boots on the ground or utter abdication.
Libya showed the defect of that choice, yet this remains the worldview of the current steward of American power.
Hafez al-Assad bequeathed power to his son, Bashar. Now Bashar, in turn, has a son named Hafez. From this bondage, the Syrian people are determined to release themselves. As of now, they are on their own.
Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and co-chair of Hoover’s Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.
Feb 2 2012
DAMASCUS (Reuters) – A year ago, Ali was enjoying university in Damascus, looking forward to a career in dentistry and paying little heed to politics in a country controlled by a single family for over 40 years.
That all changed, not so much when other Syrians took to the streets to demand President Bashar al-Assad step down, but when a mysterious message popped up on his Facebook page; it told him to get out of town, or die – because he was the wrong religion.
« You Alawite, » read a text on the social networking site, widely hailed by pro-democracy activists for enabling the Arab Spring uprisings. « We don’t want to see your face in Barzeh. »
Now, long dormant religious bigotries have thrust politics on Ali, who was born into the minority Alawite sect and still lives in the Damascus suburb of Barzeh, where most of his neighbours are Sunni Muslims. The 25-year-old student is now a firm supporter of Assad, not from any admiration for the wealthy elite that has run the country with an iron – and often bloody – fist for four decades, but because they too are Alawites.
« They sent me the threat just because I am an Alawite living in Barzeh, » Ali said during a series of interviews Reuters conducted in the Syrian capital last week with a variety of Alawite residents who asked that their identities be concealed.
If Assad falls, they fear a bloodbath for fellow Alawites, outnumbered six to one by the Sunnis in a Syrian population of 23 million, which also includes large minorities of Christians and ethic Kurds.
« We will go to the palace to protect him with our lives, » said Mahmoud, an Alawite student at another Damascus university, who spoke to Reuters among a group of friends.
« If Assad goes, » added another in the group, also called Ali, « I’m sure I’ll either end up dead or I’ll leave the country. »
ANGER AT CRACKDOWN
Opposition leaders, some of whom have taken up arms in an increasingly violent confrontation that has killed more than 5,000 people in 11 months, mostly dismiss suggestions the revolt is destined to divide Syrians along ethnic and religious lines.
But millions are incensed by the killing, arrests and torture unleashed last year by the Alawite-led authorities against demonstrators, including women and children, who confronted them in mainly Sunni cities like Deraa.
In a country which has seen refugees stream in from the sectarian blood-letting in Iraq in recent years, and where Assad and his late father are widely perceived by much of the 75-percent Sunni majority to have heavily favoured the once scorned Alawites, the language of religious hatred is growing louder. Stories of reciprocal atrocity are gaining currency.
Typical of such tales is that of Ali, the dental student. He said he took the threat on Facebook seriously because one of his uncles had been killed. His body parts were delivered in a bag to his home village in the Alawites’ western mountain heartland.
Mahmoud, who hails originally from Rabia in rural Hama province, said 39 people from his village had been killed since March: « If someone leaves the village, is stopped at a checkpoint and they know he is an Alawite, they kill him. »
Like accounts from Homs last month of a massacre of 14 members of a Sunni family by suspected pro-government Alawite militiamen, or ‘shabbiha’, the report is impossible to check in a country where reporting is heavily restricted.
For the Alawites, who identify their faith as a variant of the Shi’ite Islam practised in Iran, long a close ally of Assad, the rise in the ranks of the opposition of the Sunni Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood and other conservative Sunnis who accuse Alawites of heresy is a particular cause of anxiety.
« If Bashar loses power, then definitely a non-Alawite will rule, » said Fadi, a harassed-looking man in his 30s who runs a clothes store in Damascus. « The new regime will be tough on us Alawites and it will discriminate against us. »
Fadi admitted that some of his acquaintances had put their resistance to change into action, driven by fear to attack and beat up some of the demonstrators who have dared to protest against Assad and his Alawite-dominated security forces.
Others are just keeping their heads down, trying to conceal any sign of their affiliations. That can range from accent – many Alawites hail from mountain villages near Lebanon whose Arabic is distinctive – to their names, since some given names are more common among either Alawites or Sunnis.
« These days I am scared to give my name, » said Ali, the student from the mainly Sunni suburb of Barzeh. « Sometimes I say it is Omar. Sometimes I use something else. »
Communal support for Assad invokes not only the fear of reprisal, but the historic marginalisation of Alawites from the centuries of Sunni Ottoman rule down to the emergence of Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad. He took power in 1970 and died in 2000.
Before the Assads, Alawites say, they were treated routinely as second-class citizens, discriminated against and deprived of holding senior posts in the government.
« My father used to walk 20 km to get to school, because schools in our area were scarce, » said Abdullah, a government employee in Damascus recalling his father’s childhood in the Alawite mountain villages in the 1950s and 60s. « Now we’re allowed proper education, and this is thanks to Hafez. »
Assad’s opponents, for their part, recount decades of fear and oppression under the Assads, not just for Sunni Islamists but secular liberals, communists, Kurds and pretty much anyone who dared question the family’s monopoly on power.
Islamists take their historical bearings from the bloodiest moment of Assad rule when, 30 years ago this week, the father unleashed his forces, with Alawites at the spearhead, on Hama.
At least 10,000 people were killed, possibly two or three times as many, as artillery and tanks pounded the stronghold of the rebellious Muslim Brotherhood, levelling much of the old city in the process. It is an experience some Syrian Islamists recount as the profanation of sacred territory by heretics.
Adnan Arour, a Sunni cleric who fled Syria during Assad’s reprisals against the Brotherhood, now wages a campaign of sectarian invective against the younger Assad from Sunni-led Saudi Arabia – which has backed calls for the end of his rule.
« As for those Alawites who violate what is sacred, when the Muslims rule and are the majority of 85 percent, we will chop you up and feed you to the dogs, » Arour said in June.
Though he does not speak for a majority in Syria, for fundamentalist Sunnis, Alawites’ beliefs and practices place them outside the bounds of Islam altogether.
Alawites dominate senior positions in the security apparatus. But many others say they see few of the privileges that have accrued to Assad’s inner circle over four decades.
Many of the two million or so Alawites live still in rural villages, while those who have migrated to Damascus say they are no better off than the substantial Sunni middle class which has also so far generally stood behind Assad and against upheaval.
Yara, a government employee in her 30s, was, like many Alawites, at pains to stress that their community did not feel especially favoured under the Assads and that, in her view, Sunnis benefited more from public sector employment: « Most of us Alawites are small traders, » she told Reuters in the capital.
« The Sunnis get the government jobs, so we don’t get our due from the state, » said Yara, who was sporting a bracelet adorned with the red, black and white Syrian flag adopted after Assad’s Baath Party seized power in the 1960s. It stands in contrast to the older green, black and white tricolour used by opponents.
« The Alawites live in the mountains, with no electricity or water, » Yara said of the continuing hardships for many of her community. « And now they say we should be kicked out? »
Though many Syrians would scoff at the notion, other Alawites insist that the president is a secular leader, blind to sectarian concerns, whose wife is Sunni.
As well as sharpening sectarian frictions, the violence of recent months has opened up differences within the Alawite community. Some prominent Alawite political activists have taken a stand against Assad. Aref Dalila and Najati Tayara have both been jailed for their opposition, while noted actress Fadwa Suleiman has led protests in the opposition stronghold of Homs.
But the Alawite students who spoke in Damascus dismissed them as self-serving attention-seekers, careless of the threat facing the minority as a group. « They don’t represent us, » said the student Mahmoud. « They’re just hypocrites looking for fame. »
Some also call naive those Alawites who push for reform, citing the example of Egypt’s Christian minority, who embraced the revolution in Cairo alongside their Muslim compatriots but now fear a new rule dominated by conservative Sunnis.
« ALL MURDERERS »
At bottom, Mahmoud and other Syrian Alawites argue, it will not matter whether an individual opposes Assad or not – in the final accounting, if he is overthrown by a movement dominated by Sunni Islamists, all Alawites will be marked for revenge.
As one opposition activist put it in a private conversation recently: « Every Alawite between the age of 16 to 40 is a murderer, whether he likes it or not.
« The regime has recruited them, either as shabbiha in the capital or in the regular army, to kill us. »
Disdain for the Alawites as a group is not limited to the firebrand preachers broadcasting from the Gulf. At a polite, middle-class dinner party last week in Damascus, one educated professional, a Sunni though not a pious one, spoke with casual disparagement that betrays each sect’s ignorance of the other.
« The Alawites do not have mosques, » the man said. « They do not pray like us. Nobody knows what they are. »
The prospect of life without the Assads – a prospect many world and Arab leaders see as all but inevitable – is driving many Alawites to desperate extremes. Rallies in support of the president and his family were, in the early days of the rising, relatively staid affairs, where loyalists bussed in from Alawite strongholds ran through a routine playlist of Baathist chanting.
Now, there is real anger, passion and fear on the streets, with some crowds howling devotion to the president’s younger brother Maher, commander of a military unit in the vanguard of the crackdown on opposition bastions.
Screaming for him to « finish off » the rebels, demonstrators have chanted: « Get on with it, Maher. For God’s sake! »
Mahmoud, the Damascus student from Rabia, was keeping his calm when he spoke to a foreign reporter. But his voice betrayed a grim determination that sends a chilling signal for Syria’s future: « For me, it’s an eye for an eye, » he said.
« If someone wants to kill me and my family I won’t just stand and watch. If this is how they want it, then so be it. »
(Reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)
January 10, 2012
Israel is making preparations to house refugees from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite sect should his government fall, Israel’s military chief told a parliamentary committee today.
« On the day that the regime falls, it is expected to result in a blow to the Alawite sect. We are preparing to take in Alawite refugees on the Golan Heights, » a committee spokesman quoted Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz as saying.
Assad has faced 10 months of popular revolt in which more than 5,000 people have been killed, according to United Nations figures. Israeli officials have said they do not expect his government to last more than a few months.
In a speech today, Assad again blamed the unrest on a foreign conspiracy against Syria.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said last week that Assad « is weakening » and will fall this year.
« In my opinion … he won’t see the end of the year. I don’t think he will even see the middle of this year. It doesn’t matter if it will take six weeks or 12 weeks, he will be toppled and disappear, » Barak said.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.
Israel rarely censured the Assad government for its domestic crackdowns and has said little about the crisis that erupted last March. Successive Israeli governments have sought peace with Assad, seeing his government as a possible anchor for wider Israeli-Arab accommodation.
But in May last year, Israel accused Syria of orchestrating deadly confrontations on the ceasefire line between the two countries as a distraction from Assad’s bloody crackdown.
At least 23 people were killed and scores were wounded when Israeli troops fired on Palestinian protesters who surged against the fortified boundary fence.
The United States, Russia and the United Nations voiced deep concern about the flare-up, but it proved to be brief and was not repeated. Israeli sources note that Assad has not tried since then to turn the Golan into a « second front » in a bid to externalize his crisis.
Although Israel and Syria are technically at war, and Syria is home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war of Israel’s foundation, the Golan Heights had long been quiet.
A United Nations force patrols the demarcation line between the Golan Heights and Syria.
Barak said Syrian weapons could be transferred to the militant Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, « something we view with great gravity. Syria is believed to possess chemical weapons. »
The defence minister said that « when central authority weakens (in Damascus) all kinds of factors can create friction to try and act in the Golan Heights, and there are enough bad people in the region. »