Friday, 24 August 2012

Syria: The End Game

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After 18 months of fighting the al-Assad regime, the end game, by Allah’s grace in now in sight. The whole Ummah has watched with astonishment at not just the brutality of al-Assad but the mixed messages from the West, which played a key role in the slaughter, by giving al-Assad ample time to end the uprising.

 وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لاَ تُفْسِدُواْ فِي الأَرْضِ قَالُواْ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُون

أَلا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلَـكِن لاَّ يَشْعُرُونَ


And when it is said to them: make not mischief in the earth, they say: We are only peace makers. No, they are mischief makers but they perceive it not. (TMQ 2:11-12)

When the uprising initially began in early 2011, both Britain and France immediately called for intervention whilst the US called for giving al-Assad time, as he was a reformer. As pictures were beamed around the world of al-Assad’s slaughter, the US changed tact and began calling for his removal, whilst not actually doing anything. When this position became untenable and the massacres continued, the US faced a dilemma, the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Local Coordination Committee (LCC) failed to coalesce into a unified movement. The US hoped to possibly replace al-Assad with a new breed of loyalists, however undermined by internal squabbling and power struggles and having little credibility in the eyes of the people the US turned towards the UN to buy itself time.

Various proposals were put forward with regards to Syria from sanctions to UN observer missions and a resolution condemning the Syrian leadership with vague prospects of intervention. This action i.e. the involvement of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the resolution to the Syrian crisis, effectively placed the solution to the Syrian crisis in the hands of the superpowers, who themselves were all competing with each other.

The Kofi Annan plan, allowed the regime time and space to commit arguably its worst atrocities. The UN observers were as impotent as the earlier Arab league observer mission was and were at times complicit with the regime. The task of the observers was to inform the international community of the unacceptable actions of those they had under observation. The international community was fully aware of the violence. The issue in Syria was not that the world was unaware of the violence, but that it was not willing to take steps to end it.

End Game

In June 2012 a flurry of statements by US officials such as Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of staff, US Defence Secretary, the Secretary of State and the President himself began to ratchet up calls for military intervention. This after calling for everything short of intervention since the uprising began. This was due to the progress the Ummah in Syria was making against al-Assad. The Assad regime to quell the uprisings in Homs, Hama, Idlib and the stand-off has reached Aleppo as well as districts of Damascus – the seat of the regime. This worried the US as well as the al-Assad regime who then resorted to massacres such as Qubair and Houla as the people of Syria were not going to allow foreign powers to replace Assad with another puppet.

The magnitude of al Assad’s problems became clear July 6 2012 when the influential Tlass clan publicly broke ties with the al-Assads. This signalled the unravelling of the Sunni patronage networks that have helped sustain the minority Alawite-dominated regime for more than four decades. The next blow came July 18th 2012 with a bombing at the National Security headquarters in Damascus which eliminated several of the regime’s top security bosses. There have since been a string of defections, most recently that of the Prime Minister of Syria Riyad Hijab on August 6th 2012.

The Syrian military faces a countrywide insurgency, with rebel pockets forming in most of the key governorates. Given al-Assad’s finite resources, the regime prioritized its operations. Whilst the military has not ceded any district to the opposition and continues to go on offensives aimed at destroying rebel pockets in critical areas, large swaths of the countryside have effectively been ceded to the rebels as the government focuses on amassing enough personnel and firepower to maintain solid control over critical cities and supply lines. This is now cracking.

With the end game in Syria in sight there are a whole host of issues the Muslims of Syria will need to contend with in order to ensure their uprising is not hijacked by those with their own agendas. With this in mind we present the key strategic issues which the Ummah of Syria will need to contend with.

Security

No nation is independent unless it controls its own security. Sovereignty does not exist unless a nation can secure its borders and is self-sufficient in this. Whilst much has been made of Syria’s chemical weapons, which in reality is a pretext for possible foreign intervention, the Ummah of Syria will need to take over the country and bring the countries heavy industry and weapons arsenal under its control. This will be essential in the case of military intervention by foreign powers and also for the wider Islamic aim of reunification with the wider Muslim world.  In overcoming these challenges we make the following recommendations:
  • The Al-Assad regime is now on its last legs and is entirely reliant on military loyalty. The entire command structure of the Syrian military should be encouraged to defect and join the opposition. There is no need for more sons and daughters of the brave Syrian people to suffer for the sake of the butcher Bashar. The forces amassed around Aleppo should defect en masse to the opposition and this would deal a dramatic and irreversible blow to the al-Assad regime and accelerate the inevitable conclusion with minimal further bloodshed. The military are a vital part of Syrian society and should defend their people, not destroy them. All possible measures should be undertaken by the Syrian opposition to facilitate the defections.
  • The new leadership could then consolidate and secure the nation’s military and weapons; and secure its borders in order to deter those with designs on the nation. Currently the nation has 215,000 soldiers with a similar number in the reserves. This includes eight armoured divisions and three mechanised divisions, these will need to be brought under the new leaderships authority. Their equipment includes 4,700 tanks, 4,500 armoured personnel carriers, 850 surface-to-air missiles, and 4,000 anti-aircraft guns. The air force has 611 combat planes.
  • Syria possesses 130 surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries. These have had significant resources devoted to them in terms of maintenance and upgrade and would complicate any potential foreign intervention. These batteries will need to be secured after the overthrow of al-Assad.
  • The security services in the Arab world are notorious for their brutal methods of torture, often being the only line of defence for the rulers of the region. Syria’s Military Intelligence Directorate – Makhabarat, plays a major role in the region and not just in Syria. The role of the secret service should be changed to protecting the people from external threats, rather than internal policing. They should also be paid a wage commensurate to this, to weed out corruption.
Internal Cohesion 

Internal cohesion was maintained in the country by successive rulers through the secret service permeating every facet of society. Whilst much has been made of civil war and sectarianism, non-Muslims make up less than 25% of the country’s population. Unifying Syria into a cohesive society is one of the biggest challenges the new leadership will face, especially as foreign powers have designs on the nation. In overcoming these challenges we make the following recommendations:
  • The adoption of a new constitution – A constitution should be adopted that enshrines the relationship between state and society and defines the organs of state and how accountability can take place. The Ummah of Syria need to change the basis of the nation from a vague concept of Arab nationalism and al-Assad to Islam. This is because the truth underpins Islam and Islam is indigenous to the nation so it will provide it with a coherent and consistent system to organise state and society.
  • As the basis of Islam is the Qur’an and Sunnah a new constitution that outlines the detailed Islamic position on the economy, social system, accountability and judiciary should be drawn up and made public so every citizen can understand the laws that will govern the state, the society and the individual. This will create a coherent society, create unity among the people and provide a framework through which people can work to achieve their personal, political or religious goals.
  • The constitution should clearly state the obligation of political parties and the establishment of the Majlis of the Ummah (the people’s house), which will have the power to impose certain restriction on the ruler. This mechanism will allow for accountability to take place in an institutionalised manner. This will allow for a close relationship between the ruler and ruled and create a society which cannot be penetrated from the outside as changes can be brought and discrepancies can be raised directly through this domestic institution.
  • The constitution should also clearly outline the rights of all citizens in the state Muslim and non-Muslim. The Alawite and Christian minorities must understand clearly that the constitution of the state, with its Islamic foundation, will enshrine the rights of all of the people of Syria into law as demanded in Islamic Fiqh regardless of denomination.
Foreign interference 

Syria was an artificial creation by the deal made by the French and British in the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1918. Whilst European influence was replaced by the US after WW2, the West ensured the minority demographic ruled over the majority, who would always need foreign help to remain in power. Successive rulers remained loyal to the West protecting their interests in the region, which ensured military hardware kept flowing into the country. Stratfor outlined its view on the post Assad scenario: “Foreign diplomacy surrounding the conflict, rather than the rebels fighting within Syria, will determine what the endgame looks like. Stratfor expects a scramble among the foreign stakeholders in Syria to protect their interests and emerge from the growing chaos with some degree of leverage.” In order to deal with foreign interference the following recommendations should be pursued:
  • Removing US interference will be central to the future of the Muslim world as well as Syria. To achieve this US tools for this need to be eliminated. Since the US came to the Muslim lands it has used agent rulers, economic aid, investment for infrastructure and military sales as key tools in keeping influence in the region. Each of these will need to be deconstructed and removed.
  • Former members of the al-Assad regime need to be put on trial for the crimes they have committed. Justice needs to be brought to the millions who suffered at their hands. These trials should be completely public, comprehensive and just. Similarly members of the Syrian National Council (SNC) should be not be permitted to return to the country as they are close to the West and  their loyalty to a new Syria cannot be guaranteed.
  • No arbitrary limits should be placed on the requirement for appropriate weapons to deter attack. Islam in origin forbids the use of weapons that indiscriminately destroy. However, it allows Muslims to possess such weapons to be used reciprocally for the purpose of deterrence only. Appropriate weapons development programmes should seek to secure the state from foreign invasion.
  • The “rogue state” label has been developed in the Capitals of the West to justify interference in the Muslim lands and to subvert any call for the return of Islam. The West has engaged in many heinous crimes without any accountability. This includes their lies concerning WMD in Iraq and their cosy relationship with Ben Ali, Gaddafi and Mubarak amongst others. Syria’s new leadership should expose the wars, repression and poverty that have been a direct consequence of Western foreign policy. The main protagonists have watched the world suffer while they reaped many benefits. The negative and destructive nature of Western foreign policy has destabilised the world and they should be, in a diplomatic sense at the very least, be held accountable for this internationally.
  • The Ummah’s best defence is reunifying the Muslim world. By uniting and expanding very quickly, any foreign aggressor will be dealing with a much larger area, with more resources, economic and military power opposing them. As Afghanistan and Iraq has shown, long supply lines weaken the front lines. It should also be borne in mind that the US makes use of a number of military bases that have been provided to them by rulers of Muslim countries, cutting such supply lines will severely hinder US capabilities.
Conclusions

The beginning of the end has started in Syria and Russia, Britain, France and the US are all attempting to arrange the end game in Syria with something that suits their interests. The West has been unable to create a new breed of loyalists who will serve their agenda and have been caught short as the Ummah took her destiny into her own hands. With many in Syria openly calling for Khilafah inshallah the game is about to end for the West. (Adnan Khan)

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