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America's failure in Syria - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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An election year, Obama’s personality, the nightmares of Iraq, the Russians’ stance and Jihadophoia…All these reasons could explain America’s longstanding reluctance in supporting popular change in Syria.

Thousands of Syrians have taken up arms and fought valiantly with simple weaponry in an astonishing battle. Despite the fact that they have been fighting for a year, the revolutionaries have not been able to bring down the regime, nor have they been able to capture any major cities. The reason is that this genuine, popular revolution is acting alone, coming to blows with one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Away from Damascus, the US President is fighting on the electoral front with only 9 weeks remaining until the people go to the polls, and he has a good chance of getting re-elected. As a result he will avoid involvement in any foreign action out of fear that any move could result in his party’s defeat.

Then there is Obama’s personality, and it seems to everyone that he wants to distinguish himself and his presidency by showing that he is not George W. Bush, and that he is against military intervention. He withdrew his troops from Iraq and is working to get out of Afghanistan, and he doesn’t want to send his forces to fight in Syria or elsewhere. Obama’s personality is different to that of Bush and even others like Bill Clinton, who ventured into Yugoslavia and succeeded, and undertook smaller operations against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and others in Somalia, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Obama wants the Americans to go to the ballot boxes remembering that he was the one who brought them the head of their number one enemy, Osama Bin Laden, and does not want the widows of fallen soldiers to stage demonstrations against him. Also, his philosophy is not based on the expansion of influence or confronting opponents around the world, for Obama is less motivated by foreign policy. Despite this the US State Department is fighting a major war of words with the Russians, which highlights the major difference between the two countries. The Russian government is keen to back al-Assad – a key reason why his regime has remained afloat until now – with military, intelligence, and financial support, and likewise with oil. This is the first time, since the end of the Cold War, that we have seen the US fearful of upsetting the Russian authorities, despite the importance of overthrowing the al-Assad regime within the context of America’s war against Iran.

There is also the “Jihadophobia” phenomenon, where much has been written about jihadists flocking to Syria from around the world, and certainly among them are those affiliated with al-Qaeda, but of course these groups are found wherever there is a power vacuum and chaos, whether in Libya, Somalia, northern Mali or Yemen. It would be a mistake to leave the situation in Syria to those with these evil agendas who have nothing to do with the Syrian revolution, which seeks dignity and freedom rather than destruction.

I know that many Americans find a stark contrast between Arab calls for the US to intervene, and their earlier calls rejecting foreign intervention, and that they will say to us “we are not a battalion in the Arab army for you to throw your shoes at sometimes, and at other times call upon us to defend you”. This discrepancy is due to the fact that the Arab world is a large area of multiple visions that is going through a historical type of labor. The people have overthrown failed regimes, some of which were responsible for sabotaging the Arabs’ relationship with America, such as the Gaddafi regime in Libya, Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, and now al-Assad in Syria. Yet here in Syria Arab and American interests are identical; the fall of al-Assad is the demand of the Syrian people and it is also consistent with US interests.

In my view the Americans, who are turning their backs on the Syrian revolution, risk losing out on the most important popular issue in the Arab world. If handled correctly, it could narrow the gap between the two sides after the failed Iraq experience. The Syrians do not want soldiers, but rather quality weaponry in order to repel the fighter jets and tanks that they are currently fighting with small arms, at a time when the regime is mercilessly bombarding civilian neighborhoods. The Syrians have been fighting for a year without help of their neighbors, and without any notable support from major countries, and despite these shortcomings and the long road they have undertaken, the end seems clear…the regime will fall. Because of the magnitude of death and destruction carried out by government forces, there is now an overwhelming sense of hatred and a strong determination to overthrow the regime. Those currently riding the train of the Syrian revolution, which will not stop until it reaches the heart of the capital Damascus, will never forget the experience. It will serve as a memory for generations to come. This is the truth, and those who know the sentiments of our region will testify to that.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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