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Syria: Sleeping with the Enemy - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Everyone knows that bolstering and raising fundamentalist movements in our region, whether Sunni or Shiite, will result in destructive chaos and inevitable conflict by its very nature.

From Morocco to Saudi Arabia, the examples that attest to this are numerous.

What has also confused many is Damascus’s ability to use these extremist movements in confronting the Americans in Iraq, controlling Lebanon, or running the conflict in the occupied Palestinian territories. No matter how strong Syria’s belief is that it is safe from these groups, Damascus needs to realize that these fundamentalist movements are like Black widow spiders that can not befriend. As a matter of fact, armed Sunni fundamentalist groups consider the Syrian regime to be infidel. They might take notice of it tomorrow and even turn on it.

Now that Syria has become an open freeway between Iraq and Lebanon, and now that Damascus’s enemies and enmities have multiplied and increased, I do not know how Syria can sleep among its fundamentalist allies and regime opponents. It is likely that certain parties are creating the right atmosphere for the release of these barbaric forces in the Syrian arena. We are perfectly aware that under supportive regional conditions, these terrorist groups are more capable of resisting, causing extremely violent destruction, and shaking any regime they may target.

Perhaps Syria itself is not aware of how big of an achievement it is utilizing these groups in three different geographical locations. Practically, Syria is the side that has defeated the United States in Iraq more than any other country in the world by systematically and continuously opening the door to extremist groups, thus inflicting tremendous losses to the US military operation in Iraq in a manner that no politician in the White House had predicted. Using these same means, Damascus has proved — but to a lesser extent — that it is capable of influencing the situation against Israel. This influence could have been greater had it not been for the red lines that Israel has drawn as to the extent of loss it is willing to bear, and for its inattention to any laws in retaliating against what it considers the source of danger to its security.

As for Lebanon, it is an unstable region that can easily be ruined, although difficult to control. Through its alliances, Syria is capable of disrupting the official situation despite its inability to take over the entire Lebanese map. Damascus is now an expert in dealing with all fundamentalist jihadists both Sunnis and Shiites alike. However, sleeping among these spiders is a risk. There is no difference in goals between an armed Sunni fundamentalist movement in a Palestinian camp in Lebanon and an armed Shiite movement in Beirut’s southern suburb except in their religious principles. Allowing Hezbollah to carry and store weapons under any pretext will justify the armament of others under the pretext of fighting the Israelis; something that happens once a year, while these weapons are used on a daily basis within the framework of internal balances.

The question that arises here is: How will the situation in Syria be now that two of its neighboring states, namely, Iraq and Lebanon, are in a state of fundamentalist war? We can see one result only, and that is, a destroyed crescent.

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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