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Opinion: Now, a Complete Picture | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Soldiers of the Syrian government forces patrol on a tank in a devastated street on July 31, 2013 in the district of al-Khalidiyah in the central Syrian city of Homs. (AFP/Joseph Eid)

The picture is now complete and clear, with no need for any “retouching.”

First, the neutralization of Egypt’s dynamic pan-Arab role is now under way after the expected failure of the Muslim Brotherhood’s experience in power.

Second, the project to annihilate Syria is being rapidly and steadily carried out before it will be officially approved at the Geneva II conference. This project is being carried out in cooperation between the Assad regime, its regional allies, their own sponsors (declared or undeclared), and the US administration. This is the same US administration that appears to remain committed to the “new Middle East” project despite the change in the political affiliation of the White House.

Third, the process of ultimately destroying the Palestinian cause by ruining any chances for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state is also under way. The US choice of Martin Indyk to serve as a new “envoy” to fruitless negotiations between the Palestinians and Benjamin Netanyahu serves as testimony to this.

Some must still recall that Barack Obama went back on all of his commitments towards the Middle East, letting down his first envoy, Senator George Mitchell, when the latter was confronted by Netanyahu’s veto. This is not to forget—in a somewhat naïve way—that the credibility of any envoy or mediator stems from the principle of being neutral or equidistant from both sides.

Fourth, the confusion over “political Islam” has reached a critical stage, reflected in part by the sectarian conflict which has been hastened by the “Iranian project,” particularly given that the growing Takfirist–Jihadist phenomenon has become Iran’s most profitable investment in terms of its international relations.

Today, Tehran is playing up the risk this phenomenon poses to the Western countries in an effort to secure an alliance on the pretext of fending off these Takfirists and Jihadists, which both the West and Iran regard as a common enemy.

By pursuing this tack, Iran is seeking to rehabilitate its status as a regional power, presenting itself as an ally whose services would be indispensable in confronting the Takfirist–Jihadist threat. Perhaps Syrian representative to the UN Bashar Jaafari’s repeated statements to the Security Council provide the clearest indication of such a policy. In his own way, Jaafari has been offering the international community a deal to cooperate, or shall we say ally, against the so-called Jihadists and Takfirists. Despite this, there is ample evidence that many of these Takfirist–Jihadist groups emerged and multiplied before the very eyes of the Assad regime, and indeed sometimes under its guidance. Several leaders of such groups were released from Syrian prisons specifically to serve the purpose of Mr. Jaafari and his political masters.

Let us now return to Egypt. Why is it that Egyptian citizens’ political choices are restricted to different stripes of “authoritarianism,” namely regimes that do not derive their legitimacy from the educated and responsible will of the people?

One year of Muslim Brotherhood rule tangibly proved that this group does not believe in national consensus, which constitutes the necessary ground for democracy. Nor does the Brotherhood attach any weight to the opinion of others, the separation of power, or a constitution that ensures the protection of the minority as well as the majority. On the other hand, if protection of the homeland lies at the core of the duties of the armed forces, then we can only conclude that the military’s intervention on June 30 was justified.

However, one thing that is no less important than protecting the homeland from a single party’s injustices is sponsoring the establishment of a culture based on tolerance, confronting political marginalization and isolation, and emphasizing the “civilian” identity of the state, by which I mean a genuine civilian identity, rather than a theocratic or military one.

In Syria, however, the situation has gone far beyond this point. I assume that the Assad regime, acting on the instructions of its sponsors, is now in the process of carrying out its “Plan B” for ensuring the partition of the country. The regime’s insistence on subjugating the city of Homs and displacing its people, as well as the sectarian cleansing it is carrying out in the surrounding areas, represents a deliberate policy on the part of the regime. This is a policy that seems also to include abandoning territory in eastern and northern Syria, and perhaps farther south as well.

The effective role being played by Hezbollah (on Iranian orders) in fighting alongside the Assad regime on several fronts demonstrates that the project to partition Syria—a major part of the new Middle East project—is well under way. The geographical area that the Assad regime is keen to secure control over covers northeastern Syria (densely populated by Alawites), Wadi Al-Nasara (densely populated by Christians), and the areas surrounding Homs, in addition to the city of Damascus and Rif Dimashq governorate, which borders Lebanon. There can be no doubt that this geographical sector is buttressed by Hezbollah’s parallel project in Lebanon. This latter project has almost been completed thanks to short-sighted Christian cover provided by Michel Aoun, along with senior figures from within the Maronite Church who believe in the “alliance of the minorities.”

By monitoring Israel’s public statements, Tel Aviv appears to be quite comfortable with the Syrian partition plan, particularly in light of the success of the roles being played by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in South Lebanon in ensuring the protection of the post-1973 borders.

Based on what has been mentioned above, I do not believe that we can separate the appointment of Dr. Indyk—a former senior figure in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US—as US Mideast envoy from the Obama administration’s approach to the interrelated problems of the Middle East.

It would also be naïve to delusionally seek an explanation for the US administration’s insistence on pushing the Syrian opposition to attend the Geneva II conference minus the guarantees for Assad’s removal without taking into account the US–Israeli joint vision of the future of the region.

It would also be fruitless to resort to any other interpretation for the change in the Turkish tone towards Syria, moving further to embarrass the Arab countries that have recently concluded that it is impossible to co-exist with the Assad regime.

In this context, the topic of “political Islam,” particularly in terms of its Jihadist–Takfirist aspect, becomes a commodity to be bartered in return for justifications and pretexts. What is even more surprising is the position of those who stop at the visible impact of this Jihadist–Takfirist phenomenon without taking a closer look at the nature of such group’s alliances, and just who is exploiting them and why.