By Simon Assaf
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2355

Western arms threaten Syria’s troubled revolt

This article is over 8 years, 7 months old
Issue 2355
Destruction in Deir ez-Zor, April 2013
Destruction in Deir ez-Zor, April 2013 (Pic: Photo courtesy of Ahmad Mhidi and Karam Jamal)

People fighting the regime in Syria have widely welcomed a decision by the European Union to lift the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition.

Many felt that the embargo only applied to the revolution, as dictator Bashar al-Assad has received uninterrupted flows of weapons from Russia and Iran. 

But the West have offered a poisoned gift.

Foreign secretary William Hague made clear that the threat to arm the rebels is a lever to force Assad into “meaningful” negotiations. 

This is the so-called Geneva process—a compromise designed to secure what remains of the state. 

Europe’s weapons would be funnelled through select Free Syrian Army (FSA) channels. The aim is to bolster the pro-Western section of the opposition leadership and reduce the influence of Islamist and revolutionary brigades. 

The US has made clear that it wants to send drones into northern Syria. These remote control planes would target Islamists fighting against the regime, as well as securing the Golan frontier with Israel.

The West wants to hijack the revolution at the moment of its ­greatest crisis.

This comes a few days after Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Hizbollah resistance movement, declared that his forces are now active in the civil war. 

Nasrallah announced that the largely Shia group is sending thousands of elite troops to spearhead the Syrian regime’s offensive on al-Qusayr. 

This is a mainly Sunni rebel city near the border with Lebanon. 

Using unprecedented sectarian language, Nasrallah described the defenders of al-Qusayr as “takfiris” (apostates) in the “service of Israel and the US”. 

This marks a fundamental break for the party of “national resistance” against Israel that prided itself on the unity of all Muslims and Arabs. 

By giving military support to Assad, Nasrallah has broken a vow to only use the weapons of the resistance against Israel. 

Instead he has now tied its fate to that of the Syrian regime. 

Many Shia Muslims feel a sense of betrayal. This is compounded by the fact that thousands of refugees who fled the 2006 Israeli war found shelter in Syrian cities.

They now face a murderous siege by the regime.

Some Sunni Islamist groups are taking revenge on Alawis and Shias, ignoring a pledge by the revolution to reject sectarian provocations. 

Within 24 hours of Nasrallah’s speech two rockets were fired at south Beirut. There are threats of more attacks.

The Arab revolutions were marked by an historic outpouring of unity. This rise in sectarianism, and growing threat of Western intervention, poses a great danger to them. 

Meanwhile the attack on al?Qusayr has failed so far to dislodge its defenders. The city is under fierce bombardment, trapping tens of thousands of civilians. 

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