The Syrian connection
The Syrian Parliament set May 27th as the date for a nationwide referendum on re-electing President Bashar Assad for another seven-year term, a vote he is sure to win. The partisan 250-member legislature unanimously endorsed the ruling Baath Party’s nomination of Assad, its leader, for a second term — a formality, given the party’s domination of the rubber stamp legislature. Bashar al Assad is the sole candidate for the “yes” or “no” referendum. Once his candidacy is approved in the referendum, he becomes president. The party, which nominated Assad on the 10th May at the opening session of the new parliament, called the nomination an “expression of the Syrian people’s rallying around its leadership to strengthen the national policies.” Like the rest of the Muslim rulers in the region the parliament and general elections are a complete façade as in reality all powers are in the hands of the rulers who ensure only a handful of loyal servants benefit from the nation’s wealth and policies.
Like all the Muslim rulers their support base is not from the people they rule over rather it’s from the military and an external power namely the US. Syria is depicted as an international pariah state that supports Hizbollah and Palestinian militants. It is accused of interference in Lebanon and encouraging militants in Iraq, which for the international community is highly irresponsible and not conducive to regional peace and stability. However, away from public scrutiny the US government views Syria as an important conduit that is needed to reduce insecurity in Iraq, safeguard US interests in the region, which includes the arrest and torture of its own people.
Syria has been completely compliant in this role and on occasions it has even excelled in being a loyal US servant. Over the past two years the US has been secretly orchestrating talks between Syria and Israel to settle the Golan Heights issue that Israel occupied in the 1967 war. The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz said the meetings, held in Europe, began in September 2004 and was initiated by the Syrians. The talks covered security, water, borders and normalization of ties. President Assad’s treachery has no limits, he has even tried to convert the secret talks into a formal peace process with Israel but has been rebuffed both by Tel Aviv and Washington.
In Iraq, the public perception is that Syria is encouraging Islamic fighters to cross over into Iraq to undermine the authority of the Iraqi government. The reality is that Syria has played an active role in infiltrating such Islamists and passing on valuable intelligence to the US led coalition. Moreover, it is an acknowledged fact that Syria enjoys some influence over the Sunni resistance fighters operating in Iraq— a point emphasized by the Iraq Study Group report. Syria does have some influence over the Baathists and after Saddam’s execution Damascus is working hard to drive a wedge between the Baathists and the Sunni militants who have offered material assistance to Ba’athists in exchange for their support for Islam. Added to this effort, the Syrians have restored full diplomatic relations with Iraq after an absence of 24 years. So behind the scenes, Syria has extended its cooperation to the US in many ways. The US has gradually begun to engage Syria over the issue of Iraqi refugees and it is expected that as the Bush project in Iraq falters, the contact between the two countries will expand to encompass most, if not all the issues.
Syria also participated in the US led multinational coalition aligned against Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf war [1990-91], which marked a dramatic watershed in Syrian relations with other Arab states. It was one of the only non-monarchical Arab states to have backed the United States against Iraq during the first Gulf War, dispatching troops to support Operation Desert Shield. Syria also cooperated with the United States against al-Qaida, the Taliban, and other organizations and individuals. It has passed on hundreds of files of crucial data regarding al-Qaida and other radical Islamic groups in the Middle East and Europe to US officials, including information on the activities of radical cells and intelligence about possible future terrorist operations. CIA sources have acknowledged that “the quality and quantity of information from Syria exceeded the agency's expectations” but that Syria “got little in return for it.” What Syria did get in return was a slap in the face with the ‘Syria Accountability Act,’ passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in late 2003, which paves the way for possible US military action against Syria. It spells out, in more detail than the administration ever did regarding Iraq, reasons for a US invasion. The act declares that “Syria will be held accountable for any harm to Coalition armed forces or to any United States citizen in Iraq if the government of Syria is found to be responsible due to its facilitation of terrorist activities and its shipments of military supplies to Iraq.”
The Assad family have a history of torture and murder of anyone who calls for Islam or challenges the regime’s hold on power. Individuals are routinely kidnapped and throne into Syria’s notorious underground torture cells. For example, Kamal Lawani and six activists who were calling for change in Syria were handed a 12-year sentence after meeting officials at the White House. The conviction was part of a wider crackdown. Anwar Bunni, a human rights lawyer, received a five-year prison term last month on charges of spreading false information and contacting a foreign power.
In the autumn of 1999 the Syrian security forces launched an extensive campaign of arrests of members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, shortly after the meeting between Hafiz Assad and Bill Clinton. Hizb-ut-Tahrir members had distributed leaflets critical of the behaviour and policies of the Syrian government towards occupied Syrian territory, the Palestinian issue and peace with Israel. The security forces had been able to plant some spies within the ranks of HT and began to wage a campaign of arrests of its members and sympathizers. These arrests continued from 2001-2002 and new waves of people were arrested. The Syrian committee for human rights issued a list of those HT prisoners kept in the Saydanya prison in Syria whose total reached a provisional figure of 60 prisoners.
In February 1982, the Syrian government dealt very harshly with the uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama, this domestic opposition was on the receiving end of 12,000 troops who were sent to crush the opposition centred in the city of Hama. During the two weeks the city was under siege its infrastructure was devastated by artillery fire and many thousands were killed in the crackdown. The Syrian regime has a history of butchering its own people who call for change and has supported the US with its aims throughout the Middle East. However, the Ummah should not lose sight of the fact that Basher al Assad’s position is so weak he is forced to conduct sham referendums that guarantee only one result.
The only time the region of Al Sham had an ounce of honour was under the banner of Islam when the Umayyad’s ruled the Khilafah from Damascus. The Romans on the border with Al Sham would take instructions from the Khaleefah in Damascus and the Umayyad’s even managed to spread Islam into Spain, Southern France, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Gibraltar, Palermo and Messina in Sicily and Bari in Italy. Al Sham was the centre of the financial world and minted the world’s first standard coinage. This is a very different picture to the present Syrian state that remains a surrogate to foreign interests and a regime that desperately clings to its declining grip on power.
So,we wait now for the Khilafah to come back and the Khaleefah to liberate the Muslim Lands from the oppression of these puppet rulers!