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Who Bombed Damascus?

Members of almost every group can be found on both sides of the conflict.

Phillip Smyth


December 27, 2011 - 12:00 am
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The Free Syrian Army has posted videos of members attacking the Syrian Army or the pro-Assad militia al-Shabiha. Many analysts have already stated that Syria is in a state of civil war which may grow more sectarian, with the Sunni majority battling the ruling Alawites. But there have never been reports of a Muslim Brotherhood armed force.

Opposition figures quickly rejected the regime’s accusations of an opposition/al-Qaeda alliance, and blamed Assad’s forces for the bombing. The timing coincides with the arrival of Arab League observers, scheduled to arrive December 26 to monitor human rights.

By attributing the bombings to “Sunni” — meaning al-Qaeda or Muslim Brotherhood forces — the regime could be trying to rally its minority base, which includes Alawites, Christians, and Druze. Christian groups, with good reason, fear Syria could become another Iraq, a country from which about half the Christian community has fled, with many relocating to Syria.

While Syria’s Sunnis are rightly seen as the insurgency’s backbone, they are hardly monolithic. The Syrian regime has co-opted members of the Sunni bourgeoisie and urban elite whose motives for backing Assad include a desire for stability, commercial benefits, and approval for the current government’s relative secularism.

Yet Syria is not yet in a state of communal warfare, and this might be avoided. Members of almost every group can be found on both sides of the conflict. The government wants to brand its opponents as both exclusively Sunni and radical Islamists. It is unlikely that this strategy will work.

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Phillip Smyth travels regularly to the Middle East and lived in Lebanon. He has written for The American Spectator, The Daily Caller, Haaretz, National Review Online, NOW Lebanon, the MERIA Journal, and the Counterterrorism Blog. You can follow Phillip on Twitter: @PhillipSmyth
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