For the last three months, the world has finally borne witness to the violence and tragedy of the Assad regime that has been the daily diet of Syrian citizens for over 41 years. Children being tortured until they die, women shot at close range, kidnappings and detentions en masse with no regard for human rights.
Whether the world likes it or not, the Assad regime is finished. This week, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd denounced the regime, asking for Assad to be tried by an international court for crimes against humanity. UNICEF weighed in with a statement regarding the systematic killing and torture of our children.
The Obama administration must forget about Assad and now look beyond the regime towards a transitional government it can work with.
The danger lies in what kind of government to support: who are the main players with whom to open a dialogue? To understand this process, one must first analyze the Syrian political landscape and take historical perspective into consideration.
In 1979, the Iranian Islamic Revolution was facilitated into power by the Carter administration under the general notion that the U.S. can work, through negotiations, with the new face of an Islamist Iran. That policy came to a shocking halt when, eight months later, Khomeini illegally detained 52 U.S. diplomats for 444 days, releasing them at the end of the Carter era.
Today, the same scenario is about to repeat.
In 2006, the U.S. — in its zest to appear politically correct, or for reasons that remain mysterious to many in the Syrian opposition ranks — funded a Syrian Muslim Brotherhood TV station with $12M of our tax dollars. This was kept secret until WikiLeaks divulged the information.
Following the recent speech by President Obama outlining his intent to earmark $20B for the “Arab Spring” and the EU intent to commit another $20B during the G-8 summit, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood told Syrians the majority of this money was earmarked jointly with the White House via MB allies in D.C., and that the MB intends to be the driving force for change for Syria.
Needless to say, the change the MB intends resembles the change Iran violently experienced in 1979. Just look at the cozy relations Hamas has with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and you should understand what is in store when Assad falls. Instead of a violent “secular” regime aligned perfectly with the goals of the mullahs, it will be a violent “religious” regime aligned perfectly with the goals of the mullahs.
This brings us to the meeting of the Syrian opposition that took place in Antalya, Turkey, this week. The organizers, funders, and promoters of this meeting: the Muslim Brotherhood. Everyone else is in a subservient role, including the Damascus Declaration. Their real leadership has been silenced in jails, and those in control today — eager to please — imitate the Islamists in their exclusionary practices.
One of the experienced politicians able to run a government-in-exile — he was the vice-president of Syria for many years — was excluded from the meeting. So were the Kurdish political organizations and many minority groups, including the Alawite opposition to Assad. Do not blame the Damascus Declaration for their weakness — blame the Islamists for their cunning.
The Obama administration cannot get this wrong. Syrian liberals and seculars must lead the fight for the soul and future of Syria, not the Muslim Brotherhood or the weak Damascus Declaration. A new younger leadership is rising inside Syria, and once that youth sees through the fog, it will take charge of its own destiny.
If the Muslim Brotherhood, working so diligently to exclude Syrians, is successful in managing to deceive the U.S. and the EU, I can guarantee millions of Syrians will look to emigrate to Europe and the U.S. in fear of detention, violence, murder, even women being stoned — all the horrors of present-day Iran.
Syria is our country, President Obama. Not theirs.
(Also read: “Assad Rampage in Syria.”)