Archive | June, 2012

Response on Syria to the Angry Arab

20 Jun

Response to the Angry Arab fromThomas Pierret

Dear As’ad,

I am grateful to Mohammad Magout for underlining the fact that whereas I’ve been reproaching your for your inconsistence, you’ve been questioning my sincerity. This is an unpleasant drift towards judging me on mere intent, which is also obvious when your raise “questions about the political motives of those who oppose Jihadists except when they work within the agenda and framework of US policies and wars in the region”. Should I understand that I’m an agent of the Empire?

And why do you feel the need to suggest I do not oppose “Jihadists” when in fact M. Magout and I have been insisting on the fact that the FSA is a much more complex reality than what the Syrian regime (and you) have been pretending. Is it absolutely impossible for you to imagine that the FSA may also include some upright people who preferred to defect from the army instead of shooting civilians? Or people who took up arms to defend their village against Asad’s militias? We’re talking about a massive popular insurgency that includes people from very different orientations, but you only want to see “Jihadists” and “Salafis”. Aren’t there some real Jihadists in Gaza and Palestinian camps in Lebanon too? Do we conclude from that situation that the whole Palestinian armed movement is “Jihadist”?

You do exactly the same with the Muslim Brothers: since they are the strongest force among the opposition abroad, and since they’re sending money into Syria (two facts I don’t deny), then the whole armed opposition is “the Muslim Brothers”, hence “fake revolutionaries”. Is there any place for complexity in your analysis? You say you “strain to find anything positive” about the Syrian armed opposition, but I think that your reading of the available information is very selective. What if you were as critical with news coming Lebanese newspapers like al-Safir and al-Akhbar, and unreliable Syrian sources of yours (like the person who told you once that “Sheikh al-Buti controls Damascus and Sheikh Hassun controls Aleppo”, which is totally inaccurate) as you are with Nir Rosen’s reports, some of which you dismissed as mere Qatari propaganda? You probably mentioned on your blog that some FSA brigades have overtly sectarian Sunni names (Mu’awiya, Yazid), but did you also mention that some of them are called Ali bin Ali Talib (a powerful brigade in al-Rastan), Hussein bin Ali, or Dhulfiqar? Or is it mere “delusion” too?

Also, why do you insist on attributing people ideas they’ve never expressed. I never suggested that “GCC dictatorship provide aid with “no strings attached””, and Syrian opponents who are seeking Gulf money perfectly knows financial support comes with a political price. They’re not dumb, it’s just (although you deny it) a matter of life and death. I’ve often heard that argument (“more people were killed since the FSA was created”), especially from the Coordination Committee people, but it doesn’t make sense. I don’t think anybody would deny the fact that the best way for the revolution to succeed is that soldiers refuse to shoot on demonstrators. However, we know well that any Syrian soldier who does that will be killed immediately unless he goes into hiding. At that stage, the soldier is de facto sentenced to death, and therefore he needs to keep his gun (and find ammunitions) if he wants to survive. That’s how the FSA was born. It’s not a matter of overall cost/benefit analysis but of people who didn’t want to murder demonstrators and wanted to stay alive. And by the way, if we speak of the costs and benefits of the militarization of the revolution, we should at least take into consideration the hypothesis that hadn’t it become weaponised, the revolution would have been defeated several months ago (that’s what I think but of course it’s impossible to prove, just like it’s impossible to prove the opposite).

I really don’t understand why naming FSA brigades after their Khaliji sponsors (there is a handful of such cases out of several hundred brigades) is any proof of the fact that they’re not desperate for money. I simply don’t get your reasoning here. And isn’t there something paradoxical in making fun of Syrian insurgents because they show up on youtube with toy-guns (as you recently did on Angry Arab), while claiming that in fact they’re not desperate for resources? So if I understand you well, Syrian insurgents receive enough Saudi money to purchase Stinger missiles, but they prefer to buy toy-guns instead?

I’d be grateful if you could quote me in extenso: I didn’t write “no one has the right to criticize Syrian revolutionaries”, but “nobody has the right to criticize Syrian revolutionaries because they prefer to become clients of Qatar and KSA rather than to be killed”. In other words: none has the right to criticize someone who’s under death threat and is therefore seeking help from the only side that’s ready to provide it. But of course you can disagree and say that Syrian revolutionaries should instead die courageously by facing Asad and his powerful foreign allies while eschewing the luxury of any kind of external support.

I also agree with M. Magout that comparing opposition demonstrations and government-organised parades is either silly or obscene. By the way, gov-organised parades seem to have stopped for a while. Maybe because the neighbourhoods where they were organised are no longer secure: the regime perfectly knows that its “demonstrations” would be far less successful than those of the opposition if they were treated the same way, that is, with live fire.


Thomas Pierret

Lecturer in Contemporary Islam
Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES)
University of Edinburgh

19 George Square
United Kingdom