Please note there is already an 'everything Isis' thread down the page, but I'd like to move on a bit and focus here on Syria, Assad, and particularly
the recent hints of reapproachement with Russia in the name of countering Isis. A couple major issues with this so far:
This seems to have basically been Assad's strategy for quite some time. When in trouble, actively encourage
a more active Islamic fundamentalist movement, and then
go on with the claim that the civil war is all about 'staving off terrorists,' surely nothing to do with his treatment of his own people generally. So when we remove the focus from Assad, we not only sacrifice the Syrian people, but we also extend this game in which he goes on bringing out more
terrorists. And who is to say where they will aim in the future?
Take a bit of Chulov's history of Isis fighters
. (I rather feel like, if more American high schools spent more time on ugly process stories like this and less time quizzing big names, places and dates from mainly the West over and over through the years, we just might get led into fewer disastrous policies.)
A Syrian with historical links to the group’s earliest incarnation, al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Issa was released along with dozens of men like him as part of an amnesty given by Assad to Islamist detainees, which was touted by the regime as a reconciliation with men who had long fought against them.
Most of the accused al-Qaida men had been in the infamous Syrian prison system for many years before the uprising against Assad began. “We were in the worst dungeons in Syria,” said Abu Issa, who was a member of the various forerunners of Isis, and fought against the US army in 2004 and 2005 before fleeing Baghdad in 2006. “If you were charged with our crimes, you were sent to Political Security prison, Saydnaya in Damascus or Air Force Intelligence in Aleppo. You could not even speak to the guards there. It was just brutality and fear.”
But several months before Abu Issa was released, he and a large group of other jihadis were moved from their isolation cells elsewhere in the country and flown to Aleppo’s main prison, where they enjoyed a more communal and comfortable life. “It was like a hotel,” he said. “We couldn’t believe it. There were cigarettes, blankets, anything you wanted. You could even get girls.” Soon the detainees were puzzled by another prison oddity, the arrival of university students who had been arrested in Aleppo for protesting against the Assad regime.
“They were kids with posters and they were being sent to prison with the jihadis,” he said. “One of them was a communist and he talked about his views to everyone. There was a guy from al-Qaida in the prison and he was usually very polite but he got angry with this guy. He said if he saw him again he would kill him.” Abu Issa and the other Islamist detainees soon formed the view that they had been moved to the Aleppo prison for a reason – to instil a harder ideological line into the university students, who back then were at the vanguard of the uprising in Syria’s largest city.
On the same day that Abu Issa and many of his friends were released, the Lebanese government, which is supported by Damascus, also freed more than 70 jihadis, many of whom had been convicted of terrorism offences and were serving lengthy terms. The release puzzled western officials in Beirut who had been monitoring the fates of many of the accused jihadis in Lebanon’s jails for more than four years. Some had been directly linked to a deadly jihadi uprising in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in July 2007, which led to 190 Lebanese soldiers being killed in battle and much of the camp destroyed. The claim that the Syrian regime aided the rise of extremism to splinter the opposition and reaffirm its own narrative that the war was all about terrorism in the first place has been widely repeated throughout the past five years.
Then we have the US, or at least Kerry, trying apparently to 'just get along' as it were with Russia while Russia is backing Assad. Never mind that Putin appears to be stoking the civil war for political gain himself. Also some echoes of Ukraine and other purposefully 'frozen' conflicts which are so far, being tiptoed past. Nougayrede
discusses these contradictions well below, with colorful comparisons to Kissinger aiding Pol Pot.
...when talking about “anti-terrorism”, it’s important to dwell on the meaning of words. For the west, anti-terrorism means fighting Isis. For Assad, whose views are supported by Moscow, any political opposition to his rule amounts to terrorism. In the name of “anti-terrorism” he has had tens of thousands of Syrians killed, whole neighbourhoods and cities flattened, and families massacred – not unlike what Putin’s army did in Chechnya. Is this the type of warfare the west will condone by joining a new alliance with Russia and Assad? Assad and Isis feed off each other. The Russian logic fuels, rather than reduces, violent Islamic militancy.
It’s not that talking to Putin about Syria is wrong in itself. What counts is what is said and what actions are taken as a result. If Putin is genuinely interested in what the west calls anti-terrorism, then putting an immediate end to barrel bombs and other Syrian government atrocities would be a good place to start. Assad’s military machine is the main cause of civilian deaths – and now it is pumped up with new Russian weapons. Assad and Isis feed off each other. It is in Assad’s interests to make sure Syria is viewed – as is widely the case now in the west – as primarily a clash between him and violent extremist jihadism. And Isis is able to recruit because it claims to defend Sunni populations against the indiscriminate onslaught of Assad’s military.