The Middle East is engaged today in a battle for its soul and the decisions acted upon by the new Obama and Israeli administrations will either defer a Muslim Renaissance by offering an olive branch to violent dictators like Assad or institute a sensible strategy to help usher a new era in the region. Real peace - not the ceremonial one intended to decorate resumes - is only possible by helping free the people of Syria to embrace their democratic neighbors.

Middle Eastern countries with violent dictators, such as Syria and Iran, have brought the region to a boiling point because our non-evolutionary civilization is accelerating backwards on steroids of a deadly combination of hate and pride; hate administered against those who surpassed us in knowledge and pride because we do not seem to accept that reality. In order to hide their weaknesses, Syria promotes "resistance" and Iran promotes religious zealotry, and both rely on nuclear weapons to defend their existence as their regime heaps misery upon their own people spiraling further into the abyss of ignorance.

Combine this inseparable Syrian-Iranian cocktail and is it a wonder that extremism is flourishing in the Middle East heartened by their perilous policy of staying in power at all costs? A policy that is causing directly the rise of Islamic extremist ideology of Jihad. Yet Assad is either manipulating or promoting Jihadi actions to advance the notion that instability stops at his door when in fact he is its cause. The US and Israel have a choice: either to return to stabilizing dictators thus fueling further Islamic extremism due to oppression or push forward with an agenda of freedom and human rights by taking advantage of the findings of the International Tribunal into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

Sunni extreme Islamists born to the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahabbi ideologies of Bana and Abdul Wahab will, sooner or later, turn their attention to the legitimacy of Damascus as the historic Sunni capital to launch a counter-offensive against the Iranian Wilyaat al-Faqih so entrenched in Syrian politics. Under the present circumstances, Syria and Iran have successfully deflected the anger of the Palestinian Islamists, represented by Hamas, towards the State of Israel, but it is a question of time before Hamas peels away from both regimes only to converge its attention unto Damascus. And although the Op-Ed published by Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ex-intelligence chief, in the Financial Times on January 23 was meant to start that peeling process, Hamas is ahead of the game on that score.

When al-Zahar, a senior Hamas political operative, was asked in an interview on al-Jazeera whether he viewed his movement as a resistance group or as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, he gave away Hamas’ position: “This is not the issue. Syria has very good relations with Hamas, but terrible relations with Muslim Brotherhood group. More than 24,000 people were killed in 1982 by the Syrian regime.” referring to the killing of members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and the destruction of Hama by Hafez and Rifaat al-Assad.

And although Hamas is basking today in the glorious support of Assad and Ahmadinejad, it is already realizing that in order to succeed as an umbrella political organization over the Arab Sunnis, it needs to legitimize its existence through geography as well as ideology by coercing all Sunnis to turn to Damascus. With Damascus, their battle cry for Jerusalem has a wider appeal and will result in rallying the leaderless Sunnis to embrace not only the destruction of Israel but the adoption of the Muslim Brotherhood principles in the whole region.

Concrete, plausible plan

With this prediction in mind, it is ill-advised for the US and Israel to rely on the stability of Assad, represented by an Alawite minority bitterly at war with Sunni extremist Muslims throughout their history, to impede the extremists from advancing towards Damascus. Many of the Saudi Wahabbis believe that the Sunni capital Damascus is occupied by the Iranians and Syria may face the Iranian template of 1979 with a Khomeini-like Sunni extremist figure to return soon to dislodge Assad, by force if necessary.

The world community has an opportunity today to thwart this scenario by upstaging both Assad and the extremists. Either that or welcome Assad and wait for the fanatic Sunni Muslims to ravage the Levant region like locusts on a farm.

Moderate Syrian Muslims have a concrete and plausible plan for change that represents the beginning of real peace in the region. Freeing the majority moderate Syrian people can happen without boots on the ground or bloodshed when the best minds grasp the opportunity we see in Assad’s Achilles' Heels. With a new and fresh perspective, brought forth by the Obama administration, it is imperative we all think outside the box and discourage diplomats from dictating stability as a prêt-a-porter solution to the ills of the region. So many Arab dictators and yet so much extremism. How does one explain that phenomena?

Inevitably, it is up to us to stymie the ever-ascending terror of other Sunni Muslims gone astray and not the trigger-happy Assad, an Alawite so closely tied to the religious fabric of Iran. One important element of stemming the tide of extremism is to build the Umma Islamic University in Damascus to shine its ray of hope against the backdrop of fanatic Islamic universities existing today in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The solution to Islamic extremism and coexistence with all the precious minorities of the Middle East is within our power and grasp and cannot be the brainchild of Assad, who survives on chaos, fear, and hate.

Yes, we can build the Umma Islamic University in Damascus to teach tolerance and embrace harmony. Yes, we can build a Holocaust Museum across the street to expose what hate can do to humanity. Yes we can build a Memorial for all US troops who perished defending or freeing Muslim countries. But not if President Obama and Secretary Clinton find comfort in forging their legacies upon the fleeting moment of success and yielding to the difficult choices confronted by an Arab generation on the brink of doom and strangled by lack of opportunities.

Our Arab civilization can no longer bear the darkness reflected in oppressive rulers. And in the global village we all share, another Sept. 11 is just around the corner if the surplus of hope resting on the shoulders of President Obama cannot exact lasting peace between the peoples of the Middle East by giving them the opportunity to be free from oppression.

Listen to us, we are the cause of the problem and we are its only solution.

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