Very few analysts, when discussing Islam, view Syria's role of today compared to its role in history as the capital of Sunni Islam. What it was and what it became are not subjects that interest journalists and experts. Yet, with undiminished Islamic terror controlled by extremist ideologies in the Arab world, Syria may hold the key to help Islam make the transition from an angry religion ruled by ignorant, power hungry men to an enlightened and reformed religion tolerant of the others and seeking co-existence with all.
Few, in the Arab world, would promote such a notion because it may offend Saudi Arabia. A free and magnanimous Damascus will compete directly with Saudi Wahabbism, so Damascus history is buried by not only Assad who promote the Muslim Brotherhood at every occasion as a safeguard against his minority rule but also by Saudi Arabia who is thrilled by the Assad regime shrouding Damascus past influence to pull its own weight past Saudi claims of Guardians of the Faith.
Syria the Dumpster and Assad the Cleaner
Governed by a ruthless family willing to wash the world's dirty linens, Syria has become the dumpster of the world. Out of expediency and political convenience, any country can rendition any criminal to Syria in order not to violate its own laws. Recently, Italy expelled to Syria Youssef Magied al-Molqui, killer of the wheelchair-bound Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro. More than likely, al-Molqui will never be heard again and his body will be disposed off properly by the Syrian authorities. No doubt al-Molqui deserves the most severe of punishments for his barbaric act but our Syria, under Assad, has become as barbaric if not more.
This is just one case of many, mostly unpublicized and conducted in total secrecy.
For a US administration appalled at the tactics used by the CIA to extract valuable information from terrorists, it should not be engaged in protecting Assad for two reasons: Assad represents an Arab system of Apartheid with his Alawite minority oppressing the Sunni majority and because Syria's proximity and geographic importance will, sooner or later, infect the region should it remain the world's dumpster nation. No one will escape the stench.
Furthermore, we would not be surprised at all if, again out of convenience to the US and Saudi Arabia, a number of Guantanamo terrorists will find their way into Syria, either directly or via Saudi Arabia, for another disappearing act.
This is not the Syria we should be encouraging, a monstrosity, bordering Europe, willing to wash the dirty laundry of other nations. The west, even to this day, helps Assad remain in power by protecting his capacity to launder their problems (At the height of the Bush era of regime change in Damascus, many influential past policy makers were still defending Syrian actions and justifying its posture of terrorizing Iraq).
This political convenience to the west will come back to haunt us all. Syria should not be led by a willing garbage disposal government perpetrating inhuman acts to accommodate other nations. Building Syria, through respect of human rights, defending freedoms, instituting political accountability, and promoting transparency should be the test by which we measure our own success against others. This is morally wrong and history will not be kind to all those conniving to dump their malfeasance unto Syria, with the help of the Assads.
Neglecting a Precious Asset
Syria is geographically located on a strategic land, which over many centuries has harbored some of the most diverse religious and ethnic minorities. Its history, testimony to its benevolent nature, boasts some of the most prosperous periods of Sunni Islam. 50% of all Sunni Muslims in Syria follow Sufism, a Sunni sect that naturally adheres to separation of Mosque and State; this explains why Syria has not been liberated from the Assads internally.
Damascus place in history has been neglected during a time when we see Sunni Islam commit the most atrocious crimes against all other religions. Whether 9/11 or the courageous Danny Pearl (whom I knew personally), Sunni Islam has become violently uncontrollable.
Yet, here we sit polluting Damascus with Assad, a precious asset in our history whose glory can be recaptured to lead the flock of lost Muslims, and becoming the dumpster of the world. Instead of investing in Damascus to seize upon the opportunity of its past that saw Sunni Muslims co-exist with all others in a different era of prosperity, we abandon it to terrorists, thugs, and extortionists thus burying the compass to navigate out of extremism and eradicate it in favor of compassion.
No western leader has studied our history well enough to understand the importance of Damascus in solving modern day problem of terrorism. If anything, the latest rapprochement between the Obama administration and the Assad regime will certainly increase Islamic terrorism as oppression and the clenched fist of Assad scars our youth and drive them either to despair or to violence. US interests are not served at all by extending a hand to Assad, just the opposite, by ignoring Damascus and our history, it is overlooking a historic moment to expunge Islamic terror.
You cannot defang Islamic terrorism through indiscriminate oppression. If you think freedom without a strong base of active civil organizations is a recipe for disaster (i.e. Hamas elections), even more disastrous is supporting the Assad Apartheid perpetrated by his minority rule against ALL Syrians and hoping his iron fist will expunge a tiny minority of extremists. This is equivalent to the west telling Syrians, through Assad, that you are all guilty until proven innocent. Some actually become guilty because you doubt their innocence, something Assad's oppression counts on to remain in power.
Our acrimony at today's US policies towards Syria are justified because Israel, with full US support, has built a strong nation in only 60 years of its existence, while we, in 45 years of US supported Assad rule, have managed to become an anomaly of a nation, backward and capable of any act of violence against our own and the others.
The solution lies in understanding our Syrian history; and with the help of Syrians, advance the notion of a roadmap that will usher freedom, democracy, and human rights in Syria ruled by the Sunni moderate majority, inclusive of all the other minorities and the Alawites. There is no better future for Syria and the region than a coalition of moderate Sunnis, secular Alawites, modern Christians, and courageous Kurds, along with some 64 other precious minorities inhabiting Syria than to help advance our humanity beyond the scope of terror, oppression, and cleaning after someone else's problem.
The difficulty is not in the solution but in the sustained effort, the iron will, and the incessant belief that it is easier to co-exist than to clash; not through reinforcing oppression but through support of our collective aspiration as a free and proud nation.
In Conclusion: Beware of What You Wish For
Given the intimate knowledge the Syrian opposition has of the Assad family, we believe Baschar al-Assad is maneuvering to position himself, with the full duplicity of Ahmadinajead, as the new Arab leader, more popular than all the Kings and presidents of all Arab nations put together. Between two aging Egyptian president and Saudi monarch, a demented Khaddafi and voiceless Emirs in the Gulf, Assad, with Iranian assistance, sees a window to control the Arab street for years to come. While Saudi Arabia and Egypt have their eyes on Iran, Assad has his eyes on their Queen in a checkmate move. Sadly, Saudi Arabia, showing its weakness, is actively assisting Assad in his quest fearing Iran more than the measures Assad has mounted against all Arabs.
To achieve his goals, Assad must first recapture the Golan Heights from Israel. Thus, the new Syrian energy for a peace agreement. If Assad succeeds, he would have one foot in the Golan, one foot in Tehran, a gun to Israel's head, and a hand in US and Saudi pockets; all the while, North Korea slips a nuclear weapon in his jacket as an insurance policy bought for by Saudi money. So much for the inspections going on right now.
How do you think Arab Muslims will react towards Assad when he has a nuclear bomb and is imposing his will on the White House?
Assad, with US and Saudi help, would have achieved a status far beyond the one he enjoyed on Feb. 13, 2005. This violent man is now more popular in the Middle East than Obama, Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and even the late Michael Jackson combined. He is now unstoppable. The only Arab leader who is seeing it coming is Mubarak of Egypt, yet no one is listening to him.
Our only hope is that the Israelis are too smart to give-up the Golan to Assad, the Obama administration studies the history of Damascus instead of just blindly pursue US policies of the 70's that led to 9/11, and that the west, with courage, will abandon Assad and allow us to dismantle his Apartheid system against all humanity.