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Mordechai Kedar: The Arab World on the Precipice

Demonstration in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad

Photo Credit: Matanya Tausig/Flash90

Although I do not generally do so, I will open with an Arabic joke, because in the Arab world (and perhaps in other places as well) people often use humor to speak the truth about reality. I will begin by explaining: In Arabic, the term is “weapon of total destruction” instead of “weapon of mass destruction”.

According to the joke, in 2003, President George W. Bush, sent a delegation to search out weapons of mass destruction all over the Arab world, and gave its members authorization to search everywhere. The delegation roamed throughout the entire area for a whole year, and did not find any weapons of mass destruction. The delegation returned to Washington, came to the Oval Office in the White House, and said to Bush: “We checked every place in the whole Middle East, searched everything and we didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction”. The president asked them: “What did you find?” The members of the delegation answered him: “total destruction.”

The point of this ironic story is that the Arab world does not need “weapons of total destruction”, since even without them the area is in total ruins. The situation in Syria these days illustrates this situation, and in live broadcast. With presidents slaughtering their own citizens in the thousands, and their capitals serving as a front in the battle against them, and the state’s military branches fighting against its people, when human dignity – especially that of women and girls – is openly trampled upon and these countries’ economies are collapsing, the Arab world is in an advanced state of systemic collapse, “total destruction.”

Syria of Asad, Hafez as well as Bashar, created for itself an image of Arab nationalism, a fortress of faithfulness to the Arab interest and the spearhead of the Arab battle against the West in general and against Israel in particular. But now, with all the military strength of the Syrian regime turned against its citizens, it becomes clear that this image was like foam floating on the surface of deep water; a pathetic illusion hiding a dark dictatorship that used – or rather abused – Israel as a cover for the bitter truth: the actual, great, threatening enemy was the majority of the Syrian people, who never saw the regime as legitimate.

The situation in Syria is deteriorating quickly, and the state is literally disintegrating. The cracks in the government are widening; ambassadors, generals and soldiers are deserting, some branches of the Ba’ath party are announcing their secession from the regime, the Russian advisers are fleeing for their lives and the feeling that the end is near is taking hold more and more. Not the end of Asad, but of Syria. Not the regime, but the system. The state is approaching systemic collapse and is sinking in a treacherous swamp of blood, fire and tears, and only the Master of the Universe knows how Syria will emerge from this.

The principal force fighting against the regime is the Free Syrian Army, which is said to be acting under the command of Lieutenant General Riad al-Asad, a deserter from Asad’s army. However, the Free Syrian Army, despite the many efforts that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and perhaps even Western countries invest to consolidate and organize it, is really nothing but an incohesive group of weakly coordinated local militias. Its weapons – mainly automatic AK-47 rifles and RPG anti-tank rockets – are light; its strength is combat in urban areas, where it uses the population as human shields. Since the regime’s military can’t tell the difference between a fighter and a non-combatant citizen, it commits mass murder in an effort to eliminate as many fighters as it can, who may be hiding among the citizens. Both sides are up to their ears in human rights abuses, and both sides act with determination and without sensitivity, guided by the logic that “war is hell.”

However the Free Syrian Army is not the only factor among the enemies of the regime, because three additional types of forces are also present.

One type is the local Islamic militia, acting according to the Salafi jihadi formula, which is maximum religious adherence integrated with unconstrained holy war against “the devil” Asad, his regime and his infidel ‘Alawi brothers. It seems that it was this sort of group that carried out the attack in Damascus in which the heads of the security establishment were eliminated on Wednesday, July 18, an attack that revealed very great technical, operational, organizational and intelligence-gathering capabilities. The members of these groups are local Syrians who know well how to integrate into the population and act from within it. In every Sunni city at least one such group is active, and overall there are scores of such groups active throughout Syria. The long-range goal of these groups is the establishment of an Islamic Emirate in which Islamic Shari’a will be fully implemented. One of them even claims that its capital will be Jerusalem… Names of such militias are “kitaab al sahabah” (Battalion of Companions of the Prophet Mohammed), “Katibat Ahrar Prat” (Battalion of the Free of the Euphrates), which is part of “Lua’ Sakur al-Shahaba” (Division of the Eagles of Aleppo), “Lua’ al-Haq” (Division of Rights/Truth/G-d), “Katibat Sawt al-Haq” (Battalion of the Voice of Rights/Truth/G-d), “Katibat al-Ahrar al-Sham” (Battalion of the Free of Greater Syria), These names carry a significant traditional-religious meaning with Sunni overtones.

About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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One Response to “Mordechai Kedar: The Arab World on the Precipice”

  1. Analyse très pointue sur la vrai situation en Syrie, l'auteur est quand même un poil pessimisme avec une désintégration violente en plusieurs états :

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