The TV news continues to report distressing scenes from Aleppo. Civilian deaths, destruction, and more involvement from the allies of the Assad regime, with ships and aircraft arriving in greater numbers. The attacks are condemned by western governments, and all the media too. Aid is not getting through, children are being killed in the bombing, and despite being warned of the attacks, civilians are not leaving the beleaguered city.
As the Syrian government builds up forces on the outskirts, and bombs and artillery shells continue to rain down on the city, the ‘rebel fighters’ within seem to be more determined than ever to retain control of the country’s second largest city. Although there has been an outflow of refugees, it is estimated that more than 300,000 remain, clinging on to what is left of their ruined homes.
We are left in no doubt who is to blame. The Assad government, cruel and ruthless. The Russian allies, happy to help prop up an unpopular and failing regime, despite condemnation from so many other countries. Putin flexing the muscles of his country, completely disregarding world opinion. Assad determined to eradicate all opposition, whatever the cost. It says so on the TV news, and in the daily newspapers, the statements of US leaders, UK leaders, and almost every leader in the so-called ‘free world’. So that must be the case.
So why am I confused?
This is the same media, and some of the same leaders, who told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They told us that Saddam was evil, Qaddafi was evil, and most of the other governments in that region, Iran included, were evil too. They told us that the Taliban was evil, perhaps correctly, and that ISIS was evil, again perhaps correctly, at least from the viewpoint of what society considers to be acceptable outside of those regions. Before that, they told us that Al-Qaeda was evil, and hunted down its leader, Osama Bin Laden. The new president-elect of the USA has stated many times that he is in favour of hunting down all Muslim fundamentalist fighters, wherever they may be.
Well, I have some news for him. many of them are in Aleppo, resisting the lawful (like it or not) government of Syria for the last four years. Let’s take some time to examine just who these ‘rebel’ fighters there really represent. There are many, so I will list them for clarity.
The Al-Tawhid Brigade. (Backed by foreign countries, including Qatar)
The Muslim Brotherhood. (In favour of Sharia Law. Sound familiar?)
Shams-al-Shamal. The Northern Sun battalion. (Formed by army officers opposed to Assad)
The Free Syrian Army. (A mixed bag of jihadists and former soldiers)
Foreign volunteers. (Muslim radicals from Chechnya, Libya, Yemen, France, the UK, and other countries. Some of these have since returned to the west, and have been responsible for attacks against civilians in European countries. Many are now on most-wanted lists in many parts of the world)
Kurdish nationalist militia. (These men are fighting for independence from Syria, and have joined the fundamentalists in the hope of achieving this)
Al-Qaeda. (Yes, them again, currently mounting the fiercest opposition inside the city)
Some other smaller groups are allied with these, and their main agenda is the formation of a fundamentalist Muslim state in Syria. Their eventual aims are remarkably similar to those of ISIS, currently considered to be the natural enemy of the western way of life.
Is it any wonder that I am confused? An estimated force of 10,000 of these assorted Muslim extremists are currently holding the second largest city in a foreign country, yet their fate is somehow supposed to be not only the responsibility of the western powers, but by some twisted reasoning, they have become to be seen as our allies too. And all because we are not supposed to like Assad.
And because the Russians are helping him, let’s not forget that.
We should revisit the lessons of Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and many other countries. Destabilising regimes may seem attractive on the surface, but the outcome of such interference has been plain to see in the past. Extremists posing as refugees, seeking asylum in countries where they then carry out atrocities, and help to radicalise young men and women. Foreign nations left in a continuing state of civil war and sectarian violence after the loss of stability. Most have become more extreme in their attitudes to organised religion, and vociferous in their hatred of those western countries who once helped to organise their resistance.
So before you sign the petitions against Assad, calling for him to be tried as a war criminal. And before you add your voice to the growing clamour against Putin’s Russia, take some time to look at who you will be supporting instead.
Learn some harsh lessons from history, and be careful what you wish for…