America’s dangerous ‘jihad’ in Syria

Published: September 3, 2012
The writer is national editor at The Express Tribune

The writer is national editor at The Express Tribune

The insurrection in Syria is taking on a radical flavour. It is the most streamed topic on jihadi online forums. On social networking websites, Facebook and Twitter, radicals and ultra-right wingers, regularly post stories and images of the “successes” of “mujahideen” in Syria and the “atrocities” of Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Alawi heterodox Shia sect. The deepening chaos has led Syria to become a magnet for global jihadis, including al Qaeda. Sunni extremists from Arab and Muslim states and even as far afield as Europe are trickling into Syria to join their ideological affiliates, Jabhat al-Nusrah and Ahrar al-Sham, in a “jihad” against the “heretical regime” of Bashar al-Assad. The Free Syrian Army — which is overwhelmingly liberal in its outlook and makeup — admits an influx of foreign jihdis in recent months. A recent uptick in suicide bombings and kidnappings, the signature jihadi tactics, further substantiate the fear.

It is no longer a secret. The United States and its regional allies — Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE — as well as Turkey, are actively supporting the Syrian rebels. The CIA is said to be using a key Nato base in southern Turkey to train rebels and to provide them with wherewithal. The agency is abetted by its European counterparts in this indirect war. China and Russia, on the other hand, oppose foreign intervention and blame the US for scuttling every effort for a political settlement. For the Obama Administration, the ouster of the Baathist regime is the key to the broader objective: containment of a defiant Iran, and subsequently, quashing the only threat to its greatest geopolitical ally in the region, Israel. Tehran stands by the Assad regime to protect, what it calls the “axis of resistance” in the region (Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territory being other members of the axis).

It is like déjà vu all over again. The United States is doing what it did 33 years ago in Afghanistan. Then US administrations created the monster of  ‘mujahideen’ (who later morphed into the Taliban and global jihadis) and nurtured Osama bin Laden to fight America’s ‘jihad’ against the ‘god-less’ Soviets. Pakistan was used as a launch pad — where Islamic seminaries churned out jihadis who were trained in camps along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The US funnelled money and weapons with little, and at times no, oversight. After successfully containing the expansion of Soviet communism, the US left the region infested with jihadis for Pakistan and Afghanistan to deal with.

In Syria, the US policy has two-pronged dangers. First, Washington is supporting the insurrection against Bashar al-Assad, knowing well that al Qaeda-linked jihadis are hijacking the 17-month-old uprising (now a full-blown civil war). Turkey and Arab states, perhaps, as unwitting pawns, are colluding in this dangerous game. If the Assad regime falls, jihadis would seek a share in the spoils and, if given, they would turn Syria into another haven for jihadis. The US would do what it did in Afghanistan: wind up its indirect war and leave its regional allies to deal with the mess.

The second consequence of this proxy war could be more dangerous and destabilising for the region. The Sunni Arab support for the rebellion against Assad, a key geopolitical ally of Iran, could set off a new sectarian strife and spark off renewed hostilities between the Sunni and Shia blocs in the region. This would be detrimental to the Muslim world, particularly the Gulf region, and would benefit only the global jihadis.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • Nadir
    Sep 3, 2012 - 9:31PM

    So we should ignore the legitimate demands of the people of Syria who have lived under the Assads for two generations because the US is involved?


  • sid
    Sep 3, 2012 - 9:41PM

    Americans have been blinded by Israel and obsession with Iran………Assad though autocratic was heading a secular and liberal regim……….i m sure syria will become next Iraq……..sectarian clashes are going to kill the soul of the country……..American foreign policy lacks vision it only sees short term gains……………

    Turkey is going to be next pakistan………..Pak supported US in afgan war see the condition of this country……….Recommend

  • Imran Con
    Sep 3, 2012 - 9:49PM

    Do not associate us with jihad. We’re far too evil to be blessed by being in the same sentence as such an admirable and morally superior word which has been proven to be so, even above expectations, attracting jealousy time and time again through history. We would prefer to not raise the chances of being targeted by those same jealous people that the non-Muslim world contains by undeserved and flattering association.


  • Sep 3, 2012 - 9:57PM

    Dear author;
    you have not given the reasons for the alleged indirect support of US to Jihadi and they well understand the danger of uprising of Jihadi in Syria.
    the initial uprising against the regime has already taken an ugly face with division of the Syrian society in sects with high intensity of hate against each other.
    It is Saudi Arabia who is playing the game and not the US. Seems it is a ritual to blame US for every thing perceived wrongRecommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Sep 3, 2012 - 10:26PM

    You are comparing Afghanistan of eightees to Syria of 2012. Its also not about one country or one conflict. There is Hizb-Ullah, Hamas and above all Iran. This conflict will continue for many years. USA has not yet come, packing and leaving is years away.


  • waheed
    Sep 3, 2012 - 10:29PM

    You are supporting Assad and call it America’s jihad because you are a shia yourself, nothing else you have to support your argument.


  • waheed
    Sep 3, 2012 - 10:33PM

    I wish America and Nato would do with Assad what they did with Qaddafi.


  • Ejaaz
    Sep 3, 2012 - 10:42PM

    Why did Iran feel the need to change Morsi’s speech by substituting Bahrain for Syria when Morsi was condemning Assad regime for suppressing the people. We blame everything on the Americans, but are unwilling to look at our own selves. Is America making Assad kill? Is America making Iran send its troops to Syria to help kill the Sunnis in Syria? Is America making Iran lie about what the Egyptian President really say about Syria? Let us start speaking the truth to each other for once, and maybe we can then figure out who is doing what to whom.


    Sep 3, 2012 - 11:32PM

    The author conveniently seems to forget that Assad sits atop a despotic regime that has suppressed the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people for over 40 years. If there had been a functional democracy in Syria, things would have never gotten this far.

    I do not understand why some authors feel that protests in Bahrain are home-grown and not the work of some foreign powers or sectarian interests but amazingly in Syria all of a sudden they cannot be a legitimate indicator against the suppression of political freedoms by a monstrous and sadistic regime which has given nothing to the country except isolation, massacres, a police state and military defeats in its over four decades of power.


  • antanu
    Sep 4, 2012 - 12:15AM

    dear author….unles UNCLE SAM stops meddling this world will not be in peace.sadly….UNCLE SAM has become do devine for some SOLD OUT souls that its sinister designs are ignored.Recommend

  • Vikas
    Sep 4, 2012 - 4:13AM

    Let them fight among themselves and die. That’s the GOD’s will.


  • Kumail
    Sep 4, 2012 - 5:03AM

    There are other kings, queens and dictators in the region most notably Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan to name a few, why no yankee pressure on them?. And why is that this ruthless block always play the Shia Iran Sunni us game when the real game is about bringing democracy to the region?. The United States has never been interested in bringing democracy to the Middle-East, you’ll have to be the biggest fool to still beilieve in that. Instead they look for its benefits and for Isreal’s e.g. Oil in Iraq, Iran’s Nuclear Programme, Lebanon’s Israel threat and now getting rid of its opositions(Iran) ally in the region to further strengthen Israel. The Syrian people deserve their rights no doubt, but letting these Al-Qaeda Saudi inspired radicals in the shape of the free Syria army will be worser then the reign of Assad and create maniacs similar to those flourishing in Waziristan. Beilieve me Syrians you don’t want to go down that path!!.


  • nay sayer
    Sep 4, 2012 - 6:22AM

    as u mentioned protecting ‘legitimate demands’ from the oppressor ‘assad’. please check out the economic, law & order, social life, sectarian harmony that existed in Syria for these many years. Sunni majority had no issues with the Shiite minority in ruling cadres, for years and years. why the Sunni bloc is against the Shiite bloc rite in the middle of Syria?

    Wat is being done is nt Jihad or anything but chess plate of nations who dont have anything else than MONEY TO THROW and PEOPLE’S POVERTY to use.


  • nay sayer
    Sep 4, 2012 - 6:27AM

    @p r sharma:
    Money poured in to the conflict by UAE, Saudiarabia and Qatar… and who is giving the technical and arms support? … check out the bloc within the bloc in the “allied support” to the free syrian army … Israel, Tuekey, US, Saudiarabia, Qatar .. who all in them have issues with IRAN ?

    dont blame US … but US has a major role in allied support for the uprising


  • kaalchakra
    Sep 4, 2012 - 6:38AM

    Pakistan must take the lead in solving the American problem. So long as America exists, the Middle East will continue to burn and sectarianism will continue to plague Pakistan.


  • UMSyed
    Sep 4, 2012 - 7:33AM

    Will the author care to shed some light on the fact that who are the local allies of the US in Iraq & Afghanistan? The answer is ‘Shias’. And then which country sponsored & arranged violent protests in the Holy City of Makkah? The answer is ‘Iran’. After only these two facts there is no further need to justify who stands where. Furthermore, hope the author also knows that despite the so called sanctions over Iran, there are always news of the US companies found doing businesses with Iran. Ironically, often the elite class of the US is on the board of such companies.


  • Gratgy
    Sep 4, 2012 - 8:29AM

    Pakistan must take the lead in solving the American problem. So long as America exists, the Middle East will continue to burn and sectarianism will continue to plague Pakistan.

    I agree with you. After all Pakistan is a nuclear country and should drop a nuclear device or two on America to teach them not to mess around with the most powerful Islamic Nation in the world.

    All I hope is that the wind blows westwards after the American retaliation.


  • F
    Sep 4, 2012 - 8:43AM

    When Assad was unilaterally killing his own and that too Muslim people you, as a Muslim, were silent.
    When Saudi Arabia and other Arab states started to raise their voice against Assad, you were silent.
    But all the Muslim bretheren could not muster enough moral courage and arms to stop the butchery. They pleaded and approached the west and USA to help. Now it is them who have declared jihad on your fellow Muslims! They stand accused of indulging in Afghanistan type games of 33 years ago! (if you remember – if you choose to- it was the same logic in Serbia and Libya).

    Blaming others is a deeply ingrained cultural trait – it sure let’s you live in denial.


  • Mahakaalchakra
    Sep 4, 2012 - 9:18AM

    @kaalchakra: wrote, “Pakistan must take the lead in solving the American problem. So long as America exists, the Middle East will continue to burn and sectarianism will continue to plague Pakistan.”

    Are you suggesting that Pakistan must use its Islamic nuclear bomb to remove the existence of America (USA) from the planet?

    When Pakistani generals showed its eyes to USA by stopping NATO supplies to Afghanistan en route Pakistan, I knew USA had the capacity and capability of hand-delivering those eyes after gauging them from the same Gernails. But it did not.


  • Sid Taji
    Sep 4, 2012 - 10:03AM

    It is true that Syria is being ruled by a dictatorial regime, and the forces which are trying to topple this regime have their own agenda. Syria should hold free and fair elections under the supervision of an International body. Thereafter, there should be an International Force to prevent a sectarian war.


  • Engr. Syed
    Sep 4, 2012 - 10:30AM

    @SKATZ: You are Spot On!


  • LawMaker
    Sep 4, 2012 - 11:04AM

    Why only Muslim nations and Muslim countries are`nt supposedly tackling their issues by their ownself??
    iz it necessary to involve Amreeka or other western powers in sorting our solutions.. Have we muslims ever involved in their civil-wars though we were super-powers at that time..??
    The thing is Muslims should rethink of their identical prestige n honour…


  • Naeem Javid Muhammad Hassani
    Sep 4, 2012 - 12:08PM

    The virus will soon spread in Lebanon and it is already on its way. Lebanon – YOU R NEXT.


  • James
    Sep 4, 2012 - 12:09PM

    If Uncle Sam had the appetite to take action in Syria,the massacres of ordinary Syrians would have been finished by now.How long did Libya take to throw out Gadaffi with Nato help.The Assad regime has only made promises which were not kept,starting from the time he was elected.When there were peaceful protests,what was his reponse.Shooting of unarmed people.Its only the Gulf states and Turkey who are arming the rebels as they want the slaughter to stop.The US will prefer that Assad remains as he will rein in the hardcore Islamists.Egypt has been taken over by the Islamist parties and now Israel will face a more hardline foe.So to accuse US of trying to throw out Assad is illogical.Assad by his actions is no longer acceptable to his people and will have to go.Instead of blaming US,you should blame China and Russia who vetoed the two UN resolutions for their own interest.


  • James
    Sep 4, 2012 - 12:12PM

    Nothing new about the authors opinion.Its the trend in Pakistan to blame the US for all the worlds troubles.He is in denial mode on Syria


  • James
    Sep 4, 2012 - 12:39PM

    @Sid Taji:
    The problem is that all political parties are banned under Assad.He had promised electoral reform when he was elected.The Baath party in Syria is supreme and no political parties can contest against it.The promise of electoral reform was not kept


  • Genius
    Sep 4, 2012 - 2:37PM

    Assad in common with other autocrats is a tyrant.
    We all know that tyrants govern over most people of the world including the people of Europe and the Americas (USA included).
    It was William Penn a Quacker (Pennsylvania named after him) or a religious person who said and said rightly “Tyrants govern those who do not want to be governed by God”. How true are his sayings when we see tyranny today, brought about by the people of the world upon themselves.
    If people want to create the “Government of God” they all will need to work for it. This is where the people everywhere in the world fail. They simply do not want to work for their own betterment, thus leave it for others. They do so at their peril by leaving the door open for tyrants to crop up. This is how tyrants crop up and when embedded are hard to eradicate.
    Syrian people are reaping the harvest of their own mistake. So are the people throughout the world. The people need to balme no one but themself. Tyranny will not go away if people will not organise to work to eradicate it.


  • Lord
    Sep 4, 2012 - 3:37PM

    Well written piece . Its disappointing to read the comments who also are not sighting the effects of this after 10 15 years they are also looking for short term gains which support there school of thought. Be with oppressed whether that oppressed is non believer to you . I am with syrian people please feel the same for bahrainis and condemn who have brutally suppressed there legitimate right . We pakistani have ruined the kashmir’s effective freedom struggle by creating militancy there and now its going no where as a consequence.It seems we(paki) are not learning.Recommend

  • Vigilant
    Sep 4, 2012 - 3:40PM

    Well placed views & highlighted another dimension of conflict. These so called Jihadists will destroy the peace of whole region including those who are supporting them


  • Lord
    Sep 4, 2012 - 5:46PM

    Guess who is the ultimate beneficiary of this tug of war between muslims . “The State of Israel”


  • kanwal
    Sep 4, 2012 - 9:18PM

    Somehow, i have a nasty feeling about all that USA tries to support. They have been very “helpful” to many many nation which never recovered from their “help”. For example Pakistan. So they and their friends are not really reliable in anything they do or say, are they?


  • Sep 5, 2012 - 12:36AM

    @nay sayer:
    logistic and technical support is from the neighbor Turkey and no training imparted by US. Had US interested in toppling Assad the rebels could have ended the game by now.
    Ultimately Assad has to go and longer the time to remove the regime, harsher will be the Sunni – Shia divide and hate for political reasons.
    There is apprehension that power transition will come into the hands of hardcore Sunnis which will be inclined to radicalize and a headache for US.


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