For three years, we have been asking Syrians to stare death in the eye while thinking about political solutions. We have listened to survivors of Bashar Al-Assad’s chemical attacks, we have looked at Caesar’s pictures of mass atrocities inside Assad’s prisons and we have let Syrians live under siege and die of hunger.
Then we invited these Syrians to Geneva for a compromise Assad was never willing to consider or accept. Despite Geneva’s failure, we told the Syrians that the conflict could only be ended with political solutions.
When the Islamic State jumped out of the pages of medieval history and started chopping heads off, first Sunnis and later Christians and Yazidis, America suddenly became alarmed.
But unlike Assad, who gets invitations to Geneva, the IS got 500-pound bombs and Predator drones. Suddenly, President Obama sent military advisors, Special Forces and F-18s to Iraq. Between August 8 and 18, the US Air Force unleashed the hell that Islamic State terrorists deserve.
Washington then made the miserable Syrian opposition come together and issue a statement asking the US to strike IS targets inside Syria. This is the same Syrian opposition whose former leader, Ahmad al-Jarba, was instructed not to raise the issue of US military intervention in Syria during his visit to Washington and in his meeting with President Obama at the White House.
To add insult to injury, Washington has even asked the embattled Free Syrian Army (FSA) to join the fight against the IS.
While it sounds reasonable that Syrians should fight for their country against the IS, it’s unfair that Washington should solicit the help of the very militia it has refused to arm since 2011. It begs the question: What should the Free Syrian Army fight the Islamic State with, the MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) Washington has so generously dispensed to the Syrian rebels who’ve been devastated for three years running?
With no arms or ammunition, Syrian rebels have been fish to shoot in Assad’s barrel. Consequently, rebels have begun deserting the FSA and joining the well-armed and funded IS. But they haven’t defected to the IS for arms and money alone.
Many things contribute to the creation of a terrorist, but injustice is chief among them.
FSA fighters have come to feel that in Washington, some terrorists are more equal than others. The IS might be the new kid on the block, but it wasn’t so long ago that Hezbollah opened shop in Beirut by sending suicide bombers against the US Embassy and the US Marines barracks. The Party took Western hostages and killed many of them, including the CIA’s William Buckley and Colonel Tom Higgins. Today, though, Hezbollah is not suffering any F-18 reprisals. Washington is treating them as partners.
If the acquisition of power is what makes Washington talk to you, then those frustrated Syrians are right to host and join the IS after years of trying to make themselves heard. If it worked for Hezbollah, which is still on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, then it must work for the IS, too.
The Sunnis of Syria have concluded that there is no justice in this world, and that self-defense is only possible through groups – fanatic or not – that can provide power, along with social services. The IS is following in the footsteps of Hezbollah. If it survives this war, it will mature into a force entrenched in Syria and determined to hurt America.
It must either be justice for all, in Syria and in Iraq, or one can only expect people who deeply resent the US for ignoring their pleas to take matters into their own hands and, in their desperation, join what for them may be the only show in town.
Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington Bureau Chief of Alrai newspaper. He tweets @hahussain