In the first two weeks of Ramadan, 1,262 Syrians were killed. The news didn’t make headlines and people were not agitated. This makes us wonder if what’s happening in Cairo killed the Syrian revolution or if the latter is fading into the background like what happened with Iraq after explosions that kill hundreds every day became normal.
There’s no doubt that the Syrian revolution is being ignored not because people don’t care, but because of recent events in Egypt. Around 100 people were killed in Egypt during the first two weeks of Ramadan. There are fears that Egypt is heading on a violent path which will last for months despite attempts at political reconciliation and calls for early legitimate elections. This negative development will place Syria in the shadows, away from the concern of its neighbors, and it will grant Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his allies, the Russians, the Iranians and Hezbollah, the opportunity to commit more genocide crimes in the dark – crimes even worse than what we’ve witnessed in the last two years.
We should not compare the Syrian and the Egyptian causes and label one as more important than the other. We also should not measure this importance according to the number of those killed, because blood and chaos complicate the situation and deepen the rift for long decades, not just for few months or few years.
Syria is not equal to Egypt
Assad’s regime exploited the world’s occupation with bloody events in Egypt to draw a false comparison, claiming that terrorists here are terrorists there, and that the legitimacy of the Syrian regime is equal to that of the Egyptian regime.
This development [in Egypt] will place Syria in the shadows, and it will grant Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his allies the opportunity to commit more genocide crimes in the dark.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
The truth is there is a huge difference between the two cases. No one can deny that some Egyptians see that the current Egyptian opposition, that is the Muslim Brotherhood, has a cause and popular support. Those who reject the Brotherhood also have a cause and popular support. We are confronting a struggle in Egypt. But the struggle in Egypt is political above all, while in Syria there is a criminal regime which is popularly hated and which has deliberately committed murders on a daily basis on an unprecedented scale.
But Assad and his propaganda machine can exploit Egypt's situation for his own cause, and claim that he is partner with the Egyptian regime during its ordeal. Assad has done this before when he cast his regime as one targeted by foreign conspiracies against it and against Egypt. But this propaganda will quickly lose its value as the current Egyptian government distances itself from the criminal regime of Assad. We will soon see that Egypt will have an important role in confronting the regime in Damascus.
Egypt will stand up to Damascus
During his time in power, Mohamed Mursi and his cabinet avoided the Syrian issue on purpose. It was only addressed on a few occasions such as the visits to Tehran and Moscow where Mursi adopted a public stance in support of the Assad regime. But later, during a conference of religious groups held during the last month of his presidency, he decided to cut ties with Damascus. The interim government that replaced Mursi did the same. It also took measures against Syrian refugees saying it feared that hostile groups would sneak into the country amid the political turmoil in Egypt. Then it adopted a stance in support of the Syrian revolution by receiving the new chief of the Syrian Coalition, Ahmad al-Garba, and announced its solidarity with the coalition.
Egypt will play an important role in the Syrian revolution, especially because the Egyptian army considers its role to be regional. The institution of the military is an important pillar in regional relations and not just a power that defends the country. We must not forget that Egypt has played the role of military and political counterweight to Iran and Assad’s regime for the past thirty years. If it gets too occupied with its domestic battle to strengthen the system and protect its security, naturally it will not be free to get involved in the struggle against Iran and the Assad regime. This struggle, however, may later require a regional military confrontation.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 25, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.