In Syria and Iraq, it is easy to make a conclusion similar to that of U.S. President Barack Obama who said that there is no moderate Syrian opposition capable of defeating Bashar al-Assad. This judgment could have been said about Libya when the revolution erupted against Muammar Qaddafi and it could have been said about Ukraine’s current situation as well. We could've simply said that and left these two countries for extremists.
We tell President Obama that the Syrians, including those who support the regime, now want the moderate opposition to prevail because they only have three options: 1) the Assad’s regime and its Iranian extremist allies; 2) al-Qaeda; and 3) the moderate opposition. The latter is represented by the coalition which is made up of Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, moderate Islamists, seculars and women. Why haven't the moderate ones won the war, and why does Obama think they are incapable of defeating Assad? It's because they're deprived from everything - from obtaining advanced weapons, having safe border zones and from recruiting inside refugees' camps. In addition, Russia and Iran are helping their enemy, the Syrian regime, and are providing it with weapons, food, information and funds.
President Obama must accept the truth that Bashar al-Assad's regime is incapable of staying in power no matter how much support he receives from the Iranians, the Russians and others. Assad represents a very small minority. He's become wreckage breathing with an external lung.
In Iraq, the bad situation is in its beginning. The current opposition may lose its momentum but if Nuri al-Maliki remains in power, chaos and violence will continue and the rebels will repeat their attempts until they either overthrown him or turn the country into mayhem. Iraq's chaos will threaten everyone. Amidst these fast-moving events, Obama's advisers must ask: What can the American government do without becoming militarily involved and without making wrong calculations in the region?
If the first American objective is to thwart al-Qaeda groups, then neither Assad nor Maliki are capable of fighting al-Qaeda. The Syrian and Iraqi regimes represent the popular motive for extremists. If it weren't for them, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS) would not have returned in force. The Sunnis consider it a revolution against injustice and are willing to support any group -even if it's a terrorist one - that fights Assad and Maliki.
If the first American objective is to thwart al-Qaeda groups, then neither Assad nor Maliki are capable of fighting al-Qaeda.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Former President George Bush risked all his country's capacities with the hope of changing the situation in the Middle East, especially changing bad regimes like that of Saddam Hussein. What's happening in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Egypt is undoubtedly the result of the events after invading Iraq in 2003. President Obama currently have limited options, either support bad regimes like Assad and Maliki and ignore the opposition, therefore leaving land for extremists – such as the Syrian regime with its allies Hezbollah and al-Qaeda organizations - or support the moderate opposition to reach Damascus and rule Syria and support the political reconciliation in Baghdad.
In this case, Obama's options are few and difficult. He's tried for long to stay away from our region - the region of political earthquakes - but as he can see, the problem grows when ignoring it and it's no longer possible to evade it. If he decides to support Maliki in Iraq, the Iraqis will live in chaos and long-term civil war. And if he abandons the Syrian opposition believing that it's too unsuccessful to topple the Assad regime, then Syria will continue to be an international zone for global terrorism.
He can now push for a political reconciliation in Iraq - a reconciliation that helps the Sunnis and Shiites work together to fight ISIS. In Syria, the U.S. can support the moderate opposition and help it to reach power in a government that that unites all the Syrians against ISIS. This way, the United States can achieve its major goal and support reconciliation and stability in the region.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 24, 2014.
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.
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