Assassinating an envoy; between crime and propagating terrorism

Those justifying the murder of the Russian envoy are trying to exploit people’s anger toward Russia

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey is of major significance and is yet another terrorist operation that serves the interest of Iran and the Syrian regime. It also harms the cause of the Syrian people. The crime suggests, all over again, that global security is threatened more than before.

Unfortunately, some people continue to mix terrorism and regional affairs as is the case with Syria. The man who assassinated Russian Ambassador justified his crime by saying it was to avenge what is happening in Syria.

Around the same time, another terrorist ploughed into a market in Berlin in Germany which supported the Syrian people and looked after refugees the most. During the same week, ISIS bragged that one of its members killed 10 in the Jordanian city of Karak.

Those justifying the murder of the Russian envoy link it to Aleppo and Syria’s tragedy. They in fact try to exploit people’s anger toward Russia and use it to support ISIS, the organization which is responsible for turning the world against the Syrian people and their revolution.

Yes, there is anger toward Russia but we must not mix that with acts of terrorism. Russians had a decent image in the Middle East, particularly among Arabs, because they raised the slogan of fighting colonization and supporting liberation movements and supported the Non-Aligned Movement.

Russians were known for their stances toward major Arab causes, such as the Palestinian cause, and they did not get themselves involved in regional military adventures. Even when they invaded Afghanistan in the 1970s, many here thought it was a chapter of the axes’ struggle in a faraway area.

Although there’s very little hope right now, Russians can play a positive and decisive role in Syria in order to achieve a reconciliation that eliminates extremists and extremism within the Syrian regime

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Intervention in Syria

All this changed after the Russians strongly and brutally intervened in Syria. Moscow thus ran out of its historical, moral and humanitarian capital which it had developed over decades. Reactions toward them became negative as their actions in Syria, particularly in Aleppo, triggered people’s anger.

Now, extremist groups want to ride this wave of hatred against Moscow in the region as they realize that the region’s governments want to negotiate with the Russians and try to persuade them to reach a reasonable political solution that’s accepted by the majority in order to end the war in Syria. Some governments in the region do not want to lose a major country like Russia and do not want to push Russia further towards Iran and the Syrian regime as there’s no political dispute with it.

If the Russian command wants a role in the region, then this role can be comprehended, and it is also possible to narrow the gap as this role is positive. There are no camps which oppose Moscow in the Middle East, including in countries which are close to Washington and the West in general, and these countries refuse to divide the region into opposing camps, like what happened during the Cold War.

Although there’s very little hope right now, Russians can play a positive and decisive role in Syria in order to achieve a reconciliation that eliminates extremists and extremism within the Syrian regime that is responsible for massacres during in recent years.

ISIS and other terrorist organizations want to sabotage these efforts and they know that by targeting Russian officials, it would be appealing to an angry popular sentiment and embarrassing regional governments which seem incapable of providing aid and protection to millions of Syrians.

Justifying positions

Russia is aware that its reputation has hit a new low. Its propaganda through the Russia Today television channel and other state media platforms have not succeeded in justifying its stances, actions and responsibility for supporting the Assad regime and the Iranians in Syria.

Perhaps Russia does not care much about the opinion of the majority of millions of Arabs and Muslims as they do not elect and do not influence their governments’ policies. However, we do know for a fact that terrorism benefits a lot from this difficult situation, i.e. from people’s anger and government’s inability.

Most of those who approve the murder of the Russian ambassador are those who sympathize with ISIS and other groups, and they are not less dangerous than terrorists themselves. It is certain that by expressing their joy and justifying this crime, they push naive and angry people toward supporting terrorist groups; therefore, they grant terrorism the oxygen it needs in the form of propaganda and sympathy. ISIS and al-Nusra Front are two groups that are not less dangerous than the Syrian regime and the Iranian militias fighting in Syria.

Glorifying the crime in Ankara should be categorized as crime itself because it helps terrorists recruit and receive donations and grants them legitimacy. It also restores the popularity which terrorists were about to lose during the past phase as a result of the opposing propaganda against them.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on December 21, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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. He tweets @aalrashed

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.