Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Lessons from Qadisiyah
Dr. Reuven Berko
The Americans' decision to arm the Syrian rebels represents the culmination of inter-Arab efforts to breach the Syrian stalemate and assist the Sunni camp -- every Arab country in accordance with its particular ability. This decision blew a strong wind back into the rebels' sails, after months of being subjected to attacks by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah fighters and facing top-of-the-line Russian weapons and drones.
On Saturday, the rebels declared the launch of an operation they call the "Battle of Qadisiyah," after a seventh century battle in which the Arabs defeated the Persian Empire. The operation is focused mainly in the area of Aleppo, and there is a good reason they chose this particular name for this groundbreaking operation.
Beyond the American promise to transfer weapons to the bleeding Syrian opposition, when it emerged that the Sunni population in Syria had been exposed to chemical weapons, portions of the U.S. decision and its implementation were kept under wraps. Apparently the Americans decided to arm only the Free Syrian Army, under the command of Gen. Salim Idris, with quality weapons, while preventing this sophisticated weaponry from falling into the hands of Islamist terrorist gangs also fighting against the regime.
Western suspicion of opposition forces in Syria remains as it was. American history has seen efforts to aid radical Islamists backfire when the American weapons provided to these Islamists were turned against the Americans themselves. The U.S. has no intention of letting the quality weapons provided to the Syrian rebels ultimately fall into the hands of extremist Islamists like al-Qaida, Al-Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham or the Farouq Brigades -- its biggest enemies come the day after the Syrian civil war.
It is still not clear which types of weapons will be sent and to whom, but one thing is certain: The Americans have grown tired of the bloody equation created by Iran and Russia in Syria, which are continuing to arm Syrian President Bashar Assad and his loyalists with sophisticated weapons while the West remains neutralized and mired in futile propositions to end the turmoil. The U.S. made its decision to arm the rebels despite Russian and Syrian threats to exact revenge on Europe when the Americans realized that there was no possibility that Assad would resign and an interim government would be established ahead of democratic elections.
So while Assad's Alawite coalition, together with Shiite Hezbollah fighters and Iran's Revolutionary Guards, continues to strike at Syria's civilian Sunni population, the opposition and the urban infrastructure, the Arab world's Sunni leaders are joining together in one, vocal, united front, without any of the squirming diplomatic posturing. The religious "fitna" (civil war), they say, is now clear and visible and an all-out civil war between Sunnis and Shiites. It is no longer limited to Assad vs. the rebels. Outside Syria, there are now clashes in Lebanon and Iraq and the Sunni countries bordering Syria, like Turkey and Jordan, are bracing for an outbreak of violence.
By calling their latest operation in Aleppo the "Battle of Qadisiyah," the Sunni Syrian opposition is pointing to Shiite Persian Iran as posing a threat to the entire Middle East from within Syria, and as having declared war against the Sunnis. It is as though the historic Battle of Qadisiyah in 636 C.E., the decisive engagement between the Arab Muslim army and the Sassanid Persian army during the first period of Muslim expansion, didn't happen over a thousand years ago.
This battle serves as a symbol of an Islamic victory and a humiliating Persian defeat, from which the Iranians have not recovered to this day. Now they are trying to change history.