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How did the Syrian revolution become militarised?

The aforementioned question seems a bit odd at the moment, it has been two years since the Syrian Revolution turned into an armed revolution and therefore there is no point in posing this question after all that has happened during the past two years.


However, the difficulty that the revolution is going through and the progress that the regime has made in several areas, especially in Damascus and Aleppo (the rebels have made progress in other areas), has taken me, personally, back to this question. I was one of the first, to warn early on, of the regime’s strategy to escalate the revolution into an armed conflict due to the regime initially believing that it would be easy to abort the revolution.

Addressing this question may also be useful for other experiences, especially as it would be foolish to say that the Arab Spring has ended, although there are those who do argue this. Perhaps there are some people who wanted to make the Syrian revolution a lesson to those demanding reform, which we hear about on a daily basis everywhere.

In order for people not to say that we are spreading despair, we would like to start by saying that the regime’s strategy was not as intelligent as people may have thought, even though it prolonged the life of the regime and made its survival more or less possible. However, this was not because of its strength and cohesion, but because the Syrian people started fighting the Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and the Shiite battalions all together, causing a terrible imbalance in the power between a carefully managed central force with advanced weapons and various armed groups and states with unlimited conflicts.

The regime could have offered concessions at the beginning of the revolution, though it may not have stopped it, will now have to make greater concessions for any future political solution. This is without mentioning the destruction to the country, the exhaustion of Iran and Hezbollah, both financially and militarily, as well as unprecedented hostility towards them from the majority Syrians.

This last dimension of the conflict demonstrates that the strategy to confront the revolution was not solely devised by the presidential palace in Damascus, but also received support from Tehran.

On April 20, 2011, only a month and a few days after the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, an article, “the militarisation of the revolution in Syria” was published. During that time, and even four months after, the regime was begging for the people to fire a bullet so that they could accuse the revolution of terrorism, according to a statement made by Bashar’s vice president, Farouk al-Sharaa, in the famous interview with the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which is closely linked to Hezbollah.

I am quoting some parts of the aforementioned article in order to recall the scene al-Sharaa spoke about. I am quoting the interview without any changes as follows:

“Now, after speaking about the “infiltrators” who opened fire on the protesters and security forces and killed many people, the regime is resorting to the game played by the Libyan regime, the game of militarism (the militarisation of the popular uprising) by turning it into an armed battle, in an attempt to achieve two goals. First, the justification of its violent repression through which it is able to put fear in the hearts of people and drive them to distance themselves from participating in the movement, and the second is to scare people from losing security and turning the situation into something like a civil war, especially since some of the parties it will try to frame for armed movement (Al-Qaeda and the Salafi jihadist groups) are not disciplined. This is similar to the Iraqi situation, and it may be the reason behind the focus on the sectarian issue in order to scare the Alawites (and other minorities) and push them towards supporting the regime, even though most of them are as oppressed as the other Syrians.

We must not forget that the Syrian regime’s remarkable ability to penetrate the Salafist jihadist groups (because of their dealings during the Iraq war) has driven them into committing acts to scare the people and distort the peaceful popular movement.

Perhaps this explains the regime’s claims of weapons coming from Iraq, because logic suggests that these weapons would not come from Shiite forces who have sided with the regime due to Iran’s position, even if some of them had had problems in the past with the regime due to its position towards the Iraqi resistance. However, (theoretically, of course) it could come from forces close to al-Qaeda, which is still active in Iraq and believes the globalisation of jihad”, the quote is from an article published on 20th April 2011.

We will later find out that the regime was not content with just militarising the revolution, as mentioned above, but also released of a number of Salafist jihadist detainees from prisons (specifically Sednaya Prison.) This will allow the regime to respond with a high level of violence, gain the support of the minorities, as well as trap the (now armed) revolution in a context feared worldwide.

It is not surprising that today, Bashar has started to present himself as a shield that will protect the capitals of the world from terrorism, and there are people who buy into this, either because they really believe it or because it suits them to. We must also not forget the Israeli factor and their global influence, they definitely fear this.

Does this mean that we condemn the military action? Certainly not, it was morally right and the majority of those who took such action were loyal, and their errors are nothing compared to the regime’s crimes.

Many would ask if a peaceful revolution should have overthrown the regime. The answer is yes, if it was managed correctly and through a central power that makes it decisions and manages it in a disciplined manner. The Syrian revolution was mostly against the regime and was capable of turning a peaceful movement into a civil disobedience within months, especially in the capital.

However, the revolution was misfortunately plagued by international conspiracy, not only against the regime, but against the people as well. The Zionists preferred to deal with the devil they knew over the one they didn’t, so they made Syria a black hole that would take out all its enemies. They were accompanied by other Arabs who wanted to hinder the Arab Spring, and for now, at least, they have got what they wanted.

Once again, I say, there is no point dwelling on the past, but this discussion is useful in order for us to learn from our lessons. It may even be useful during a later stage in the conflict when confronting a political solution that does not meet the Syrian people’s demands to free them from dictatorship and the sectarian regime that has been supported it for decades.

This is a translation of the Arabic text published by al Jazeera net on 4 December 2013

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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