- US Role as State Sponsor of Terrorism Implied in US Congressional Research Service Report on Syria Conflict
by Stephen Gowans, https://gowans.wordpress.com/
The implication of a report written for the US Congress is that the United States is a state sponsor of terrorism in Syria. At the same time, the report challenges widely held beliefs about the conflict, including the idea that the opposition has grass-roots support and that the conflict is a sectarian war between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect and the majority Sunnis.
Written in October 2015, the report was prepared by the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the United States Library of Congress. The Congressional Research Service provides policy and legal analysis to committees and members of the US House and Senate.
Titled “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and US Response,” the report reveals that:
1. The Syrian conflict is between Islamists and secularists, not Sunnis and Alawites.
Media reports often emphasize the dominant Sunni character of the rebels who have taken up arms against the Syrian government, while depicting the Syrian government as Alawite-led. What is almost invariably overlooked is that the largest Sunni fighting force in Syria is the country’s army. Yes, the rebels are predominantly Sunni, but so too are the Syrian soldiers they’re fighting. As Congress’s researchers point out, “most rank and file military personnel have been drawn from the majority Sunni Arab population and other (non-Alawite) minority groups” (p. 7). Also: “Sunni conscripts continue to fight for Assad” (p. 12). Rather than being a battle between two different sects, the conflict is a struggle, on the one hand, between Sunni fundamentalists who want to impose their version of Islam on Syrian politics and society, and on the other hand, Syrians, including Sunnis, who embrace a vision of a secular, non-sectarian government.
2. The Syrian Opposition Coalition is dominated by Islamists and is allied with foreign enemies of Syria.
According to the report, the Syrian National Council (whose largest member is the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood) is the “largest constituent group” of the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC). The SOC is based “in Turkey and considered to be close to foreign opponents of Assad.” (p. 14) The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to base political rule on the Quran, which it sees as divinely inspired, rather than on a secular constitution.
3. “Political opposition coalitions appear to lack…grass roots support” (p. 27).
This is consistent with the findings of a public opinion poll taken last summer by a research firm that is working with the US and British governments. That poll found that Assad has more support than the forces arrayed against him.