Ideology vs context

Dec 29,2015 – JORDAN TIMES – Hassan A. Barari

A newly released opinion poll conducted by the Doha-based Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies offers an insight into the way Arabs in 12 countries view Daesh and President Bashar Assad’s role in radicalising some Syrians.

The polls focused on various issues that are of particular importance for people in this part of the world.

First and foremost, some 89 per cent of the respondents state that they oppose Daesh. This huge percentage refutes the argument that there is a correlation between support for Daesh and religiosity.

Those who identify themselves as religious are much higher than the 7 per cent who supports Daesh; of the latter, interestingly, only half said that they do so due to religiosity. The other half supports Daesh due to the prevalent political and economic conditions.

Hence, it can be surmised that support for such a radical organisation is rooted in political grievances rather than in religious ideology.

The failure of leading countries engaged in military operations in both Syria and Iraq to appreciate this logic makes them focus on terrorism rather than radicalism. Of course, the two are different.

And paradoxically, this lopsided approach in battling terrorism led some Western countries to come to terms with the notion that Assad can be a partner in defeating Daesh.

Even some American officials are inclined to believe in Assad’s utility in fighting terrorism.

Over the last two years, one could not spot any firm American position with regard to Assad. Even after Assad crossed US President Barack Obama’s red lines, the US opted for inaction, which sent a clear message to both Daesh and Assad that they can commit atrocities and get away with it.

Explicit in the poll is that laymen in the Arab street know well that Assad’s staying in power has been detrimental to the Syrian cause. In fact, the crisis got worse and hopeless.

A majority of 62 per cent of people polled states that there will be no solution to the conflict as long as Assad is at the helm of politics in Syria. His removal is necessary if two objectives — de-escalation of the conflict and depriving Daesh and like-minded radical organisations of recruiting new fighters is to be achieved.

Obviously, the external support for Assad and the complicit US position push many among the disgruntled Syrians to join radical organisations. The arguments that Assad is the magnet for foreign fighters to join Daesh could not be more relevant when one examines the figures included in the poll.

It is time the leading Western countries see reality as it is.

There is an alternative to Assad. The opposition groups that met in Riyadh two weeks ago presented a decent roadmap to get Syria out of the crisis while maintaining the country’s territorial integrity. This can serve as a trigger for resolving the conflict once and for all.

And yet, Russia has just killed Zahran Alloush, a prominent figure in the opposition groups that met in Riyadh. Alloush successfully fought tooth and nail to expel Daesh from some parts of Damascus. Unfortunately, the Russian move can only help the Assad regime and Daesh.

The findings of the poll reflect our common understanding of the harsh reality in the Middle East and beg the question whether the Western powers and Russia really take into account the sentiments of the beleaguered ordinary Arab men and women who suffer from the continuation of the vicious cycle of fighting terrorism.

Sadly, the Western powers are still obsessed with the military approach to battling Daesh and like-minded groups, ignoring the conditions that foster radicalism.

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