As President Bashar al-Assad’s forces disintegrate, the Syrian civil war is devolving into a battle between Sunni rebel groups and Alawite-dominated militias fighting in support of the old regime. This may increase the rebels’ chances of victory, but it also means that the work to rebuild Syria after Assad falls will be even more challenging. Continue reading →
As it happens, it was the Rushdie affair that inspired the book in the first place. The essay writing contest was the idea of the Ammar Abdulhamid, a US-educated Syrian who became disillusioned with radical Islam after the fatwa issued against Rushdie by Iran. He pointed out to the American Islamic Congress that while the Muslim world had vast, well-organised networks of people pushing extremist visions, nobody was doing the same thing for liberal ideas. “What we need is an essay contest on liberty with significant cash prizes,” he said.
Assad’s grip over Damascus has become tenuous at best. Rebels are able to conduct bombings and attacks even in the most secured areas aided by informants embedded within Assad’s own security establishment. The battle of Damascus is set to begin at earnest soon, in what promises to be a very bloody development.
The transcript can be found at this link(Google Translations can give a good idea of the gist). The video is below. The interview was conducted during my three-weeks trip to Turkey in August but was aired only on September 18.
“To Assad, the rallies spurred by the Islam-bashing film were heaven-sent: they have given credence to his claims that the Arab Spring is at heart an Islamist spring and that al Qaeda and its affiliates will be empowered as a result,” says Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian activist based in America. “Meanwhile, the rallies have also distracted international attention from the current mayhem unfolding in Syria, and they might give pause to any calls for intervention.”
Last week President Obama did say that his “calculus” about “military engagement” would change if the regime began using or deploying its stocks of chemical weapons. But as the Syrian blogger Ammar Abdulhamid has written, the drawing of that red line may have emboldened the regime to conclude that anything short of using weapons of mass destruction will be tolerated by Washington.
Mr. Abdulhamid wonders “why slaughter would be deemed tolerable if it happened one way and not another.” It’s a good question — and one for which the administration’s morally bankrupt policy has no answer.