Cry for help

August 26, 2014 - 2:59:46 am

Syria’s readiness to join hands with other countries in fighting the Islamic State shows its desperation. 

Syria’s readiness to join hands with other countries in fighting the Islamic State shows its desperation. 

Another dimension has been added to the more than three year old Syrian conflict. The enemy of an enemy, the adage goes, is a friend. Syria is trying this out with the United States, which doesn’t have any love lost for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. 

In a major change of course yesterday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem virtually invited Washington to join hands in fighting the Islamic State. This can be seen in the light of the seriousness of the threat which the Jihadis pose to Syria, Iraq and the larger Middle East. 

It is not the first time that the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad has been rocked by Islamists. A large number of fighters owing allegiance to Al Qaeda and other Islamist groups have given a hard time to Syrian troops fighting a raging insurgency from early 2011. The unrest has claimed close to 200,000 and displaced over a million people. Coming as it did about the time the Arab Spring revolts in other countries started, the insurgency was initially seen as an outpouring of years of disenchantment in the population. However, the unrest started transforming into a sectarian war with hardline extremist groups targetting minorities including Alawites. 

With the death toll rising sharply in the West Asian country and tens of thousands of displaced Syrians causing overcrowding in neighbouring Jordan and Libya, the crisis in Syria triggered calls for intervention by world powers. US President Barack Obama was seen as dithering on intervention in Syria. With Washington embroiled in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama didn’t want to dissipate US military power on another intervention. 

Walid Muallem, who has been the public face of Bashar Al Assad through the insurgency, said yesterday that the Syrian government is ready to join hands with other countries in fighting the Islamic State, but any strikes on Syrian soil have to be coordinated with the government in Damascus. 

“Syria, geographically and operationally, is the centre of the international coalition to fight Islamic State, Muallem said. “States must come to it if they are serious in combating terrorism,” he added.

Before the Islamic State ran riot in Iraq and Syria, the military was slowly gaining ground in the fight against Islamist militants. It had retaken several towns and for some time it seemed that Assad’s forces would finally beat back the insurgency. However, the arrival of the Islamic State changed the dynamics. 

Now that Damascus would be ready to join hands with the US in a joint fight against the Islamic State, the stage is set for a blitz on the Jihadis. Seeking international help, though with a rider, shows that Assad’s regime is truly threatened by the Jihadis and his cry of help is driven by desperation•