Sunnis in the Syrian army and government

For more than four years (since the start of the Syrian civil war) we have been hearing the same odd and dishonest mantra again and again:
The Syrian state and army are sectarian…The state hates Sunnis…The rebels are fought because they are Sunnis…The CIVILIANS are deliberately killed, simply because they are Sunnis…THE GOVERNMENT AND ARMY (+ LOYALIST MILITIAS) ARE „ALMOST ENTIRELY“ ALAWITES WHO HATE SUNNIS, etc.

Let´s first debunk the nonsense that the Syrian army, militias and security services are „almost entirely“ Sunni:

„As for General Swaidan’s soldiers, they arrive to salute their commander and are invited to talk to me: a group of conscripts who give their full names and their civilian jobs – one was a tailor, another a carpenter – and cheerfully say they are Sunni Muslims. Assad, of course, is an Alawite, but the general is careful of percentages, saying that 60 to 65 per cent of the 4th Brigade are Sunnis. „There is no sectarianism in this army, not in our brigade, and if you tour the checkpoints around the city, you will find most of the soldiers are Sunnis.“

The rebel forces in Syria, of course, are almost all Sunni Muslims, and that was the general’s point: Syrian Sunnis also fight for the army. And when I did stop at the general’s checkpoints and rather cruelly demanded to know their religion, almost all of them were indeed Sunni, some conscripts, many regular soldiers–the-generals-view-9206169.html

Sunnis are the backbone of the Syrian army–and-life-goes-on-9836912.html

„There are a lot of senior Sunni officers who are still in the Syrian army and security institutions…the majority of the Syrian army (around 60%) are Sunni.“

„The Syrian army is largely made up of Sunni conscripts, while many willing Sunni volunteers in the paramilitary groups that support regular government forces fight alongside foreign Shia militias, like Hezbollah, against a plethora of rebel groups that are all exclusively Sunni Muslim of varying extremes – both local and foreign.“

„The perception of the opposition as a rural-based movement led by religiously conservative, poor, and unsophisticated villagers has alienated wide segments of urban Sunnis, who have little in common socially with their co-religionists…Sunnis and, more specifically, Sunni Arabs, continue to make up the majority of the regular army’s rank-and-file membership…Estimates indicate that Sunnis account for between 60 and 65 percent of the regular army…Sunnis continue to be well represented in Syria’s security institutions in various capacities, including leadership and other specialized roles…Sunnis, for example, are well represented in NDF units based in Aleppo and elsewhere…has also bolstered the NDF’s ranks with loyal Sunni Arab tribesmen who act as crucial proxies for the regime to different degrees in provinces as diverse as Al-Raqqah, Al-Hassakah, Dara’a, and Deir al-Zour“

And now, let´s take a look at the government itself:

The Vice President, the Prime minister, the Foreign minister, the Defense minister, the Interior minister, the heads of the security services and many more influential and first level functionaries are Sunnis. Even the wives of Bashar al Assad and his brother are Sunni women:



Exposing Human Rights Watchs (HRW) pretension of impartiality

There is valid reason to reject the notion of HRWs impartiality.

Take for instance HRWs repeated allegations against the Syrian government. While it is wrong to ignore human rights violations of ANY war party the real question is why HRW chooses to attack and denounce the Syrian army in a time when the latter is fighting the „Islamic State“ and Al Qaeda (like Syrias Al Nusra Front).
Also, If HRW seriously claims to be concerned regarding Syrian lives it should encourage ANY peace talks that would help ending bloodshed. Instead HRW one-sidedly emphasized on the barrel bombs used by the Syrian army even using a picture of Kobanes destruction by the US airforce to highlight the devastation of rebel-held Aleppo by the Syrian airforce:

In general, HRW trivializes too much:
The Syrian army is – despite being portrayed otherwise by the international mainstream media – not the only party causing civilian deaths. According to the famous Aleppo blogger Edward Dark who criticizes both the government and the opposition the rebels shelling of Aleppo alone has killed in excess of 2800 civilians:
The blogger even said in the end of February (2015) that „the rebels have killed more civilians than the regime“ in Aleppo:

HRW was also quick (and totally wrong) in accusing the Syrian army of having used chemical weapons in the infamous Eastern Ghouta (Damascus) attacks of 2013. HRW, certainly no experts in missile technology and ballistics erroneously claimed that the rockets hitting different locations around Damascus were both fired from the same Syrian army mountain top. This claim was refuted:

To understand that HRW IS indeed biased and pursuing an agenda it is good to know who HRWs „Executive Director“ Kenneth Roth is. Ken Roth is at the same time part of the leadership of the „Council on Foreign Relations“ (CFR), an American think tank that – despite using a subtle pattern – has been defending wars and offensive military action under the pretext of defending human rights, fighting terror or the much quoted „responsibility to protect“ (R2P):

While it is true that HRW occasionally criticizes the US and Israel, this is merely to keep up the appearance of neutrality as such criticism is not intended to have the slightest negative consequences for those countries in particular or any pro western Nato or EU country in general. Noone is willing or able to impose sanctions on Israel or the US, let alone wage any war or „humanitarian intervention“ against those countries. Policies such as „responsibility to protect“ (R2P) have no external expression in case of western or pro-western countries. They will for instance never be applied against Saudi Arabia, no matter how much death and damage Saudi Arabias totally unjustified offensive war against the people of Yemen will cause.


Assad, IS and the „activists“

Probably every single western mainstream media outlet, be it Radio, TV, Newspapers or Internet, has at least once used the phrase „Assad is bombing his own people“.

Interestingly, whenever the insurgents in Syria capture a town or village and the inhabitants flee towards government-held areas, immediately some „activists“ are quoted claiming that the people – who we are supposed to believe are entirely pro-rebels and against the Syrian government – do this in order to escape from the subsequent bombing by the Syrian army.
This „logic“ is difficult to comprehend because it basically implies the following:
1. Before their town´s capture the inhabitants did NOT flee towards the rebel-held „liberated“ areas
2. The people, especially the supposedly oppressed and marginalized Sunni majority choses to continue being „mistreated“ and suffering the evil of the „Assad regime“ instead of joining the rebel ranks to help „liberate“ further places in Syria
In addition the question should be raised in reverse whether those „activists“ would assume civilians fleeing toward rebel-areas are government supporters trying to avoid rebel shellings, tunnel and suicide bombs. (?)

Now, to connect the issue with IS, let´s take a look at the takeover of the Yarmouk camp by IS. It is said that from thr original 200.000 residents of the camp all but 10-20.000 have left. Further, it is said that IS controls 90% of the camp.
You can bet that if the Syrian army and allies shell and bomb the camp, our „activists“ will report of the regimes „indiscriminate“ shelling of civilians. All the while there are still pockets of resistance by „moderate“ heroic rebels who try to repel IS, of course without harming any civilians (except „Shabiha“ probably) and entirely hurting the radical IS militants, whom at least parts of the MSM are still portraying as a creation of Assad or in cahoots with him.

To summarize, we „learn“ that while…
– the Israelis act with maximum „restraint“ and exclusively target „terrorists“ and in the process „regrettably“ kill thousands of civilians
– the Saudis destruction of a neighbouring country´s entire military, industrial and civilian infrastructure is merely a tragic and unavoidable collateral damage of „defending“ against an allegedly Iranian-backed militia (which has been operating on it´s own country´s soil
…Assad and his majority Sunni army are deliberately and intentionally killing the „own people“, simply because the latter are Sunnis and demanded basic rights.
The actions of the Syrian army, we are supposed to believe, have nothing to do with militants (including IS) infiltrating neighborhoods and leading to the civilians subsequent departure.
And even if IS should take over the entire 100% of Yarmouk and only 1000 residents would remain you can be sure that „Assad“ does not bomb the camp to fight IS but to kill his „own people“.

Is „ISIS“ the Taliban of this decade?

It might be a coincident that the „Islamic State of Iraq and Syria“ (ISIS) attacked and took over Iraqs second biggest city Mosul – – just as the Pakistani Taliban attacked the airport of Karachi,

There is more than one parallel between both groups/organizations if one knows the story of the Taliban.

Back in the mid 90s, apart from a very short while when Afghan people thought that the new „students“ movement would bring peace, security and even freedom for their country, disillusion dawned upon the broad majority of Afghans of all ethnicities.
The Talibans adherence to a hitherto unknown extreme understanding of the islamic law, their total lack of familiarity with Afghan history and customs, their unlimited intolerance and hostility towards religious and ethnic minorities alienated and intimidated the population, especially outside of the so called Pushtun belt.
It can be highly recommended to read Ahmed Rashids book about the Taliban movement:

The Taliban were not interested in gaining anyone’s sympathy, nor where they seriously interested in coalitions, power sharing or any kind of compromise. While they were clearly sectarian (means anti-Shia/anti-Iran) their biggest enemy was the mainly Sunni „Northern Alliance“, led by Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. They massacred thousands of Shia civilians but also Sunni Uzbek POWs, just as they poisoned the wells and destroyed the livestock of the mostly Sunni Tajik inhabitants of the Shamali plain.
They simply did  not care about anyone.

ISIS appear to be similar. While the majority of their ruthlessly killed victims are Shias (the majority civilians) they do not hesitate to suicide bomb Sunni clan chiefs, „Sahwa“ militias and civilians.
The Taliban fielded thousands of Pakistanis and hundreds of Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks, Uighurs and others. ISIS fighters also consist of North African and Gulf Arabs, Pakistanis, Chechens and even European Salafis.
Just as the Taliban shocked the world in the 90s, ISIS does very much the same in recent years. They by far exceed the extremism of other islamist organization, among them even such that themselves are militant Salafis. As a consequence ISIS succesfully and simultaneously fights completely different forces: The predominantly Shia army of Iraq, the mostly Sunni extremist rebels in Syria, the Kurdish militias in North Eastern Syria and at times the Syrian Arab Army.

Both the Taliban and ISIS have their ideological roots and a major portion of their financial backing in Saudi Arabia and to a smaller extent in other Wahhabi dominated Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. The official line of the Saudi government is to declare and regard ISIS an enemy, but the government is at best unable and at worst unwilling to prevent „private donors“ from funding the salaries, the training, the arming and the logistics of ISIS:
It was the same with the Taliban. It were the Saudis who bankrolled their offensives by supplying hundreds of gun-mounted Datsun pickup trucks over and over again, while Pakistani Madrassas – often funded by Saudis and preaching Wahhabism – provided the man power.

While the Saudi approach might appear irrational at first sight, it is indeed very rational at least in the short and midterm run:
1. The takfiri Jihadis are identified
2. They are kept away from Saudi Arabia (and the Gulf) by being constantly involved in „Jihad“ from Libya over Syria to Iraq
3. They are inflicting heavy damage and casualties on Shias and their allies

As a side effect but definitely all but incidentally Israel and the US are (at least in secret) very happy that Syria, Hezbollah and also Iran are bleeding and getting damage.

Still, it is puzzling how a seemingly small militia without airpower and heavy weapons has been able to humiliate Iraqs at least 500.000 men strong armed forces.

Homs: The massacre that did NOT take place

Sarkozy once pressed for an intervention in Syria when „Assads army“ was pounding the rebel-held Baba Amr district. Sarkozy warned that unless the „international community“ intervenes (militarily) Assad would commit a massacre just as Gaddafi would have done in Benghazi if Nato had not attacked his forces.
Now, warning of a massacre by pointing to a massacre that never occurred is itself ridiculous, but those who have followed the utterances of the likes of Bush, Blair, Sarkozy and co. since the Iraq war (2003) at latest are used to brazen lies and bizarre comparisons.

Now, it seems that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Syrias regular army – which contrary to incorrect mainstream media reports – is predominantly Sunni (including many high ranking commanders such as the defense minister) is „making  key gains in Homs“:

Homs was given the title „Heart of the revolution“. It is Syrias 3rd largest city with a population between 600.000 and 1,2 million people, predominantly Sunni.
Taking into account these facts and assuming as a „fact“ the rebels claim that they represent the (will of the) majority of (especially Sunni) Syrians, one could (and should) expect two things to happen:
a) (almost) the whole population should rise up in support of the rebels and push back the army, if not even inflict heavy casualties on it
b) the allegedly sectarian SAA will commit against the „civilian population“ the massacre it did NOT commit in February 2012 when it retook Baba Amr

Instead rebel spokesmen are lamenting the purported participation of Hezbollah fighters on the side of the SAA as a major reason for the latters strength. Why and how should a few hundred to few thousand Hezbollah fighters matter when the rebels not only themselves are relying (increasingly) on all kind of arab and non-arab „foreign combatants“ but also supposedly enjoy the backing of Homs´Sunni majority?