Syrian rebels more dangerous than Assad for minorities

The spirit of the Geneva deal demands that the Western nations prioritize their moves to serve the interests of all sections in Syria.

Free Syrian Army members370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Free Syrian Army members370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem accused certain "well-known" countries of still backing "terrorists" fighting the government and of threatening "blatant military aggression outside the mandate of the Security Council." Washington and close allies must take it seriously if they are really interested in the recent Geneva deal aimed at disarming all chemical weapons in Syria and establishing peace and stability in the country.
There is a near consensus across the international strategic community that for a long time Syria has suffered at the hands of its dictatorial Assad regime. So far the regime, backed by Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, and China,  has had an edge in its ongoing war against the Free Syrian Army and rebels such as Iraq’s al-Qaida-founded Jabhat al-Nusra Li Ahl al-Sham (“Support Front for the Syrian People”), the Syrian Islamic Front (supported by Saudi Arabia), and the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and supported by Qatar).
Now the spirit of the Geneva deal demands that the Western nations  prioritize their moves to serve the interests of all sections in Syria. They should not back, overtly or covertly, the regime’s opponents dominated by the Salafi jihadists and certain Sunni Arab states. They must insist on dismantling not only the Syrian  chemical weapons but also those allegedly possessed by the al-Qaida-affiliated groups in the country. Besides, they must prevail specifically over Saudi Arabia and Qatar to withdraw the latter’s massive support to the extremist factions in Syria. 
The consensus goes that if the West ignored what the rebels  were up to in Syria, it would lead to the collapse of the Assad  regime and its take-over - as the recent trends in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt show — by the Islamists or a regime guided by them in Damascus. Knowledgeable sources say a post-Bashar scenario might be a tyranny of the majority over its minorities. In Syria's population the Sunnis account for 60 to 70%. Islamist forces in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular are very popular amongst them. In the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’ the Brotherhood has become very active guiding the Syrian National Council and rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army and al-Qaida elements. In any post-Bashar elections some group or combination of groups supported by such radical forces might come to power. The possible emergent state is prone to be guided by Sunni theologian Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) who  preached rigid  adherence of the Koran and Sunna (practices) branding all other  schools of Islamic  jurisprudence as  influenced by Greek logic or Sufi mysticism.
The sources say that given the ideology of Wahhabism and its practice by the Islamists, such a change-over in Damascus is likely to be far worse than the current one for its minorities -- Christians (eight% of the population including Assyrians, Melkites, Orthodox, Maronites, Protestants etc), Druze (3%), Armenians, and even liberal Sunnis. Once  out of power, the heterodox Alawites who account for about 12% of the population may also be persecuted. Sunni theologian Taymiyya had long ago branded the Alawites as more dangerous than the Christians and preached jihad to eliminate them.  
The sources add that the Kurds have been in bad shape since the Arab nationalist Ba’ath party came to power in Syria in 1963. Numbering between 10 and 15% of the population, some half a million of them are called “maktoum” (people of no country). They lack citizenship and have limited access to education and health provisions. The rest are called “ajanib” (foreigners), who have ID cards but limited rights. The Ba’ath regime has also systematically depopulated Kurdish areas creating an Arab population belt in and around them. It has banned the  Kurdish language and festivals. The Syrian police keep a tab on  Qamishli( a Kurdish-majority city in the Northeast), Hassake, Amouda and the Kurdish neighborhood of Ruknuddin in Damascus.  They are likely to suffer a lot more at the hands of the Sunni Islamists in the post-Bashar Syria.   
The sources say the Brotherhood-dominated regime in Damascus may be harmful to the Shias in Lebanon too. Before Hezbollah became influential in Lebanon it was the fiefdom of the Palestinian Jihadi outfits in its south. The Palestinian militants had complete support of the Lebanese Army; they ruled then Shia-majority Southern Lebanon as they wished. Palestinians renamed South Lebanon as Fatah-land. Under Palestinian control, the Shias suffered rape, torture and murder on daily basis. Murder and torture forced more than 30,000 Shias to flee from the town of Nabatiye. Palestinians forced Shia Imams to praise them during the Friday sermons and killed those who didn’t comply. Such ordeals might revisit southern Lebanon again if there is a rule of the Brotherhood in the adjoining Syria.
Pertinently, the sources warn against falling into any trap of the Brotherhood. According to some reports, since 2006 the Brotherhood has had a lobbying presence in Washington, D.C. It has convinced the American administration that it has now  adopted ideas such as judicial independence and the rule of law. It is different from  its radical breakaway group Combat Vanguard Organization led by suspected al-Qaida member and ideologue  Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Sitt Maryam Nasar, who has been preaching “leaderless resistance”  and individual terrorism.  Building bridges with the Brotherhood could help Washington to isolate Assad, Iran's principal regional ally, first and later target the Iranian Khomeinism. The sources say that the Brotherhood’s new " liberal ideas" could be its tactical strategy to capture power first with the implicit support of the United States and other liberal democracies and later thrust their radical agenda on Syria .The author is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi.