The Syrian government and its Russian-Iranian allies have turned the tide on the rebels that rose up as part of the Arab Spring in 2011. The rebels have not helped themselves by being consumed by infighting. Western powers and their surrogate states like Turkey, Saudi and Iran have facilitated the demise of the popular revolution against Assad as they consider him to be a better option than a potential popular Islamic alternative.
No doubt the rebels have tried hard and the civilian population has suffered immeasurable pain. Hundreds of thousands have died and millions have been injured. Millions have been displaced, finding themselves as refugees either in their own land or across the world. Women and children have been horrifically abused and endured traumas such as rape, torture, trafficking and exploitation.
There has not emerged from this revolution a consistent message or unified front that could face off against the tyrant. Whilst initially there were dramatic gains against the dictator these have been reversed as the global colonial powers settled upon providing him with either direct or indirect backing. Russia, Iran and groups like Hezbollah are the most visible and direct support to Assad but not the only ones. America and its allies like Turkey and Saudi have played key roles in arming and funding some of the rebel factions, which has led to these groups becoming dependent upon their patrons for supplies. This has compromised their ability to autonomously follow their own political and military objectives and has thus seen the revolution hijacked by foreign powers.
Slowly all the gains made by the rebels over the past few years are being reversed due to a combination of direct assaults by Assad and distractions such as the Turkish operations against Kurds in Operation Euphrates Shield during the fall of Aleppo and Operation Olive Branch whilst the assault on Eastern Ghouta has recently been taking place. This should be a sobering reminder to those who wish to see the end of colonial exploitation of Muslim lands and the reign of tyrants that armed action by civilians against a state and its foreign allies is not the way to bring change.
The existence of multiple groups, all with arms and with varying objectives, may have brought some initial setbacks to the incumbent regime but due to issues related to logistics such as availability of supplies, operational planning and political disunity the regime has managed to mount a comeback. Whilst some may point to the decimation of Assad’s Alawite forces and reliance upon foreign players, this is irrelevant when considering that all these players are united against the goals of the opposition to rid Syria of its current regime and political status domestically as well as internationally.
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The most important lesson to learn from the Syria debacle is that the rebels failed to establish a consensus on the political aims of the revolution. Their lack of clear ideological and political aims made them easy prey for foreign powers who were looking to exploit and subvert the revolution.
Bashar al-Assad may have the upper hand, but he still has to regain the whole nation, despite his armed forces being decimated. He will need significant external support for this, from foreign powers who are not as invested as he is in Syria.
Ultimately we must remember that victory is from Allah (swt) and only when He (swt) decides will the situation change. Until then we must do our best to follow the Prophetic method which clearly remains the gold standard process for change despite the passing of almost one and a half thousand years. The victory of the tyrant in Damascus and his brutal allies should not be a cause of losing hope in the promise of Allah (swt), for this is a certain promise.
أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَن تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِكُم مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِن قَبْلِكُم ۖ مَّسَّتْهُمُ الْبَأْسَاءُ وَالضَّرَّاءُ وَزُلْزِلُوا حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَ الرَّسُولُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ مَتَىٰ نَصْرُ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ
“Or do you think that you shall enter the gardens of Bliss (al-Jannah) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and they were shaken, that even the messenger and those who believed with him cried, When will come the help of Allah! And verily, the help of Allah is near!” [Al-Baqarah: 214]