About Syria: On the questions Electronic Intifada (EI) won’t ask the Assad regime
Rania Khalek of Electronic Intifada wrote really strong questions for al-Qaeda affiliate formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, now rebranded (for PR purposes) as Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS). The questions, copied below, are fantastic and necessary, considering how the coverage of these groups, particular by the so-called Western press, has been frankly abysmal, and smacks, occasionally, of apologism.
JFS, while being a formidable opponent to the Assad regime, is a repulsive, brutal, fundamentalist organization that has committed innumerable crimes against innocent people in Syria, and should be held accountable for those crimes, and denied any role, along with the Syrian regime and others, in determining the future of Syria and the Syrians.
However, I doubt very much that Khalek, and by extension EI, would be as similarly forceful and confrontational with the Syrian regime as they have been with JFS. I say this because I have repeatedly asked Ali Abunimah, one of the founders of EI, to provide me with an example in which EI has explicitly and solely confronted the Syrian regime, as it has the anti-regime armed groups.
Albeit EI writers like Budor Hassan, Maureen Murphy, and Patrick Strickland have come close, and have written great pieces highlighting the regime’s crimes against Palestinian refugees in Syria, their pieces, however, are usually counter-balanced by mentioning the anti-regime camp's crimes. This would not have been a problem, per se, if Khalek's and others' pieces had similarly made a note of the regime's war crimes in the context of writing on JFS.
So far my requests for such an example have been ignored by Abunimah. Perhaps I appear as a troll or part of a smear campaign. I’m not. I’m being sincere here. I find charges of EI’s imbalance, like those of other publications imbalances’ with or against the regime, disheartening considering how important and fantastic EI is in combating the ludicrous narratives of Zionism.
Anyways, here are Khalek’s stellar questions, which should be read, applauded, and mimicked. Below her questions, I've created an inversion that I wonder if she, EI, or anyone else for that matter would put forward to the Syrian regime:
Khalek’s questions to Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham:
1) Which states or groups are financing your operations? Can you describe your relations with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, or other regional states?
2) There are clear reports, both from Israeli media and independent sources, including UN observers, that Israel is providing medical care to your wounded fighters. Can you discuss the scope and reasoning behind your organization’s cooperation with Israel? Does this include military coordination?
3) You have described ISIS or so-called “Islamic State” as khawarij – people who are outside Islam. What is your view of Shia?
4) What is your view of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States? In light of your leader’s continued praise of Osama bin Laden to whom this operation is attributed, was this a justified action?
5) Your group’s leader Muhammad al-Julani called for indiscriminate attacks against Alawite villages as recently as October 2015. Has JFS changed its position on indiscriminately targeting civilians?
6) What is JFS' plan for minorities in a post-war Syria? Will minorities be allowed to freely practice their religion?
7) How can minority communities trust JFS given that al-Nusra is reported to have killed, ethnically cleansed and forced conversions upon Christians, Druze and Alawites throughout the conflict?
8) What rules will women have to follow in a post-war Syria under JFS?
9) What do you think of the reaction in Washington, DC, to your split from al-Qaida? Does Jabhat Fateh al-Sham follow the opinions and reports issued about them from the think tanks there?
10) Your director of foreign media relations, Mostafa Mahamed (or Abu Sulayman al-Muhajir), reportedly founded a childcare network in Australia that is currently under investigation for funneling millions of dollars in taxpayer money to ISIS. Australian authorities have already made arrests in the case. How do you respond to those allegations? Is there any connection between Mahamed’s departure from Australia and this issue?
11) What right does an Egyptian-born Australian such as Mostafa Mahamed, or any other non-Syrian, have to determine the future of Syria?
My inversion of Khalek’s questions to the Syrian regime:
1) Which states or groups are financing your operations? Can you describe your relations, historical and contemporary, with Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, or other regional states?
2) There have been reports, in the past, both from Israeli media and independent sources, that Israel and Syria have an understanding. Can you discuss the scope and reasoning behind your regime’s understanding with Israel? Does this include military coordination?
3) You have described ISIS or so-called “Islamic State”, and other opposition armed groups as terrorists. What is your view of legitimate opposition to your regime?
4) What is your view of the US war on terror? Do you find their actions justifiable in their fight against what they consider 'terrorist groups'?
5) Your regime’s leader Bashar al-Assad called for using all types of weapons in the fight against terrorism. Has the Syrian regime changed its position on indiscriminately targeting civilians with barrel bombs and chemical weapons?
6) What is the Assad regime’s plan for Syrians in a post-war Syria? Will people be allowed to freely practice their religion, express their opinion, and will there be accountability for torture, violence, and other war crimes by the military? And will the refugees be allowed to return and be compensated?
7) How can communities trust the Syrian regime given that its military is "reported" to have killed, tortured, raped, ethnically cleansed and forced submission upon towns and villages throughout the conflict?
8) What is your stance on gender equality historically in Syria under Baathism and Assadism and what role for women in a post-war Syria?
9) What do you think of the reaction in Washington, DC, to your fight against 'terrorism'? Does the Syrian regime follow the opinions and reports issued about them from the think tanks there?
10) Your Foreign minister, Walid Mohi Edine al Muallem, reportedly has said fighting ISIS is not a top priority. How do you respond to this?
11) What right does the son of a former despot who came into power through a blatantly illegal amendment to the constitution such as Bashar Al-Assad, or any other member of the upper levels of the regime, have to determine the future of Syria?