The letter from the Speaker of the Syrian parliament, Mohamed Jihad al-Laham, asserts that the “moderate” Syrian opposition which the US has promised to aid and train is identical to the jihadi groups supporting Isis or Isil. What was called the “moderate opposition”, Mr Assad’s parliamentary Speaker writes, “sold to Isil the innocent, beheaded US journalist. There is nothing to prevent those groups from selling US weapons to Isil as … is their proven common practice.” Arming “non-state Islamic jihadi individuals”, the letter goes on, “is a clear violation of [UN] Security Council Resolution 2170 … that any co-operation to combat terrorism should be among the member states”.
Re-emphasising the inherent violent and intolerant nature of the Saudi regime, the Syrian letter says all “terrorists” are the product of “this Salafi, Wahhabi (Deobandi), jihadi ideology – from 9/11, to [the] Boston bombing, to the beheading of the two American journalists – beheading, which is a governmental legal practice in Saudi Arabia”. Mr Obama should not form any coalition outside UN Resolution 2170, “especially with states that have a conflict of interest due to their practised ideology.”
The letter may have been influenced by Khaled Mahjoub, a US citizen and Syrian businessman who is also a personal confidant of Bashar al-Assad, for it repeats Mr Mahjoub’s oft-quoted observation that only re-education of “terrorists’” families and communities through “loving Sufism” can rehabilitate those who use violence. Sufism, with its mystical poetry and its desire to find divine love, is regarded by many Syrians as the very opposite of “jihadism”; Sufi missionaries spread Islam into Africa and central Asia as well as India.
All of which is a far cry from the titanic civil war in Syria where “moderate” schools of Sufism take third place to military hardware and the Russian-Iranian alliance in the regime’s battle against Isis. In truth, Western intelligence agents have for many months now been in contact with their Syrian opposite numbers to secure the kind of collaboration in secret which the regime is now offering in public – though without, it has to be said, much success.