Dajani: The George Washington of Syria

Amjad Dajani writes in a guest column for Levantine Routes

It is without a doubt that we are witnessing history repeat itself. A career military man has rebelled against an army he previously served and founded an army of ragtag revolutionaries to fight against despotism. No, this not a re-telling of George Washington’s revolutionary career against the British but a telling of Riyad al-Assad’s revolt against the Ba’athist Army in Syria.

Riyad al-Assad is a seasoned soldier who served in the Ba’athist Syrian Army since he was nineteen year old reaching the position of Colonel before his declared split in August 2011. He founded the Free Syrian Army rebellion against the Ba’athist Army in Syria which  made it clear that its only mission was to protect the Ba’athist regime against the Syrian people.

Like Washington, Riyad is recognized by his peers for his ability to hold together his army of rebels and coordinate between the operations of the militia units comprising his Free Syrian Army. He is recognized by his countrymen to be the “first in war” to protect the Syrian people against despotism and murder to which they are subjected by the Ba’athist Army.

Like Riyad, Washington was a military man before splitting from the British colonial forces. He served in the British colonial forces during the French-Indian War 1754-1762, and was senior aid to British General Edward Braddock in the Braddock expedition which sought to expel the French from Ohio.

Like Washington, Riyad was elected by his peers as Commander in-Chief on August 2011 to administer the Syrian Revolutionary War against the Ba’athist regime in Syria. Like Washington before him, he is administering this war underfunded and outgunned facing a well-trained army with a group of untrained revolutionaries defending their own people against great odds. Riyad’s soldiers are recognized as rebels against the despotism of the Ba’athist regime just as the Loyalist to the British crown called Washington’s soldiers “Rebels.”

Riyad had a series of setbacks where he almost lost Aleppo like Washington before him who lost the city of New York. Nevertheless he was able to maintain the morale of his troops and inspire them to continue fighting. Riyad succeeded in out-maneuvering the Ba’athist Army with few weapons and jolted their confidence with the assassination of three of their top military officials in Damascus on July 18, 2012: Defence Minister Dawood Rajiha, Deputy Defence Minister Assef Shawkat, and security adviser and assistant Vice President Hasan Turkmani.

It is inevitable that Riyad al-Assad will become a household name in Syria and in the surrounding Arab countries after the demise of the Ba’athist regime just as it happened before with George Washington who became the symbol for the birth of a free nation and who the Federalist made the symbol of their party.

(Amjad Dajani is a PhD candidate in Middle East Studies at Kings College, London)

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