November 18, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 6223

Debate In Arab World On Link Between Paris Attacks, France's Position In Syria Crisis

November 18, 2015
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 6223

The November 13, 2015 Paris terror attacks by the Islamic State (ISIS) sparked a debate in the Arab world over the link between the attacks and France's position in the Syria crisis. The Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad hastened to leverage the attacks in order to harshly criticize France's relations with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, known to be the main supporters of the Syrian opposition. The regime claimed that by maintaining these relations, France was in effect supporting terrorism, and thus was responsible for the attacks. Conversely, the Syrian opposition and the anti-Assad Arab media, particularly in Saudi Arabia, argued that the ongoing Western, particularly French, indifference to the crimes of the Syrian regime had contributed to the chaos in Syria, facilitating ISIS's growth and expansion. Conversely, some in this camp stated that the attacks were vengeance for France's support for the Syrian people over the last five years.

This report will review the debate.

Syrian Regime: France Abetted Terror In Syria, And Is Therefore To Blame For ISIS's Expansion, Bloodshed In Paris

The Syrian regime, and especially President Bashar Al-Assad, hastened to take advantage of the Paris attacks to bolster the legitimacy of its struggle against what it called "the terror that has been striking Syria for the past five years," and to severely criticize the West. Along with its condolences to the French people, the regime stressed that this terrorism in France was the same as the terrorism that has been fighting the Syrian regime for the past five years. Accusing the Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, of financing and supporting terrorist organizations, it argued that the West, especially France and French President François Hollande, was in fact to blame for the terror attacks in Western countries. This, because it had failed to heed the warnings of the Syrian regime that the terrorism might reach the West. Moreover, said the regime, since the West supported the Gulf countries for economic reasons, it had actually helped the Gulf countries finance and arm "terrorist organizations." The regime also urged the West, including France, to now join it and its allies in the fight against terrorism and to act against the terror financiers - that is, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Bashar Al-Assad: The Terror That Struck France Is The Same As The Terror That Has Been Striking Syria; The West, Particularly France, Is Responsible For The Spread Of Terror

One of the first official regime responses to the terror attacks in Paris came from President Assad himself, in a meeting the day following the attacks with a French delegation headed by Thierry Mariani, an opposition member in the French National Assembly. Assad said:"...The erroneous policy of the Western countries, and especially France, toward the events in our region, and their heedlessness of some of their allies' support for the terrorists, is what contributed to the spread of terror... There is need to adopt a new policy and take efficient measures to stop the logistic and diplomatic support for the terrorists, in order to eradicate terror."

Following the meeting, Assad told the media: "Already three years ago we warned about what would happen in Europe. We said, 'Do not minimize the crisis caused by the earthquake in Syria, because its repercussions will be [felt] throughout the world.' Unfortunately, senior European officials did not heed our words and even claimed that we were making threats. They also failed to learn anything from the terror attack at Charlie Hebdo at the start of the year. Their declarations that they oppose terror are meaningless... They must fight terror [in practice] and adopt the correct policy..."

Asked whether the French intelligence organs had sought to cooperate with Syria and whether his country would agree to such a request, Assad replied: "It does not matter if they requested help or not. They must simply be serious, and then we will be prepared to fight terror with them. We are prepared to fight terror with any party that is serious, but so far the French government has not been serious..." Assad emphasized: "It is impossible to speak of intelligence cooperation before there is political cooperation. It is impossible to speak of intelligence cooperation in the struggle against terror when the French government's policy serves the support for terror."

Asked what message he wanted to deliver to President Hollande, Assad said: "My message is, 'Work for your people's interest.' The first question that every French citizen asked yesterday was whether French policy over the past five years had benefited the French people in any way. The effective answer is no. Therefore, what I ask of him is to work for the French people's interest, and if he wants to achieve that he must change his policy..."[1]

Assad's meeting with the French delegation in Damascus (Image: SANA, Syria, November 14, 2015)

Syrian Information Minister 'Omran Al-Zo'abi said in a similar vein: "We in Syria and Iraq have been fighting terror for years and are experienced in the ways of contending with it. Anyone who thinks he can support terror while remaining detached from it is mistaken... The West is currently suffering from these repercussions..."[2]

At a November 16, 2015 session of the UN Security Council addressing the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Al-Ja'afari attacked the countries that refused to coordinate the anti-terrorism fight with the Syrian government. He called this "a crime against the peoples of these countries and against the Syrian people, because we in Syria are fighting against the human refuse of terrorism."

He continued: "Whenever the Syrian army kills a foreign terrorist in Syria, it is defending dozens of innocent people, who could be victims of this terrorist when he returns to his country to carry out terrorism there... Anyone attempting to distort this obvious truth is implicitly an accomplice in the ongoing deaths of innocent victims..."[3] 

Articles In Syrian Government Press: It Is Western Politicians Who Have Brought Terror Upon Their Countries

This position of Bashar Al-Assad and other officials in his regime, holding the West and France responsible for the spread of terror, were echoed in many articles in the regime dailies.

France Is Morally And Politically Responsible For The Shedding Of French And Syrian Blood

Khaled Al-Ashhab, a columnist for the government daily Al-Thawra, sharply attacked the French people and argued that they were morally and politically responsible for the bloodshed in both France and Syria, because they allow Hollande to remain in office even though only few of them support him. He wrote: "We send warm and sincere condolences to the French and to other [peoples] who have been struck by the same terror that has been striking us for years and whose flowing blood [now] mingles with our own blood. However, the French are responsible at least for the shedding of their [own] blood, if not for the shedding of our blood as well, primarily from a political and moral perspective. [They bear] moral responsibility because they deluded themselves that the blood of dozens of their [people] is more precious than the blood of hundreds of thousands of our people who were killed by the same terror... Why did the blood of dozens of their own people shock them, whereas the blood of hundreds of thousands of our people did not concern them?

"[They also bear] political responsibility, since they allowed their administration and their president Hollande to conduct negotiations and to trade in our blood and their blood. [He did this] when he passed from one Gulf ruler to the next, making an arms deal here and investing a sum of money there, although only 15% of the [French] believe that Hollande is a president who represents them. I call upon any Frenchman to give a single reason or logical justification for Hollande's blind and incomprehensible hostility towards Syria and the Syrian people, aside from the financial deals [he made] with the Gulf rulers...

"After killing the Syrians, Hollande kills the French with their [own] weapons, and after that he puts on an absurdly sad face and makes silly dramatic threats. Will his people topple him by political [means], or will they fall with him morally?"[4]

Dib 'Ali Hassan, another columnist for Al-Thawra, wrote in a similar vein: "...[The shedding] of innocent blood, no matter where it [occurs], should fill us with sympathy and sadness... [But] we remember the great quantities of Syrian blood that have been spilled with the direct or indirect support of those who sponsor the black [ISIS] terrorism [and who sit] in Paris, Washington, London, in the caves of the Sa'ud family [the Saudi royal family] and in the Tora Bora of DohaÔǪ France, which claims to be the global leader of enlightenment, is perceived, due to the policy of Hollande and his supporters, as the tail of the oil sheiks who are interested in their deals and commissions and not in the heritage of [free] thought and liberty... The truth should be declared before world public opinion. It is impossible to remain silent in the face of the Western statesmen's conduct. The time has come for [Western] thinkers and people to realize that the ones who dragged the blood-soaked terror into their [countries] are their own statesmen, who are sunk up to their neck in black moneyÔǪ We do not rejoice in the misfortune of others, but this is the moral and the message. It is time to examine reality and declare terror a global plague that is financed and nourished by a deviant concept - [a plague that is] supported by Gulf money and relies on the errant Western statesmen and on the non-implementation of UN Security Council resolutionsÔǪ"[5]

Dib 'Ali Hassan (Image:, September 19, 2012)

Al-Thawra columnist Ahmad Dhoua claimed that the Gulf leaders, the American and French presidents and the governments of Turkey and Great Britain are responsible for the terror attacks in both the Middle East and Europe, since they support the rebels against the existing regimes, and called to indict anyone who views terror as a means of attaining his political objectives. He wrote: "Those responsible for the terror attacks in Paris are the administration and government of French President Hollande. The vast [amount of] blood, bright red and free of petrodollar pollutants, that was shed in Paris and before that in Beirut, Syria, Iraq and other countries, demands to punish those supporting the terrorist organizations, instead of remaining silent and getting lost in convoluted discourse about values in an attempt to exonerate the real criminals.

"It does not suffice to begin the discussion with talk about French culture and the climate of tolerance and freedom, while forgetting the criminals who are hiding in Paris, London, the U.S., Ankara, Riyadh, Doha and elsewhere. [These criminals] worked to spread terror and extremism in the region and the world, and, succumbing to their cravings and their passion for shedding the blood of innocents, they hastened to present the terrorists, the pillars of the so-called Arab Spring, as champions of freedom and democracy. [This] allowed [the criminals] to undermine regional stability, and provided them with a fertile ground for growing the most dangerous species of extremists and terrorists.

"The first who should be placed on trial for the crimes in Paris and Beirut, and in the cities of Syria, Iraq and other countries, are those who cultivated terror in the region and supported it, headed by the kings and emirs of the Gulf, the presidents of the U.S. and France, and the Turkish and British governments. If the French nation does not demand this, then its talk about freedom and democracy will be mere words and justification for the crimes of those who support terror and profit from it...

"The struggle against terror [should] not be waged after terror attacks occur but rather before. Therefore, it is necessary to wipe out the dens of terrorist thinking in the tents of the Aal Sa'ud family and in the environment that creates these criminal entities. But many Western countries, headed by the U.S., France and Britain, are not  doing this..."[6]

Opponents Of The Syrian Regime: Western Indifference to Assad's Crimes Contributed To Terrorism's Expansion

On the other hand, opponents of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad wrote that the West's disregard of Assad's crimes against his own people and the spread of Iranian influence in Syria and Iraq in the past few years had created fertile ground for the expansion of ISIS, which had now arrived on Western soil.

The West's Feeble Policy Towards The Syrian Regime And Iran Allowed ISIS To Grow Strong

Saleh Al-Qallab, former Jordanian information minister and a columnist for the Jordanian government daily Al-Rai, wrote: "Along with the condemnation and denunciation of the despicable crimes two nights ago in the beautiful Paris, the city of science and light, there is a need to hint, and even to say [aloud], that it is the feeble positions of the West, headed by the American position, that are responsible for ISIS's transformation in Syria and Iraq into a wealthy petroleum state, and that it is the [Western] silence about the Iranians and the Assad regime that gave ISIS every opportunity to survive, thrive, and spread. There is no doubt that if the West, including France and headed by the U.S., had shown determination and assertiveness from the outset, what happened [in Paris] would not have happened...

"The truth is that all the bloody violence that threatens everyone could not have happened without these conciliatory and feeble positions and policy, [and] if [the West] had not remained silent over the Assad regime's remaining [in power] and Iran's expansion in Iraq and Syria; [and if the Americans and Europeans] had not, in effect, adopted ISIS and allowed it to become a petroleum state capable of infiltrating into any country and striking any target it wants."[7]

In a similar vein, Dr. Wael Al-Hasawi, columnist for the Kuwaiti government daily Al-Rai, wrote in an article titled "Each Action Has A Greater Reaction": "Obama declared that these acts of terror in Paris two days ago were crimes against humanity, not just against France. We agree with Obama that terrorism has no religion, and that it targets all of humanity before it attempts to harm a [particular] state or a people. But does the civilized world realize these facts when it comes to deal with these disasters of the peoples worldwide, or does it shut its eyes and ignore the wounds of the wounded, the complaints of the oppressed, and the groans of those suffering from persecution?

"We knew that the world would pay for its silence over the horrendous human rights violations and the complete annihilation of the persecuted people that has been ongoing in Syria for nearly five years, and for the civilized world's alignment with the criminal [Bashar Al-Assad] - who, along with his father [Hafez Al-Assad], brought genocide and disasters upon his people for over 40 years - in order to placate the whim of, and protect, the criminal entity Israel!...

"We knew that the creative chaos created by the Americans in Iraq, and [their] handover of the rule to Iran and to the enemies of the Iraqi people, would not go unaccounted for..."[8]

The West Should Learn From The Attacks And Deal With The Source Of Terrorism - The Assad Regime

Opponents of the Assad regime also called for the West to learn its lesson from the Paris attacks, and to tackle the source of the terrorism - that is, the Assad regime, and Iran.

Liberal Saudi journalist Khalaf Al-Harbi wrote in a column titled "The Paris Night of Bashar [Al-Assad]": "Fighting ISIS without fighting Bashar is practically mission impossible, [as well as] absurd. The best proof of this is the failure of all the world powers' military campaigns against this terrorist organization [ISIS]. This is because no matter how great, blood-soaked, and cruel this phenomenon [of terror] is, it loses three-quarters of its might when the main reason it flourished vanishes.

"If the world truly wants to eradicate this barbaric organization, it must first free the Syrians from the barbarism of Bashar and his allies, because there was no [ISIS] in Syria before the slaughter and the chemical [weapons] crimes that [Assad] carried out..."[9]

Khalaf Al-Harbi (Image: 'Okaz, November 16, 2015)

 Ayman Al-Hammad, editorial writer for the official Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, wrote in a similar vein: "We have brought the rot in Syria to this situation, after neglecting [the problem] by making no decision for five years, during which hatred flourished and the people's pain was leveraged to make ISIS's expansion possible... Last Friday night [November 13] must serve as a lesson for the West - that terrorism grows in situations of ambiguity, international disputes, and a rare [level of] schizophrenia in dealing with it on the international level."[10]

Saudi journalist Kinan Al-Ghamdi, expressed hope that the West and France would now understand that the problem was the Assad regime and Iran, and would act against them. He wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Watan: "Following the violent, painful, and saddening terror attacks in Paris... it can be expected that France's reaction, and the reaction of the entire West, to the terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq will be very harsh. I imagine that the West has now learned that it is Assad's remaining in power, with the obvious and direct support of Iran, Russia, and Hizbullah, that fuels terrorism. Therefore, I believe that Russia is convinced, or that it will be persuaded, one way or another, that support for Assad constitutes obvious and direct support for terrorism, and that he must be removed from power in Syria..."[11]

In an announcement, a group of armed opposition factions in Syria stated: "We call on the international community to seriously reexamine the way of dealing with the issue of Syria, and to turn to a deeply rooted solution that will deal with the real source of the crisis and the terrorism. [This is] because the real victim of Assad's remaining in power, and of his system of terrorism, is the entire world, not just the Syrian people." [12]

The Reason For The Attacks In France Is France's Support For The Syrian People

Among opponents of the Syrian regime were also some who praised France's support for the Syrian people against the Assad regime, and stated that this was the reason for the attacks against France, while hinting that Assad may have been involved in them.

Jaysh Al-Islam, a leading armed opposition faction in Syria, released a statement saying: "It was France's support and solidarity with the Syrian people in international organizations that caused international intelligence branches to carry out their wicked objectives by taking advantage of terrorist extremists in a desperate attempt to shake the trust between the Syrian and French peoples. The objective of this despicable crime was to pressure France into backing down from its positions, while international conferences are being held on the Syrian issue...

"We call upon the entire world to bring down Assad, and the world will be safe. This is because Assad is the source of terrorism, and if he remains, it [terrorism] too will remain."[13]


Jaysh Al-Islam's statement (, November 14, 2015)

Faisal J. 'Abbas, editor of the Al-Arabiya English-language website, in an article titled "Friday the 13th: The Price France Had To Pay For Doing What's Right!", praised France's support for the Syrian people and contrasted it with "many other influential Western democracies" that had done nothing. He wrote: "What France should also always remember is that this particular scar is a reminder that no good deed goes unpunished - and that the terrorists responsible stand against the historic, hard-fought French values of libert├®, ├®galit├® and fraternit├®!

"Not only does France seek to live by these honorable values, but unlike many other influential Western democracies, it also sought for others - who were far less privileged - to enjoy the same rights. Indeed, the French MUST be applauded for being among the few who stood side-by-side by the Syrian people in their legitimate revolution against the tyrannical regime of Bashar Al-Assad. France was always in the lead - through both actions and words - in trying to stop this regime slaughtering its own people who wanted nothing but to enjoy the same freedoms and equality as people do in Paris...

"The French also stood their ground and refused to be played by Damascus and its allies in Tehran and Moscow in their attempt to paint Assad as the only viable alternative to ISIS (whom Assad helped create by releasing a number of its leaders from his prisons in the early days of the Syrian revolution to reach this exact conclusion). Paris's position has been solid and crystal clear: it refused to have to choose between two evils and it paired its firm anti-Assad stance with joining the global coalition to degrade and destroy the military capabilities of ISIS.

"Inevitably, it also attracts the wrath of the likes of ISIS and Assad who wouldn't refrain from using any means to force Paris off the righteous course it has set itself. How else can anyone justify that, while most of the world has been busy declaring solidarity with France, it was only Assad who sought to politicize this sad moment to lecture France that the attacks were a direct result of their 'wrong' policies in the region..."[14]         




[1] SANA (Syria), November 14, 2015.

[2] SANA (Syria), November 15, 2015.

[3] SANA (Syria), November 17, 2015.

[4] Al-Thawra (Syria), November 15, 2015.

[5] Al-Thawra (Syria), November 15, 2015.

[6] Al-Thawra (Syria), November 15, 2015.

[7] Al-Rai (Jordan), November 15, 2015.

[8] Al-Rai (Kuwait), November 15, 2015.

[9] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia) November 16, 2015.

[10]  Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) November 16, 2015.

[11] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia) November 17, 2015.

[12], November 14, 2015.

[13], November 14, 2015.

[14],  November 14, 2015.

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