On October 28, 2019, several days after the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in a U.S. forces raid in Syria, Syrian oppositionist Mustafa Sejari, a senior official in the Turkey-backed Mu'tasim Brigade opposition faction, published an article with the provocative title "Death to America and Long Live Al-Baghdadi, Emir of the Believers." Sejari is known to have connections to the U.S. government. In January 2018 he took part in a Syrian opposition delegation to Washington, and in September 2019 he participated in a meeting in Turkey with representatives of the U.S. State Department Moreover, his faction has received aid from the U.S.
In the first part of the article, Sejari presents the discourse that exists in the Arab world, a discourse which extols Al-Baghdadi as a hero and a role model while cursing the U.S. as a country that defends dictatorial regimes, humiliates the Arabs and is hostile to Islam. In the second part of the article Seraji clarifies that these sentiments are not his own. Rather, these are the feelings that prevail in Syria, and among many other Arabs and Muslims, towards the U.S., while he himself believes in building trust and forming good relations with this country. He writes further that the ones responsible for the Arab street's hostility towards the U.S. are actually the Arab regimes, such as the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, who for many decades have cultivated their people's hostility and mistrust towards the U.S. by presenting it as "the Great Satan," while at the same time persuading the U.S. that the Arab peoples are the source of terror.
Sejari calls on the U.S. to redress this injustice by adopting a policy of sincere reconciliation with the Arab peoples, and by helping them fight the dictatorial regimes (hinting especially at the Assad regime), for this is the only way to end terror and achieve freedom and peace.
It should be mentioned that the title of Sejari's article and the claims made in its first part caused many to misunderstand his message and present him as an anti-American and a supporter of ISIS. He retorted that these were merely attempts to incite public opinion against him, and that "terrorists never read past the title." When he later published an English translation of the article, he changed the title to clarify his intentions.
The following are excerpts from his article translated by MEMRI.
Mustafa Sejari (Source: eldorar.com)
The Anti-American Discourse Prevailing In The Arab Street Is The Result Of False Propaganda Spread By The Arab Regimes
"Hundreds of young people, if not thousands or more, now chant in unison... 'Death to America, death to Trump, [and] long live Al-Baghdadi, Leader of the Faithful.' He died a great hero, a brave man who inspired hundreds or thousands, and in the future perhaps even millions. And how can it be otherwise, if the U.S. killed him and placed [a reward of] millions on his head?...
"Yes, [we are talking of] the U.S., the spiritual mentor of the Israelis, who for decades has been supporting their crimes against the Palestinians; the Americans, who purport to be democratic but are [actually] the greatest supporters of the dictatorial regimes; the U.S. that is occupying Iraq and stealing its resources; the U.S. that strives to humiliate the Arabs and Muslims for the benefit of the Iranians and Israelis; the U.S. that is hostile to Islam and the Muslims; the U.S. that is fighting for the sake of the jihad and the jihad fighters...
"What are most of the Syrians in Syria saying today? 'The U.S. takes part in killing us. It talks about red lines [but in practice] does nothing for us. It talks about fighting terror, but [Syria's ambassador to the UN], Bashar Al-Jaafari, is there thanks to the U.S., and Bashar Al-Assad [remains] in his seat thanks to an [American] decision... And what about the current U.S. withdrawal [from Syria]? Has Trump not handed those areas to Assad and Iran?
"That is part of the discourse on the streets. Some ask, how many civilians did Al-Baghadadi murder, and how many has Bashar Al-Assad murdered? Which one of them used chemical weapons, fissile materials and cluster bombs, and never stopped using barrel [bombs]? What has Al-Baghdadi done that Assad and the [Kurdish] separatists have not done? Al-Baghdadi murdered and they murdered, Al-Baghdadi burned and they burned, Al-Baghdadi expelled [Syrians from their homes] and so did they, Al-Baghdadi slaughtered people and so did they... The [only] difference is that [Al-Baghdadi] did this in front of cameras, while Assad and the separataists did it behind the cameras. Why then this American double standard?... And after all this, does anyone expect our people and the peoples of the region to say, 'thank you, Trump, thank you, America'?
"My article is not at all directed at the Syrian, Arab or Muslim public. Some people [probably] think that [the statements] in its first part are reasonable and accepted by all, and are [merely] an explicit recognition of America's dark side. [But] how [could I say such things], as one who preaches establishing excellent relations with the U.S. and trusting the Americans? Some people will surely regard [the second part of the article] as 'recruited' and as a reversal of the [real] facts, as a fabrication and an attempt at deception. I understand that my role in serving my people is a very difficult one... but I also understand that 'knowledge is security', so this is my message to my friends, the Americans...
"Before the Syrian revolution, we derived all our knowledge about the U.S. from the sources available to us, which were limited to what the regime of Assad Sr. provided us. [Our sources of information were] elementary school, high school and university; circles [close to the political] parties; television and the press; plays, series and programs; rumors and what people close to the regime told us. [Hafez Al-Assad's] son [Bashar] continued in his footsteps, so [we still] had no other sources, and all [these sources] pointed in the same direction: the U.S. is the 'Great Satan.' Yes, that is how we lived and were raised, and that was the [image of] the U.S. for many of us...
"[At the same time], the Arab regimes and other elements with [various] interests presented the peoples of the region to the Americans as wild beasts of prey, ravenous dogs and extremist gangs. Islam [was presented to them] as the source of terror, and the Muslims as the greatest threat to the world... The Arab regimes [presented themselves to the U.S.] as the only force that could curb the ambitions of the Islamists and the terror organizations..."
"America is Not The Great Satan And We Are Not The Source Of Terror In The World"
"[But] the fact is that the U.S. is not the Great Satan and we are not the source of terror in the world. America fulfils its natural role as the leader of the world, and we demand our natural right to live like the rest of the world...
"Our questions to our American friends are the following: What now? You have killed Al-Baghdadi, [but] have you defeated terror? Are there any guarantees that Al-Baghdadi will not be succeeded by [another] Al-Baghdadi, or by thousands of them? Not long ago you ended your war on Al-Qaeda when you said 'We have killed bin Laden.' But there were also [his successor Ayman] Al-Zawahiri, [Al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq Abu Mus'ab] Al-Zarqawi, [ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad] Al-'Adnani, [Abu Bakr] Al-Baghdadi [himself and the leader of the Tahrir Al-Sham organization, Abu Muhammad] Al-Joulani. This is a never-ending war, because its reasons and motivations have not been addressed. Military war, on its own, is not effective.
"Do not rely on a false victory. Do not be a tool in the hands of the criminal and dictatorial regional governments. This way terror will never cease and the war will never end. With this policy, you show hostility towards a great and noble nation and towards decent peoples, and display enmity towards them for no good reason. My American friends, the peoples and the youth of the region are victims of a heinous local policy [whose leaders] use the U.S. to confront their peoples, while using the young people of the nation to harm U.S. interests.
"In short, my message to you is to carry out a genuine reconciliation with the peoples of the region. All we ask is that you give yourselves and us a chance and help us attain our freedom and defend our honor... Terror will only be eradicated by eradicating the hostile, dictatorial sectarian regimes. Terror will end only when you stand with the peoples that dream of liberty, justice and democracy.
"My friends the Americans, I am one of those who were given an opportunity to get to know you. I realize that you are a good and wonderful nation, but my honorable [Syrian] people, and the [other] peoples of the region, are [also] entitled to know you, through your support for our just causes. True, you have recognized the just nature of our Syrian cause, but your policy towards us is still bad.
"Tyranny, oppression, poverty and ignorance are the main incubators of terror. Let us eradicate terror together by eradicating its motivations, causes, supporters, instigators and those who benefit from it, until the day comes when we no longer hear [calls of] 'death to America and long live Al-Baghdadi, Emir of the Faithful.' Let us work together towards the day we will [all] say: 'long live all of us, and long live peace.'"