[Ikhras Note: Whether it’s Arab rulers, opponents of Arab regimes, so called human rights and democracy activists, members of the mythical Arab-American lobby, or talentless comedians on the margins of American pop culture, the standard by which Arabs are judged worthy of acceptance remains the same. As the US and its Arab client regimes in the Gulf attempt to hijack the 2011 Arab uprising and set their sights on Syria a clique of Syrians scattered across western capitals have found a new role for themselves in the service of US imperial machinations. In this special guest submission Ikhras friend Tammy Obeidallah takes a look at the sinister activities of Ribal Al-Assad.]
By Tammy Obeidallah*
Most House Arabs are motivated by a desire for personal wealth, fame, acceptance from the West or perhaps all three. They are despicable sell-outs who undermine the struggles against Zionist occupation and broader Western imperialism. However, there are House Arabs with even more sinister intentions than simple self-indulgence.
Enter Ribal Al-Assad, cousin of Bashar Al-Assad and son of Rifaat—notorious for his role in the regime in the early 1980’s—currently living in Mayfair, England and enjoying the support of the Saudi royal family. Ribal’s pet causes are promoting interfaith dialogue, a two-state solution for Palestine and vilifying Iran. In a May 2010 speech to London’s Rotary Club, he accused Iran of aiming to “create instability in the region by fueling conflict in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, Egypt and Afghanistan.”
Ribal founded the Organization for Democracy and Freedom in Syria (ODFS) and directs Arab News Network based in London, broadcasting via satellite from Morocco to Iran. In a 2010 interview with Robert Fisk, Al-Assad stated “My father left Syria because he didn’t want bloodshed. A ‘coup’ means dictatorship and dictatorship breeds corruption and corruption breeds terrorism. We are campaigning internationally for a new Syria.”
Such rhetoric and use of foreign media is a manifestation of a destabilization plan allegedly hatched by Saudi National Security Advisor Prince Bandar bin Sultan and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman in 2008. The plan, outlined on a Syrian pro-government website and referred to by the Zionist Entity’s Haaretz, involved the use of “media efforts funded by European countries but not America.”
Had it not been for this revelation, Ribal would be little more than a laughable caricature, much like the character in the 2005 movie Syriana: western-educated and pro-“democracy,” as if an Arab cannot be portrayed as “educated” unless he bows to imperialist ideals and western values—or rather lack thereof. Now that Hollywood has played its role in rounding out the American people’s indoctrination of what a “decent” Arab should look like, all that remains is for the U.S. government to add one more puppet to its payroll in the form of one Ribal Al-Assad. As if he’s not there already.
Sadly, this archetype has become the standard by which Arabs can be accepted: the key to landing an interview on a major news network, the veneer that earns them labels such as “progressive” or moderate,” granting automatic acceptance into the corridors of western power. These are the Mona Eltahawys, the James Zogbys, the Dean Obeidallahs, the King Abdullahs and the Ribal Al-Assads. Being “westernized” gives Arabs legitimacy, because so many have happily molded themselves into that ideal—the 21st century’s Uncle Tom, or rather, Amo Ahmed. If only Ribal was as benign.
As evidenced in numerous interviews, Ribal is vehemently defensive of his father’s previous role in the Syrian regime: so much so that it would not be surprising if he had revenge against his detractors in mind. This ominous overtone, along with denouncing Iran as the world’s instigator and advocating giving up over 85% of Palestine, does not bode well for the people of the “new Syria” Ribal—and his Western masters—envision, or the region as a whole.
*Tammy Obeidallah was born and raised in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio. She graduated from Eastern New Mexico University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She has traveled to 45 countries including Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Pakistan and lived for over a year in Amman, Jordan.