The Syrian American Council, America’s largest and oldest grassroots Syrian American organization, attended President Obama’s Summit on Countering Violent Extremism from February 18th to 20th at the White House. The summit aimed to highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence and was attended by a large number of local officials and world leaders.
“We were honored by the invitation of the Obama Administration to this important summit,” said Mirna Barq, the President of the Syrian American Council. “The Syrian American community is deeply concerned by the growing reach of terrorist organizations in Syria, which pose a grave threat both to Syrians and to Americans. As we have noted for years, the Assad regime’s ongoing brutal campaign against its own population creates the conditions for terrorist groups like ISIS to prosper.”
SAC believes that this summit advanced an important dialogue on cooperation between the U.S., the democratic Syrian opposition, and the Syrian American community to combat this menace. As Bassam Barabandi, political adviser to SAC, elaborated: “We made clear to the Administration that the Assad regime, a state-sponsor of terrorism, could not be a partner in countering violent extremism.”
Secretary of State John Kerry noted in February 2014 that the Assad regime has only served as a magnet for terrorist organizations throughout the world to grow in Syria. A recent analysis by the respected intelligence firm IHS Jane’s concludes that the Assad regime has been “ignoring ISIS” by only targeting the group in 6% of its 2014 operations. Most regime attacks, like most ISIS attacks, were directed at bastions of more moderate Syrian rebels.
The Islamic State continues its draconian oppression of hundreds of thousands of Syrians living under its rule. In January 2014, seven months before American air strikes were launched against ISIS, Syrian civilians in opposition areas launched a protest movement and armed rebellion against ISIS in northern Syria. Since then, more than 7000 Syrian rebels have perished in the fight against ISIS. The largest massacre in Syria committed by ISIS to date remains its brutal slaughter of 700 members of the anti-Assad Al-Sha’itat tribe in August 2014, after a failed attempt by the Sha’itat to evict ISIS from territory near the Iraq-Syria border.