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16 Apr, 2017 15:39

‘Terrorists try to drive a wedge between Sunni and Shia in Syria’

The latest attack on civilian convoy in Syria is a sign that terrorist groups are trying to drive a wedge between Sunni, Shia, and other religious groups in Syria, says Middle East expert Catherine Shakdam.

At least 39 people were killed as an explosion hit a convoy evacuating civilians from rebel-besieged areas in Idlib Province on Saturday, according to Syrian TV.

The bus convoy was transporting up to 5,000 people evacuated in a deal between warring parties.

RT: Early reports suggested that so-called ‘moderate rebels’ might be behind the attack. Do you think that is plausible?

Catherine Shakdam: Bearing in mind that those two villages in question, Fua and Kefraya, are in majority Shia, it is a clear sign again that… ISIS militants and other terrorist groups are actually trying again to drive the sectarian narrative and to push to have this wedge in between Sunni and Shia and other religious minorities in Syria. Of course, it is not working on the part of Damascus. Damascus is very aware of what is being played out. But it does not take away from the fact the people are being massacred and murdered in cold blood just because they belong to faith that Wahhabi militants frown upon.  And this has driven this war in Syria from the beginning. We have to realize – if there is no sectarian conflict as such, Daesh militants and their allies are actually driving a religious genocide across Syria and other countries in the Middle East because they are trying to have a grand cleanse. And until we wake up to this reality, I don’t think we would be able to label this conflict correctly and understand the threat of terror. It is not just between Muslims, it is against any religious denomination that stands against Wahhabism. And what happened is just another example of the cold-blooded machine that stands behind this ideology.

The indication here is much larger than who is behind the attack, whether it is this faction or the other faction. It is actually the fact that if deals with the rebels are reached, it seems that they are unable to keep up their end of the agreement, they are unable to deliver on such a simple task of actually evacuating civilians from Foua and Kefraya, though they have pledged to do so, though they have said that they have benefited greatly from this deal, according to rebel sources. – journalist and political commentator Alaa Ibrahim

RT: Let’s turn to the alleged chemical attack in Idlib. Some media outlets are running the story of a former Syrian general who claims Damascus is hiding chemical weapons. But he escaped Syria before the UN documented the complete destruction of such weapons. Can his account be trusted?

CS: I don’t think so. Whenever we have to discuss this alleged chemical attack, the sources, the witnesses, and the testimonies have been very dodgy at best, I would say… I would like to think that we take it with a big grain of salt and we don’t actually… trust him at all. Why would we trust a dangerous radical? Why would we listen to those people on the ground that we are supposed to be trying to eradicate, destroy, and make completely disappear from Syria? It is absolutely ridiculous. The way that in Western capitals and the UN is reaching here, trying to pin this alleged chemical attack on Damascus, alleging that they have proof and they don’t have any, not really, not substantial evidence. They don’t really have a motive. And last time I checked, the rule of law and due process still matter. They are flying in the face of logic, rationality, and reason, and all they are trying to do is thrashing about to try to make a case for war that doesn’t even hold the road. And it is ridiculous. There is no reason why Damascus would ever use chemical agents against civilian because it makes no sense, especially not now.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.