25 May 2018 –
The official Arabic Facebook page of Khmeimim, Russia’s airbase on the Syrian coast, has posted a poll asking its followers about the presence of the foreign forces in Syria. The poll question is “Are you in favor of a decision to withdraw all foreign forces from Syria, including the friendly forces [i.e., the Russian, Iranian and Iran-backed forces], so as to end the hostilities in Syria, or would you prefer them to stay, even at the cost of prolonging the war? Please vote for the option you prefer and state your reasons.” The two answers provided are “withdraw the forces” or “leave them [in Syria],” and responders can explain their position by posting a comment.
The poll on the Khmeimim Facebook page
It is noteworthy that the poll question raises the possibility of withdrawing the Iranian and pro-Iranian forces from Syria, an option that has heretofore been rejected out of hand by Russian spokespersons.
The poll elicited many responses, running the gamut from full support for the presence of the foreign forces in Syria to fierce opposition. The following is a sampling of the responses:
Among those supporting the continued presence of “friendly forces” in Russia was Nihad Isma’il Abu ‘Obada, who wrote: “The presence of the friendly forces in Russia is legitimate and is at the behest of the Syrian government. Nobody has the right to demand their withdrawal, for this is a sovereign issue. The friendly forces must not be equated with the hostile ones. Whoever wishes to expel all the forces from Syrian territory, including the friendly ones, should stuff a Syrian soldier’s boot in his mouth and shut up…”
Milad E Habib of Latakia wrote: “No one can guarantee that the militiamen will stop fighting if the friendly forces leave, and [we] cannot trust the promise of the neighboring countries to keep more militiamen from entering Syria through their borders with us. [If this happens] we will be back in the situation that existed before the arrival of the [friendly] forces in Syria.”
Many responders explicitly supported the presence of Iran and its militias. User Ad Sal wrote: “Had it not been for our Iranian and Lebanese brothers, the Syrian state would not have survived. The Russian military intervention came late, [only] four years after the war broke out. The interests of the Iranians and Lebanese are identical to those of the Syrians… Their presence in the country is still vital, for things have not yet been decided… Russia should not rush the solutions.”
User Mohmmad Al-Hammady of Homs expressed support for the presence of the pro-Iranian forces while harshly criticizing the Russian presence: “I favor the continued presence of Iran and Hizbullah because they are here with the consent of the Syrian government. The [Russian] forces also arrived with the government’s consent, but you [Russians] are a hypocritical country, like America. You want the other forces to leave so only you will remain [in Syria]. Why don’t you withdraw your own forces first? [Iran’s] Revolutionary Guards [Corps] did no less than you. From the moment you arrived in Syria you took over the oil wells under the pretext of economic agreements. You are a lying country, like America, and the Syrian people are fools…”
Mohammad Al-Hammady’s comment
Conversely, user Qusay Al-Hamoud wrote: “I am in favor of the Russians staying, as long as everyone else leaves…”
Others stated that all the foreign forces should pull out, including the Russians. Ali Alkatip wrote: “The Russians have no right to give orders in Syria. All the illegal forces must leave, including the forces of our allies that came at the behest of the government, like the Russians.”