III. The Syrian Uprising Continues

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

sealcookWe come to the second installment of an extended report on the Syrian Arab Republic which was begun last week.

Since then, the new (American) Secretary of State (John Kerry) has committed the United States to granting “non-lethal” aid to the Free Syrian Army at a conference in Rome (Italy).  Most concisely, the refugee crisis that this conflict has created has upset the demographic makeup of the larger Middle Eastern territories as well as being the all-too obvious wrenching human tragedy that it is.

It must be kept in mind that governmental strength comes from the collective but disparate (and often, unfortunately, on the well-founded) fear of the minorities to the more radical Sunni segments of the opposition.

The most delicate geo-political matter that must be addressed is its affect upon the Israeli-Iranian nuclear crisis.  In many ways, it is the status quo of Syria that is discouraging this disagreement from becoming “viral.” 

At the same the same time, there has been an influx of foreign mercenaries – largely of the Salafi persuasion.  To the right of them, the leadership of Al’Quaeda has encouraged their regional franchises to enter the fray against the regime now in Damascus, and the ulema who favor the Qaeda movement have declared fatwas to support interference.

This has made difficulties for the (Western) Metropoles in that they are (supposedly) fighting Al’Quaeda in their Global War against Terror (the GWOT), and they do not wish to support those similar forces within the Syrian opposition.  It is easy to perceive why the bourgeois democratic forces are so frustrated with mere “non-lethal” aid and not weapons, but NATO, especially, is worried that the struggle will get out of their ability to contain it, and, therefore, has many marked differences with the other Arab revolts of the past two years.

IV. The Report

Back to the presentation of Professor Bassam Haddam, who pointed out that the opposition is still weak in comparison to the strength of the government.  Yet, the “common” citizen is perplexed and exasperated by the complexity of their deadly positioning.  Many caught up in the mêlée have been marginalize; and, thereby, radicalized while there has been a shift to the right within the Syrian Free Army itself with the advent of foreign fighters.

With this comes the above mentioned chilling specter of sectarianism.  This fear of sectarianism has been manipulated by the Assad family across various different religious and ethnic perspectives to hold their grasp upon the nation and other nations.  This fear has fallen much to the government’s favor, and explains why the ruling Baathist Party has been able to remain in supremacy after so much bloodshed and the opposition’s onslaught.

The “Battle for Damascus” has given concern to not only the Metropoles (the Imperial [worldwide] powers — but within Arab capitals as well…especially to Doha and Riyadh — because of the assertion of “radical”

Islam (along with Tel Aviv’ trepidation over Syria’s WMD [Weapons of Mass Destruction]). Thus, Israel the U.S. and the Gulf States’ interests intertwine over the Syrian Civil War.  Further, a member of NATO, Turkey’s apprehension is over the possibility of prolonged combat, (and any setback to the ethnic disparate that Kemel Ataturk glued and balanced on the Anatolian plateau to create the modern Turkish State out of the collapse of the Ottomans.)  Russia is committed to President Assad, but at the moment it appears to be a “mere” rhetorical commitment (since they, too, are looking for options on how maintain a Mediterranean presence without a sympathetic Syria to Moscow.)   

Bassam Haddad’s description of the civil conflict as a great tragedy is truly an understatement.  After two years as a degenerating Regimen, the Center’s rule is presently now finding a new vigor as the Baathist State engenders more antagonism internationally.

Haddad asks whether the Alwite–dominated Administration will or even can fight to the “death.”  The good Doctor states that there is still a chance to avert more bloodshed.  Although as the blood-letting increases, the chance for a peaceful resolution with the minimum of revenge decreases.

Despite the fact that much of what Bassam Haddad mused upon was how Damascus’ ascendancy was being maintained by the authority of the ancien regime, he clearly stated his prejudice in favor of the opposition.  Although, simultaneously, he deems that most of the predominant human rights consortiums should be more perceptive to actual occurrences happening within the Syrian boundaries in the societal, political and cultural context.  Internally, the Alwite minority community and, secondarily, the Christian communities will suffer a bloody persecution (if the current administration falls too quickly without international supervision).  Externally, Hezbollah’s constituency in neighboring Lebanon will undergo consequences to its sphere’s influence over any loss of its most immediate ally and patron in Syria.

“Most of the major [international] powers don’t care about Syria [itself], but how [the outcome]…will impact them.”

Haddad states that all the players to this clash are preparing for the inevitable demise of Baathist Syria.  According to him, it will happen, it cannot be stopped — when and for and for how long this system can endure is the question, but its departure is inevitable.  Yet, whatever, Syria is currently being observed by the rest of the Arab revolutions (“Spring”).

V. Analysis and Conclusion

The outcome of this revolt in the Levant will have great reflection in the successful revolutions in the North African Maghreb and Egypt. 

Just last week, there was an item on the BBC about the murder of an apparently prominent apolitical Alwite man by the rebels.  This only fuels the fears of all sectarian and ethnic minorities within the ancient Syrian territories.  These minorities as a collective are a considerable loyal force to the Assad family, and their Army has the superior weaponry – including heinous chemical capabilities.  The United States and the rest of NATO will only intervene as a last resort.  Keep in mind also, although President Bashar Assad has never been a friend of the West, he does not command the natural resources that Khadafy’s Libya did; thus, strategically, are less germane than Libya. 

Unless the Turks are attacked or feel they must intervene, and cannot handle it, which is very unlikely, since they hold hegemony, again, over much of the eastern portion of Istanbul’s (former Ottoman) Empire.  If anything, Ankara could, also, end up proceeding against the more radical elements of the Free Syrian Army, for they hold a great deal of threat to the principles of the Turkish Constitution – which, incidentally, is one of the main influences upon the current Syrian Constitution.

North America – along with the European Union — approaches the situation gingerly, for the very elements they are fighting in the GWOT are starting to take over the opposition to Damascus.  At this moment in history, arming the revolutionaries seems counter-productive to the foreign policy objectives to the Imperial Homelands.  It is safe to say, that there will probably not be an intervention in Syria by the West as long as the Obama Presidency rules Washington.

Further, the modern (Post-Soviet) heir to the Russian Empire has a strong naval presence on the shores of Syria itself, and any Western interference could trigger a great power stand-off, and, at its worst, could even reignite the Cold War.

Any direct entry of Israel into the fray would produce a swift reaction by Iran and Hezbollah.  Of course, any occurrence of any one of these possibilities will produce unpredictable scenarios.  Tersely, the Arab world is going through a dangerous period over the Syrian crisis.

In an article your writer published on these “pages” last year of an interchange with Daniel Kurtzer, who had served as a U.S. Ambassador to both Israel and Egypt (at different tenures), replied to a question – which was not pertinent to that article at the time; and, thus not published — that he did not believe the Syrian Republic would fall.  Although Daniel Kurtzer is retired now, he is one of the District’s most learned and considered Middle Eastern diplomatic experts, and so far the Assad allies have been able to hold unto fasces of Antiochus as he predicted they would.

Your correspondent does not feel the fall of the Assad period is as foreclosed as Professor Bassam Haddad suspects, but its ongoing continuance is a human rights disaster, but, on the other hand, its fall may only be the prolongation of that very same horror.  Whatever, it seems the end of the discord will be determined by Syrians and local players.  As for us on the outside, at the moment, the best thing we can do is to offer humanitarian aid and diplomacy.


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