The Dynamics of the Syrian Tragedy

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

I.    Prelude

Berkeley–February 21st—Your author has been trying to obtain a grasp upon the Syrian revolt almost since it began two years ago.  It seems to have been part of the Arab “Spring” but, unlike the successful struggles in North Africa, it has proved to be much more geo-politically complex.   For one thing, the base of the Russian Mediterranean fleet is on the Syrian littoral.  The Assad family is of the Alawi Shia persuasion of Islam, and the regime, as the (former) fellow Ba’athist regime in Iraq, Syria is ruled by a minority sectarian regime although “progressive” and secular in ideology.  Being a minority government is the reason it has the support of all the subgroups within Syria itself and the region (e.g. Hezbollah, Iran, miscellaneous Christian groups within and without Syria itself etc.) that are afraid of a stringent Islamist, or worse yet, an Al Qaeda victory.  So, the regime collectively has considerable support to continue from the collective alliances of these domestic and area-wide alliances of connivance.

At the same time, Israel is afraid the Assad ability to attack with a chemical arsenal, and they have intervened with a surgical airstrike whose exact true purpose has been a mystery.  This with the nearby presence of several nuclear powers has brought Syria in as a “wild card” into a very dangerous scenario.  Also, a General in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard supposedly involved in Damascus’ reconstruction has died.  Although to Western media, it is, also, mysterious, but a well-placed Shia collegial source within the region itself has reported to your scribe that the General was assassinated by elements of the Syrian Free Army.  

The United States is caught between “a rock and a hard place,” for, as a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) leader, it has an offensive and defensive Treaty with Turkey and the Syrian civil war has spilled over into Turkish territory with Ankara’s exchanging fire with its Arab neighbor’s military and, also, with Assad’s Presidency’s sworn enemy, the Syrian Free Army.   This could throw the West into the conflicts if Istanbul’s hinterlands cannot deal with the threat to their east on their own.

One of the reasons this human-wrench conundrum has continued to exist is that the Russians support the Assad Administration for geo-strategic motivations and their historical alliance.  Yet NATO, lead by Washington, sees that any intervention by themselves may only leave a worse situation than benefits to their interests. 

Even so, most recently, the Obama government forced by the warlike American right in the District of Columbia, has recently announced aid to selective opposition groups in Syria.  In short, it is a “can of worms” for the U.S., and does not offer the less complicated options that Libya had.  Although the District desired the demise of Khadafy’s Libya, Iran and Syria are a much tougher proposition from the perspective of the Potomac. 

II. Bassam Haddad

With that background, the expert on the recent Arab uprisings, Bassam Haddad, came to the Berkeley campus here of the University of California to talk about the enigma of the human disaster that is Syria today after the two years that has already passed since the outburst of the unrest. 

The Syrian regime had been and still is an anti-Imperialist one and it seemed unlikely to collapse.  (Although, when one considers, so were Egypt and Libya, but both had failed to evolve from the Nationalist era into the twenty-first century.)  That is, one would not have foreseen a mass upraising in Aleppo, but that is actually what we are seeing at this moment.

The Western perception of an “End Game” is a misreading of the conflict.  The struggle is not about the nation of Syria alone, but encompasses several antagonisms – especially between the Shia with externally Iran and Hezbollah on one side and the Sunni with Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the other plus another unpredictable variant the “Secular but Islamist” Turkey which is becoming the zonal hegemon of the eastern Mediterranean. 

The Imperialistic powers there are concerned about the Sunni Islamization of the rebellion.  Succinctly, there are many actors who find themselves as stakeholders in the outcome.

Haddad emphasized that the Assad regime is just not going to seek for a political solution.  It is not reasonable to expect a democratic outcome from the struggle like in the Arab West.  This “Regime won’t go away,” on its own, but it will go away in time! 

This régime is still coherent, because of a well-founded minority-based fear of their fate from a radical strain of Islamism.  These sub-sectarian — and often sub-nationalities in and of themselves — who currently make-up a considerable demographic of the country, see absolute majority rule without protections for them as a frightening prospect. 

(Recently, the Western press has reported revenge killing against apolitical individuals within the Syrian Free Army’s liberated sections.)

There is a rational trepidation –like their fellow (former) Ba’athist (an Arab-type of socialism’s) establishment in neighboring Iraq at its demise under the American and allied invasion in 2003, and with it a breakdown of civil society by foreign mercenary Jihadis and their ideologies.  There is, also, a dread of a breakup like the later Arab ally to radical Sunni groups, who would threaten the Awaite institutional structures of Syria’s ancient social realm, which in turn has imposed a protective cloud to the region’s divisions. 

This is where the Syrian Admin finds its support both domestically and regionally, and why the government’s army has remained loyal, for they are fighting for, in their minds, their own and their families’ survival.  If the Alwaite’s lose their game, the majority will be free to commit its bloodbath.

The nation’s smaller groupings will be endangered.  Not only that, Syria plays the unpredictable element in any conflict between Israel and Iran, and explains why Iran has allied itself to Assad’s regimen.  Therefore a coup from within is highly unlikely although “The State is in [a stasis of] paralysis.”   

Professor Haddad believes the nation may devolve its stance to the rebel’s strategy to their militia-based stratagems, too. 

Where the Syrian Free forces have solidified their capture of territory, they been unable to replace services and security.  The most radical of Sunni Islamists and Al’Quaeda (mainly of from Iraq) have been growing ever stronger in the Battle for Damascus. 

Although the opposition has demonstrated strength the reigning elites have shown resilience.

Depending on the news of the forthcoming week, your reporter hopes to get back to this burning issue — not only for the Imperial Homelands themselves, but for the future direction of Islam within Dar al-Islam itself. 

(U.S.’) President Obama’s trip to our Mutual Holy land, which the new American Secretary of State is preparing for now, or any other pressing news may delay the conclusion to this extended article, but it will be concluded in a timely manner.


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