The complexity of Syria
The Syrian Civil war is still continuing. Its nation is bearing the brunt of its ramification. Its human loss has become unimaginable, so far it is estimated to have claimed more than 60,000 lives, leaving aside the tens of thousands of internally and externally displaced people as well as its devastating impact on the Syrian infrastructure.
The question remains why Assad clings to power amid all this human loss and destruction? The Syrian neighboring Arab countries and Turkey albeit they advocate for Assad’s departure what impedes them not to achieve that? Is there really no anything the West can do to hasten Assad’s fall? Why this much lenience to take action to stop the carnage of Syrians? What makes Russia and China adamant to block the Security Council’s resolution which asks for action against Assad?
One needs to consider all these questions to figure out the Syrian crisis. The very nature of the land plays a pivotal role in it. To begin with, Bashar Assad, who inherited power from his father Hafiz Assad, knows applying any kind of force to retain power is justified as it is part of the inheritance. His father had murdered tens of thousands of Sunni Arabs in Homs in the early 80s for dissenting his rule. The Assads may suffer from paranoid. What contributes to their problem has something to do with how the Syrian state stands. Originally, the Assads are Alwite Islam an off shot of a Shea sect. They are minorities. The majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims. The French colonialists had played a large part for the deep rift between the two sects. Before their arrival, the alwites in Syria were utterly suppressed by the Sunnis. The French colonialists incited the Alwites to rise against the Sunnis. Educationally, Alwites were backward. Economically, too they shared the smallest portion of the pie in the country’s resources. Politically, they had a very little part. Hafiz Assad is said to be among the few lucky alwites to join the Syrian air force. To curb resistance from the local people as colonialists always did the French deepened the rift between the Alwites and the Sunnis. Whenever this happened, as bad luck would have it, it was the majority who became the underdog, Syrian Sunnis were no exception. Naturally, Hafiz was astute so it didn’t take him long to climb the higher echelon of the political ladder. Once he assumed the presidency, he left no stone unturned not to lose it. A case in point is his siding with Iran during Iraq-Iran war only because he alleged that the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussen was arming his opponents. His action had angered his fellow Arabs. His relationship with the West for most of his rule was rough, but at times cordial. We shall see that when we discuss the West. Russia was his alley. It was where he turned to when the West chastise him. Bashar Assad grew up assimilating his dad’s malevolence tactics-the means justifies the end.
The overwhelming parts of Syria’s neibhouring Arab countries are Sunni Muslims. It has been in their dream for long to unseat the Assads. Partly, for the obvious reason that their faith is a Shea sect. But more importantly, because of the Assad’s close ties with Iran. Iran is regarded by these Sunni Arabs as a foe. Yet, both the father and the son turned out to be its stalwart alley in the region. Furthermore, the Assads are denounced by their fellow Arabs for abetting the militant Hizbola another Shea sect operating in Lebanon. Therefore, no wonder when the Syrian violence started in 2011, it took them no time to fan the fan. I don’t think there is any failure on their side in the attempt to topple Assad trying all they can in their power. Turkey’s stand in the matter is one of ambivalent. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan first tried to broker a peace deal in the crisis. But once he started to call for Assad’s departure, he seemed to play a leading role apparently wishing his personal prestige and to show the World his country’s decisiveness at the world stage. Yet internally he didn’t get much support as a lot of Turkish citizens prefer to be on the sideline in this crisis.
The West always prioritizes its own interest. As I said earlier its relationship with the Assads at times was cordial. Why because it doesn’t seek to see a united strong Sunni state in that region. Perhaps that kind of state is regarded as a threat to its interest. There is also a mistrust of the Syrian rebels. Its concern is virtually logical. Who are these rebels? Primarily, it fears that some of them are al-quida affiliated. As feared, should these rebels take control of Syria, it will be catastrophic not only to Syrians but also to the region and the World at large. Another fear is the responsibility of the rebels. How responsible are they? Some of them hold grudge to retaliate those they think support Assad. Especially, the Alwites are subject to persecution. Whether they were benefited or not their being Alwite is enough. Even while the war is ongoing we are hearing rebels killing Alwites. WE may say these are militias known as Shabias, but the killing didn’t discriminate. In an attempt to get support Assad has created animosity between other minorities and the Sunni. So they won’t escape punishment. There is also fear of Ethnic tension. Especially, the Kurds may be brutalized as they are always suspected as secessionists.
The Russians are trying to take advantage of the Syrian crisis to show their supremacy at the World stage. That is why they kept blocking the Security Council’s decision. The Chinese care only for their business. As long as they reap the resource of a country, whether the citizens of that country are repressed or not, that won’t be their headache at all.
Although Israel and Iran don’t intervene noticeably in the Syrian crisis, they follow events very closely. The Irony is these two bitter foes prefer Assad. For Israel it is a question of the two evils choosing the lesser evil. True, whether Shea or Sunni, the Arabs are its enemy. Yet almost all of its Arab neighbors are Sunnis so it has always been in its interest to support the Assads at least secretly, if not openly to mitigate Sunni dominance in the region. Another reason for Israel to skew to Assad is its fear of a strong united Syria as it jeopardizes its security by raising the issue of the Golan Heights which Israel occupied by force from Syria in the 1967 Arab -Israel war.
Iran’s support of Assad is a public secret. All the Arabs are its enemy except Assad’s Syria. For it Assad’s departure implies losing the only alley it has in the region. What thwarts Iran from meddling publicly, I think is lack of power. But they are suspected of providing weapon for Assad’s Military.
All told, Assad’s departure may be imminent, yet Syria’s crisis won’t be wrapped up with his exit. Apparently it means turning a page in the crisis. But, the hardship Syrians come across may go on for a long time to come.