The Folly of Syria
Syria is a country spiralling out of control. With an estimated 250,000 + refugees spilling over their borders and 8,000 dead, the current paradigm is increasingly leaning towards a civil war. What started as a peaceful protest in the name of reform quickly transcended into chaos, with a divided opposition calling for a complete political and social upheaval.
The regime has cracked down on protesters. This is not a promise of retaliation, but a reality. A reality felt by political satirist and cartoonist Ali Ferzat, whose cartoons enraged the regime, targeting his hands in a brutal beating. President Bashar Assad’s regime is desperate to keep control of Syria’s major cities, by any means possible. Recent files uncovered by former government official Abdel Majid Baraka, who fled to Turkey with the files taped his back, provide an insight into the strategy of suppression and the lengths the government is going to maintain control.
The core issue is the centralisation of elite power in a country dominated by a minority, divided not only by class, but also by religion. The ruling Alawite (Shii’a) minority controls political power; however, this is not new, the regime has ruled by repression for decades. The very mention of reform, in a country that has only known authoritarianism, sparked a demand for complete political upheaval escalating into a sectarian conflict.
Dictators rule from above and thus rely on pillars of support. The opposition must destroy these pillars in order to disintegrate the regime from below. Take for example the armed forces; the regime relies on the loyalty of the military, which is predominantly Sunni but is ruled by high-ranking Shii’a officers. In order to destroy the pillars that support Assad, the opposition must unite from below. Revolutions are strongest when trade unions push social change, take Tunisia for example. Social cohesion unites the masses.
The opposition has been criticized for lacking ideology and leadership; this is very much the case. Activists are leading on the ground, segmented and lacking centralized direction. However, this is also their strength. The regime cannot crush an unaccountable movement.
External forces are already scrambling to act over the ‘Syrian issue’. Western rhetoric in the New York Times and BBC suggest that it is only a matter of time before the regime falls. However, a Security Council resolution was vetoed by Russia and China stopping the process in its tracks. Despite this, “Friends of Syria” are preparing to act outside of the EU, in order to stop a ‘humanitarian crisis’. While Saudi Arabia, a well-known ally of USA, and Iran, a well known adversary, have both pledged their support for and against Assad.
Still fresh in the minds of the ‘East’ is Libya and how quickly a ‘humanitarian’ mission can become a humanitarian disaster. The West utilized a ‘no fly zone’ as a Western ‘air-force’ or bombing zone, to put it bluntly. Citing a ‘responsibility to protect’ to oust a leader, whom was once an ally, the death toll quickly rose from around 1,500 (before West) to 30-40,000 (after), not to mention widespread chaos, destruction and instability proceeding ‘humanitarian intervention’. Such chaos and instability is, lets not forget, in the interest of the West and their ally in the Middle East Israel, who is just about the only country in the world not to comment on the situation, indicating their passive attitude towards a resolution. One only has to look to Iraq to see the ramifications of instability.
Are Russia and China straining future relations by halting the ‘peace process’? Russia has one of its biggest naval bases on the Syrian coast, and their collusion with the regime has raised many an eyebrow. It is claimed the Russian’s sent Assad the Security Council resolution, who rejected it, only exacerbating the East/West divide; although, the Syrian National Council has promised to maintain relations with the Russian’s.
The question remains whether the opposition will be able to oust Assad independently of intervention? Or is the opening of the corridors of ‘humanitarianism’ by the West simply paving the way for occupation or as our leaders would say ‘liberation’?