The confusing Syrian situation

Whilst I agree with the Syrians who want to be rid of Assad, it has always been my view that we in the West do nothing.  One reason for maintaining that point of view is that I have not been able to discern much about the people who have been leading the rebellion. However, there is a danger in maintaining that approach and I fear that we are now reaching the most dangerous point in a civil war that is getting close to 2 years old. In fact my original fears are becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Why do I say this?

First of all, the true intention of the rebels remain clouded. What I can discern is that this Syrian rebellion is yet another Sunni vs Shia situation. Let me explain it this way (and it will explain why I have little or no sympathy for the Allawite tribe or for the Christians who support Assad). Assad is a member of the Allawite tribe. This tribe follows a form of Islam that is Shia in its origins but with some variation. This is important to note the relationship to the Shia because it inevitably involves Iran.

Second, Syria has been a satellite of Iran for a very long time. Iran has been using this relationship to gain a foothold into both Lebanon and the Gaza strip. In fact Iran sponsors Hezbollah of Lebanon via the satellite state of Syria. Hezbollah sponsors Hamas. Hence we have a connection between Iran-Syria-Lebanon-Gaza strip. So long as Syria remains a satellite of Iran there is a very dangerous Middle Eastern situation.

Third, the other third party player in this affair is Russia. I did note a news report that Russia is in the process of moving troops into Syria. This is allegedly a warning to the West that Russia will take action if any Western nation continues to help the rebels.

On this third point, I want to add something that I feel to be true. Since Barry Soetoro has been the usurper POTUS the rest of the world has begun to perceive the USA as being extremely weak. As a result, this manouver by Russia is aimed at the USA more than it is aimed at say France or the UK. It is a warning to the USA to back off because Russia consideres Syria to be within its sphere of influence. I add here that Russia is also active in Iran. In other words, Russia is making a number of moves in the Middle East that is designed to bring Russia to world dominance. Assad is the tool of the Russians as well as of the Iranians.

During the Libyan Revolution for Independence I maintained a position of supporting the Libyans in their attempt to be freed from the dictatorship of Moamar Gadhafi. I have not altered my stance from that position. Unfortunately the Libyan government in its present form continues to be weak, and in my view it is showing a degree of ineptness. My fears regarding the well-being of the newly independent Libya is based upon activity in Benghazi which included the attack on the US consulate, but it also includes the attack on the Libyan police. In recent times there have been kidnappings and deaths among Libyan police stationed in Benghazi. The mistake of the Libyan government seems to be that they have failed to draw the line against the most extreme Libyans and have allowed them to be free as they continue to kill those in authority. Yet, I am not convinced that any of this is a sign of Al Qaeda being in control in Libya. Plus I continue to have faith in what the Libyans are trying to achieve. I see the difference with regard to the Libyans because they are not majority Shia or majority Sunni, but they have leanings towards Sunni since many of them belong to the Sufi sect or the Sanusi sect.

Now contrast that situation with Syria where the affiliations have not been all that clear. On top of that the people who were controlling the Libyan rebellion wanted to keep Al Qaeda out, and they did that by stating that they did not want foreign boots on the ground. Keep in mind that there were groups with affiliation with Al Qaeda who played a role in the rebellion, but there were plenty of other ordinary people who do not believe in extreme jihad, but wanted to be free of Gadhafi. Many of those people had been engineers and teachers before they were forced to take up weapons against the state.  On the other hand, the Syrian rebels have encouraged the involvement of Al Qaeda. On top of that these more extreme types have been posturing with their own statements regarding Islam and how Syria should be after Assad is toppled.

Another difference has always been the fact that Assad had been more successful in keeping the press out of Syria. This has meant that we in the West have no clear idea about those involved. It makes it easier for Assad to lie about the opposition to his regime, by calling them criminals etc.  There are other hidden dangers because it means that we are not finding out a lot about who has been assisting Assad, and we do not know the extent to which the opposition might also be committing atrocities. It is the lack of general information that I find to be so unhealthy.

At the beginning of this rebellion it was not the intention of Turkey to be involved. Despite the ideology of Erdogan, Turkey remains a moderate Islamic nation. The first of the villages to be shelled were on the Syrian/Turkish border, and thus many Syrians fled into Turkey when the Syrian Army came knocking, killing people in their path. After this initial flow of refugees from Syria there were some incidents involving aircraft including the shooting down of a Turk jet. Turkey is a member of NATO and is entitled to ask for aid against any Syrian aggression.

There is no good reason for Assad to make the absurd claim that the rebels are puppets of some other regime. It is simply not true, not even with Turkey unwillingly involved in the conflict. On the other hand, Assad continues to use Iran and Russia as a support for the suppression of the people. Thousands of people have died at the hands of the Assad regime. It is for this reason that I cannot support Assad – he has been killing his own people.

What is important is to keep some kind of historical context when it comes to conflict and civil war. Historically, there are several nations where the people have gone to war against each other. The French Revolution was one example of where the people went to war against their own. We have accepted the savagery of the French Revolution with hundreds of people losing their heads to Mme La Guillotine. Many of them were not even nobles but they were convicted by a kangaroo court on the slightest pretext allegedly for “plots”. It seems to me that human nature does not change one iota, because in these Middle Eastern countries the same thing has been happening. Moammar Gadhafi had hundreds, or probably thousands killed because they were anti his regime. What this did was to reinforce people into taking the jihad path. Saddam Hussein did something similar and yes thousands disappeared, kidnapped from their homes, taken to prison and never seen again. There are stories coming out of Iran that are similar in nature. In fact the latest story concerned the death of a blogger, a man who was captured and then beaten to death in prison. The savagery in Iran in 2009 should not be forgotten because hundreds died in that year but perhaps hundreds more have died since the rebellion was brutally put down by the Iranian regime.

All of these things tie in with the situation in Syria because at the moment we still have no clear outcome, yet the situation is more dangerous than it was 2 years ago when the rebellion started. What we are seeing is a people who are determined to oust Assad. What we are also seeing is two other States – Russia and Iran – taking sides to the point that they are sending troops to help Assad, and on the other side there is Turkey who has been helping the “rebels”. The involvement of the extreme elements in Syria remains a real sticking point which makes it very hard to continue to support the Syrian rebellion.

I should add here that since these are already Islamic states, any outcome is not going to dramatically change much. The women will be forced to wear bags over their heads regardless of who wins the civil war.

8 responses to “The confusing Syrian situation

  1. 1. Chaos is bad – even if started for legitimate reasons – opens up too many cracks for vermin to crawl in.

    2. Stability is better – even if it is flawed.

    3. Our attitude toward internal fights (civil wars) must generally be one of detachment and reserve. We are not and cannot be the world’s humanitarian policemen. It follows therefore that to engage in humanitarian causes we must pick and choose. And that is too difficult for mere humans. By what criteria do we choose? Latest and most energetic tug of the heartstring?

    4. When we do take sides, it must solely on the basis of which side fits better with the larger global picture, and USA national interests. Period.

    5. Russia and Iran could give a fig for Assad – he simply represents Syria at the present. There interest is in Syria. They will treat equally well with whoever is on top. It is wrong therefore to assume that if Assad falls that somehow Russian and Iranian influence would cease.

    These guidelines help me to see the current situation as a bit less confusing.


  2. PS – speaking of many Civil Wars over history, what about USA?

    Assad represents the whole undivided Syria. The Rebels represent division and dissent. How dare we complain if Assad goes all Abe Lincoln all over their asses? Ol’ Abe is a great American hero no?


  3. Way O/T

    Did you see this?

    Your favorite economist seems to never rest – the good ideas just keep coming!

    Seriously – mark my words – one of these days the fiat money system is going to fail – and it won’t be pretty – it will all come crashing down on our heads with little or no warning.


  4. I take issue with the claim that there was stability in any of these countries.

    What is flawed in your argument about stability is that the dictator was secretively killing his own people. This is most definitely the case with Saddam Hussein and Gadhafi.

    On top of that the perceived stability was in fact a sham. I have seen many a comment about how Gadhafi was behaving himself after he was threatened by Reagan. Yet, it was a total sham. Gadhafi had continued to spend the money that belonged to the people of Libya on tinpot dictatorships in Africa in an effort to shore up his own support and to also further the aims of Islam. To this you can add his support of the Tuareg people who just happen to be the same Islamists who are trying to change Mali for the worse, and I might add who have destroyed Temples and other property at Timbuctoo….

    Also, Assad most definitely does not represent an undivided Syria. You are totally ignoring the point about Syria being a satellite of Iran.

    The majority of Syrians are Sunni, not Shia. The Allawite tribe belongs to the Shia and just like in Iraq the minority has been ruling.

    The common denominator between Iraq, Egypt and Syria is the Ba’ath Party which explains the interest that Russia has in the region.


  5. Do not read to much into my words. Things like stability and chaos live on a spectrum of varying shades of gray.

    In this spirit I would say that Egypt has gone from stability to chaos. I would say that Syria under Assad is more stable than the chaos of the current rable.

    I have said before that Gadaffi provided more stability than the current chaos in Libya. You have said that order will come from the chaos and it will be better. Time will tell.

    And, no, I did not ignore Syria being a satellite of Iran, nor the importance of Shia vs Sunni hatred. I am only saying (to repeat) that those are secondary considerations. Russia and Iran will treat with whoever is in-charge in Syria. It is Syria they want, not Assad. I am not even sure they like Assad, they just support him because he is currently in-charge.


  6. What do you think of this?

    Western leaders keep seeming to want to treat Arabs (read Islamists) as just a trivial difference in terms of what religion they happened to grow up with. Certainly of less consequence than the traditional Catholic/Protestant rancor, and more like the difference between a Baptist and Methodist.

    As an Engineer and Scientist we always value the maxim that you cannot expect to solve anything unless and until you thoroughy understand the nature of the problem. Random poking around – or, worse, proposing solutions based on feelings or “wishes to be” – is certainly fraught with peril.


  7. S P E E C H L E S S

    Except for some irrelevant huffing and puffing here and there, NOBODY has had ANYTHING worthwhile to say ANYWHERE. For many days – perhaps 2 or 3 weeks, even!

    Perhaps we are all stunned and speechless?

    I have never felt such a dred – nor felt that the tipping point is already passed – – –


    • Ha, I am keeping an eye on the Australian situation.

      My local MP has been charged with fraud…. this is BIG news.

      There is much that is going on… besides I am busy knitting in preparation for another grandchild… then we had Australia Day celebrations… and….