Reluctance to act in Syrian civil war

The Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 90,000 people, is going on between forces loyal to the Syrian government and those seeking to oust it.

Would it be would be “reckless and immoral” for the United States or the West to intervene in the country’s civil war?

The world got the news that the United States is considering launching a punitive strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Many months after the war started and Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Turks, Christians, Druze, Alawite Shias and Arab Sunnis got drawn from one site to the other either to take sites in the extension of the Arab Spring.

English: Ramadan Massacre

Ramadan Massacre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The country could already face an Islamic uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1970ies. The Islamist uprising in the region where the apostle Paul (Saulus of Tarsus) on the Road to Damascus found the value and reason of following Jeshua the Nazarene (Jesus Christ) took more offence for other ways of thinking and got the Islamists attacking civilians and off-duty military personnel reaching its climax in the February 1982 Hama massacre, when the Syrian Arab Army and the Defense Companies, under the orders of the country’s then-president, Hafez al-Assad, besieged the town of Hama for 27 days in order to quell an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood against al-Assad’s government.

Assad Sr. and his son, Assad Jr. in his wake acted on three fronts to consolidate their standing and to build up their power and that of the Alawite minority [the minority group of the Assad clan], which was persecuted by the Muslims as a heretic sect.

The Al-Assad family around 1994. At the front are Hafez al-Assad and his wife, Anisa. At the back row, from left to right: Maher (commander of the Republican Guard), Bashar, Bassel, Majid, and Bushra

The Assads from the Alawite minority took care that those who did not suit their means or opposed their ideas could be silenced. They built a mighty, well-equipped army headed by Alawites and some of their hand-picked Baath loyalist partners.

Rifaat Ali al-Assad, younger brother of the former President of Syria, Hafez Assad and Jamil Assad, and the uncle of President since 2000, and Regional Secretary of the Syrian-led branch of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party Bashar al-Assad.

Today’s head of state of the Syrian Arab Republic at first was welcomed and seen by the domestic and international community as a potential reformer. But the last few years the West could already see enough signs of his dictatorial government and let him continue to keep the population under his thumbs. It took a mass crackdown and military sieges on pro-rebel protesters amid recent civil war, before some Western governments opened their eyes and mouth. But they where too silent for much too long and did not much except telling the world they would talk about it.

Dead Iraqi Kurds of Halabja in 1988 after the Halabja poison gas attack.

As an outspoken critic of the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey it was strange that those countries took not severe measures against Assad his regime, but on the other hand there was not such oil resource at stake as with the Ba’athist Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti.

Michel Aflaq in conversation with Saddam Hussein in 1988.

Both leaders promoted the development and creation of an Arab nation through the leadership of a vanguard party over a progressive revolutionary state. Their ideology, officially based on the theories of Zaki al-Arsuzi (according to the pro-Syrian Ba’ath movement), Michel Aflaq (who by the government of Hafez al-Assad was condemned to death in absentia in 1971) and Salah al-Din al-Bitar. Though Al-Arsuzi did not attend its founding conference nor was he given membership.

The key to Arab unification, according to al-Arsuzi, is through language and I do not know how much attention he placed on the religion as a necessary factor. But I can imagine this philosopher knew very well the importance of education and even had ambition of spreading French culture. (In 1934 al-Arsuzi founded a student club, the Club des Beaux Arts)

Looking at the restriction of educational material and trying to get the women back to the background, noticing what happened in Egypt, the West could have better thought about the previous plans of the United Arab Republic (UAR), a union of Egypt and Syria. Liberty for them did not mean liberal democracy, but rather freedom from colonial oppression and freedom of speech and thought. {Salem 1994, pp. 67–68.}

The original interpretation of Arab socialism might have focused on freeing the Arab Nation and its people from colonization and oppression in general, but the citizens from Syria felt themselves more and more pushed in the corner. In their uproar the did felt that the West abandoned them and they became more and more drawn to the fundamentalist groups which brought food and help.

Because Western nations failing to intervene militarily in the uprising against the Syria government, militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaeda affiliate found more popularity.

More than two years into Syria’s civil war, radical Sunni Islamists are emerging as the prevalent force seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad, according to military analysts in Europe and the Middle East.

According to Amnon Shamosh:

While the uprising in Syria was inspired by the Arab revolution at Cairo’s Tahrir Square, in Tunisia and in Yemen, it is quite different in its nature, in its spirit and in its goals. There, the liberal, educated intelligentsia rose against greedy, domineering, vindictive tyranny and succeeded in toppling the despotic regimes in power. On the other hand, in Syria, the intelligentsia, growing from year to year thanks to the governmental policy of free-for-all academic studies, took sides with the secular autocratic regime, which has its origins in the idolized Baath Party, a regime that 30 years ago brutally quenched the Muslim Brotherhood uprising, massacring dozens of thousands of insurgents.

The influential, dominant strata of the Syrian people is leading a modern lifestyle and have no intention of going backward to radical Islamism, which is looking down on minority groups and aspires to enforce the strict Sharia law on believers and non-believers alike. Assad and his regime have pledged to forestall any such trends [towards Islamization] witnessed in other Arab states. Thus, for instance Halab [or Aleppo] is a modern Syrian city open to Western culture and elegant women. The Syrians are not going to give up their freedom from religious restrictions, which the current regime is committed to maintain. The rebels, for their part, want revenge, seek to impose the Sharia law and are interested in developing the periphery. These two opposing trends cannot be reconciled. Solution is therefore not that simple and not close at hand.

The fire of revolt in Syria has not been kindled in city squares. The authentic feelings of deprivation and revenge pervading the periphery wouldn’t have escalated into such monstrous mutual killing hadn’t it been for Assad’s political decision to turn down the overtures of the West and join the “axis of evil”. This fateful decision of his was induced by his and his gang’s understanding that the West, led by the United States, has embraced the Israeli foe as its ally.

It’s for this reason, rather than for any affinity to communism that Syria came under the influence of Russia and became Moscow’s protégé years ago. Assad Sr. opened his heart and the gates of his country to the Russians, while keeping his distance from the Ayatollahs in Iran. Assad Jr. realized where the wind was blowing and, aware of the direction the cold war of the 21st century was taking, opted to act in light of the supreme political interest and, disregarding his inherent Alawi aversion of the Shiites, joined the “axis of evil.” {Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/tr/contents/articles/politics/2012/10/the-syrian-tragedy.html#ixzz2dkhSI0Y3}

We can only blame the West for not acting quickly and letting fundamentalist enter the country so easily and giving them way to break waves by a population which saw that their own head of state was willing to kill them.

“Two of the most powerful insurgent factions in Syria are al-Qaeda factions,” Evan Kohlmann, senior partner at Flashpoint Partners in New York, said. “Even were the Assad regime to fall and there be some kind of takeover by rebels, there’s not a clear understanding that everyone here will be able to agree and form any kind of government.”

Moderate anti-Assad groups did not seem to find any help from the West. They asked for weapons or for at least a control of the air so that Assad could not bomb from the air. Having to look for help in their battle they had to look elsewhere and some found the necessary backing by more fundamentalist groups. This caused also problems for the unification of the opponents of the regime or bolster the rebel Free Syrian Army, led mainly by former Assad army officers. Instead, what began as a peaceful uprising turned into a war involving about 1,200 groups, according to U.S. intelligence estimates. Now, some of them have turned against each other.

Militias belonging to the biggest Kurdish party in Syria, the Democratic Union Party, have been fighting groups attached to al-Nusra Front, another group with ties to al-Qaeda. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, also fought “turf wars” with Kurds after taking control of a “significant chunk” of territory in northeastern Syria, said Kohlmann.

The rise of fundamentalist, Salafi groups “can be explained as the natural, expected byproduct of heightened violence combined with receding hopes of a quick resolution,” the Brussels-based policy research International Crisis Group said.

The internal battles between the ‘free’ forces’ for some validates the regime’s claim to be fighting “terrorists” and puts it in the same position as America and other Western countries fighting terrorism.

“The West’s initial reluctance to act –- and enduring reluctance to act decisively –- coupled with early willingness of private, wealthy, and for the most part religiously conservative Gulf Arabs to provide funds, bolstered both the Salafis’ coffers and their narrative, in which Europe and the U.S. figure as passive accomplices in the regime’s crimes,” according to the report, “Tentative Jihad: Syria’s Fundamentalist Opposition.”

In which is also written: “For as long as different countries sponsor distinct armed groups, a bidding war will ensue, and any hope of coordinating the rebels, disciplining them and restraining their most extremist members will be in vain,”

The opposition has a responsibility to curb the influence of the Salafis — ultraconservative Sunnis who adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam — and stem the slide toward radicalization, the ICG said. The lack of unity by international community is also a concern, the group said.

Frustration is creeping up on Syrians as they feel the road back to security and stability being obscure and drawn-out. bigger frustration for them now it takes such a long time before the West accepts that there has been done an enormous criminal act by the regime, poisoning its own people. Now they note that the regime gets all the time to take away not only proof of their terrible actions but also gets time allotted from the West to move all their war machinery to safer zones or to even bring them between the people, using them as a living shield.

But those sympathetic to the rebels at the start of the crisis have also become disillusioned with them, as they have come under the sway of al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked group whose main goal is to establish an Islamic state in Syria. Most Syrians, having undergone four decades of secular rule, seem averse to the prospect that the power to rule their country may one day fall in the hands of some Islamic fundamentalists.

According to reports in the Arab media, Islamic fundamentalist groups have been smuggling weapons into Syria from Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

Most of these weapons have fallen into the hands of Muslim fundamentalists, who are now waging a guerrilla warfare against Assad’s security forces, the reports say.

Syria’s fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood organization, which was banned by the Syrian dictator’s father, Hafez Assad, decades ago, has come back to life thanks to the uprising that was initially launched by secular forces.

Syrians’ resentment at the extremists, who are taking advantage of the ongoing crisis to expand their influence, is becoming increasingly manifest in their daily conversation and comments on social media websites.

It might well be that in case the West does not react swiftly that Syria may follow the footsteps of Iran and Iraq, moving backwards, becoming a war zone for a long time and soon returning to medieval era situations.

It may look as a farce but in reality it is a demon, Al-Nusra Front fighters coming up every day with a new unimaginable fatwa, or religious edict, like forbidding eating croissants because they are in the shape of a crescent, the emblem of an Islamic state.

David Shedd, deputy director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, warned that extremist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra have been the most successful in operations against troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Left unchecked, he said, more radical elements of the opposition would have a greater role, eclipsing moderates in a post-Assad Syria.

According to some foreign aid would not have proven of much help to Assad for so long hadn’t the influential, dominant strata of the Syrian people been on his side.

Assad hinted at the possibility that his country could fall into the hands of Islamists when he warned that Syria would become “another Afghanistan” if the West intervened in favour of his enemies.

For many Syrians, the only choice today is between a murderous secular regime led by Assad and Muslim fundamentalists seeking to turn their country into an Islamic state. Assad’s brutal crackdown on his opponents, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 3,000 Syrians, as well as his failure to implement major political reforms, is driving more people into the open arms of the Islamists.

The recent victory of the Islamists in the Tunisian elections is serving as a catalyst for the Muslim Brotherhood to double its efforts to replace the Assad regime. For the people of Syria the U.S. blaming Assad for the gas attack gives them more reason to go against their president. But to whom should they turn, when the U.S. said the attack killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, but do not really take an action fast enough?

One big problem we do have to face is that the change of administrations in Syria will not guarantee a more stable middle-east (incl. Egypt). Many might think it would guaranty more security for Israel, but this is hoping too much of the good I think.

Because the West waited so long and Assad could move his war tools under the population, using them as a living shield the air strikes may coalesce the population against the West making us even more unpopular in the region.

All diplomacy has failed and all the talks turned out to nothing much, so what is the West to do? Should we not go into Syria to protect the human rights of its citizens, but what will come next?

English: Bashar al-Assad under pressure

Bashar al-Assad under pressure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Please do find to read:

Tentative Jihad: Syria’s Fundamentalist Opposition
Prematurely and exaggeratedly highlighted by the regime, belatedly and reluctantly acknowledged by the opposition, the presence of a powerful Salafi strand among Syria’s rebels has become irrefutable. That is worrisome, but forms only part of a complex picture. To begin, not all Salafis are alike; the concept covers a gamut ranging from mainstream to extreme. Secondly, present-day Syria offers Salafis hospitable terrain – violence and sectarianism; disenchantment with the West, secular leaders and pragmatic Islamic figures; as well as access to Gulf Arab funding and jihadi military knowhow – but also adverse conditions, including a moderate Islamic tradition, pluralistic confessional make-up, and widespread fear of the kind of sectarian civil war that engulfed two neighbours. Thirdly, failure of the armed push this past summer caused a backlash against Salafi groups that grabbed headlines during the fighting.

Why Syria’s Elites Back Assad
Against Islamic Fundamentalists

Syria’s Choice: Murderous Secular Regime or Islamic Fundamentalists

Syrian Stalemate – The fighting will not diminish or cease in Syria

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  • Assad’s Economic Lifeline is a Stable Syrian Pound (globalriskinsights.com)
    The Syrian revolution has raged for nearly two and half years, resulting in excess of 100,000 deaths and the immense destruction of the country’s infrastructure. An uprising spurred by discontent with an authoritarian system, the country’s political institutions have now been exposed as extensions of the ruling family, with little or no authority of their own. Mass defections and the need for a shorter and reactive method of decision-making have caused the center of the regime to coalesce around three main pillars.The intricate institutional and community-based linkages fostered by Hafez al-Assad have allowed his son to capitalize on the fears of the secular middle class and minority groups. The ruling family and its neo-patrimonial network have attempted to ensure the loyalty of these societal groups through a public relations campaign aimed at exploiting the involvement of radical Islamists among the opposition and to denounce the uprising as a foreign conspiracy.
  • A beginner’s guide to the conflict in (and country of) Syria. (thehowardbealeshow.tumblr.com)
    Both the anti-government rebels and the pro-government regime forces have been recorded perpetrating war crimes, doling out arbitrary punishments, and torturing and killing hundreds of innocent civilians at a time.
  • What caused Syria’s civil war? (christiantoday.com)
    Its geopolitical position brought Syria to the attention of many different superpowers and, sadly, it has often been a battleground for these foreign powers. Throughout millennia of occupation and recent decades of independence, the minorities in Syria have always stayed true to their homeland: they played a major role in the liberation from the Ottomans after more than 500 years of oppression, and from the French Mandate in the twentieth century, leading to independence in 1946.
    Christians, Druze, Alawites, Kurds and other, smaller minorities worked hand in hand with the majority Sunnis to secure the liberation of Syria from all foreign occupation.
  • Five Things About The Syrian Conflict That You Should Know (egyptianstreets.com)
    Violence in Syria has claimed tens of thousands of lives, and now war drums are beating after the USA and its key allies have threatened a military intervention. With an intervention expected in days, here are five simple points that will help you understand this complicated and cruel war.
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    The number of Syrian children forced to flee their homeland has reached 1 million, constituting half of all the refugees driven out of the country by the more than two-year-old conflict. A total of 2 million Syrians have fled the country.

    The number of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon combined is nearly 1 million, with hundreds of thousands of other refugees scattered across Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and others.
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    The USA, UK, France and Turkey are the three most vocal countries about a foreign
    intervention in Syria. USA and UK claim that it is “clear” Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons, and therefore they must act in order to prevent similar attacks in the future by Assad forces.

    The USA and its key allies have stated that UN-approval would not be necessary if it is found that chemical weapons were used, as that would be a “moral obscenity” that must be acted against.
    “Let me be clear. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity.” – US
    Secretary of State John Kerry
    Ready to strike, military chiefs of the USA and the United Kingdom have stated that they are prepared to strike the second they receive orders from their governments.
    However, it is important to note that this is not the first time chemical weapons have been reportedly used during Syria’s Civil War. Moreover, reports – including a UN official – have stated that evidence indicates both the Assad regime and the rebels have used chemical weapons.

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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