Plots and pitfalls on road to Damascus

By Ameen Izzadeen
Yet another people uprising in the Arab world is in the throes of being hijacked by western powers with neocolonialist agendas and geo-strategic objectives.
Like the Tunisians and Egyptians, the Syrians too dreamed of democratic freedom that would allow them to elect and reject governments. Their hard-won independence from the French colonialists has been usurped by the military-backed Baath Party regime which has been ruling Syria for nearly five decades. Each time they had risen up in the past they were crushed. More than 10,000 Syrians were butchered by the Baathist regime in a brutal crackdown of dissent in 1982.
Undeterred, the Syrian revolutionary spirit has lived on and once again resurfaced with a greater force to deal a death knell to the Bashar al-Assad government, which like the Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi, fails to read the reality and believes that sheer brutal force would deliver it from the present crisis.
The reality, however, is that the regime is losing its grip. The trumps the regime is holding are fast becoming ineffective. The military, one of the trumps, is cracking with thousands of Sunni Muslim soldiers defecting. Their defection has turned the people uprising into a nascent armed rebellion that is assuming a sectarian nature with the country’s majority Sunni Muslims backing the revolution while the minority Alawites who make up about 11 per cent of the population and hold the plum positions in the government and the military back the regime.
In a way, the uprising in Syria is not only about bringing democracy but also about ending the tyranny of the minority Alawites, who the Sunni Muslims say are not Muslims because of their belief that Ali, the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, is God-incarnate, but sections of the Shiite Islam leadership have for political reasons accommodated them.
The second trump card of the Syrian regime is the moral support it gets from Russia and China. Diplomatic behaviour of both China and Russia which vetoed a UN Security Council resolution against Syria recently speaks of their untrustworthiness as allies. When it came to the crunch, they abandoned Iraq and Libya and have gone along with the Western nations in slapping economic sanctions on Iran. Syria is relatively a small fry. A little pressure from the West is enough for Russia and China to relent, because for them trade with the West matters more than an ally in the developing world.
Syria’s next trump, perhaps the biggest, is Iran.
If the Assad regime falls and a Sunni-dominated government comes to power with pro-Western and pro-Saudi credentials, Iran will be in a major disadvantageous position. On the contrary, if it withdraws its support to the Assad regime and backs the democracy movement, just as the Turks have done, then at least it can have a line of communications with the revolutionary forces on the basis that both have a common enemy in Israel.
For Iran, a friendly regime in Damascus is vital, especially in view of threats of an attack on its nuclear facilities by Israel and the United States. The pro-Iranian Shiite militant group, Hezbollah, acts as an extension of the Iranian military on Lebanon’s border with Israel. If Israel attacks Iran, Hezbollah will attack northern Israel. This possibility stands as a deterrent against any Israeli attack on Iran. If Iran does not have a friendly regime in Damascus, its ability to arm and sustain Hezbollah will be severely curtailed.
On Monday, Hezbollah described the turmoil in Syria as part of an international conspiracy targeting Damascus for its support for Arab and Muslim resistance movements in the region. Two weeks ago, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel and the US that a war against Iran and Syria would lead to an all-out regional conflict.
“They should understand that a war on Iran and Syria will not remain in Iranian and Syrian territory, but it will engulf the whole region and there is no escaping this reality,” he said.
One cannot dismiss the Hezbollah statement as mere rhetoric. If foreign intervention comes to Syria, it will trigger a region-wide conflict which may take years to end.
It is in this context that questions arise as to the wisdom of the efforts of the Arab League under Saudi Arabian pressure to put the crisis in Syria on the Libyan track. The irony is that half the Arab League countries have no democracy and their rulers act like viceroys of the West.
In preparation for a Libya-style intervention, the West has apparently handpicked a few Syrian dissidents including those residing abroad to form a Syrian National Council. The next step could be the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria or a humanitarian passage as France has suggested. Any violation of these measures will trigger foreign intervention with UN blessings and lead to the setting up of a pro-Western Syrian regime, much to the dismay of the people who fought for democracy and freedom.
However, the West needs to take heed of the developments in Egypt. The people in the Arab world are more astute today than they were during the past, when the colonialists came as liberators and looted the resources. The Iraqis, for instance, are smart enough to tell the Americans “thank you very much for helping us to get rid of Saddam Hussein; you may leave our country now.”
The masses in the Arab world know that their democracy cry and the blood they shed are not to replace one wolf with another with a sheep’s clothing. In Egypt, the people are rising up again because they see the military council that assumed power upon the ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak has been consolidating its power. They want real change. No half measures are acceptable. So it will be in Syria and other Arab countries.

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About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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2 Responses to Plots and pitfalls on road to Damascus

  1. Robert Lorimer says:

    Yes.i And would it not be wonderful if the Saudi regime was to come under pressure too.That one of course is the main western(read U.S.) friend in this region.Its cruel leaders put in power by the UK and France 3 generations ago when they created the country artificially by” lines drawn in the sand” to reward King Faisal for his support.in the war.Now they are kept in power by the USA for reasons not unconnected with oil reserves and their ability to buy huge amounts of unneccessary weaponry from the arms industry.I am told there is no chance of an uprising there as all the Saudi citizens are happily wealthy.And the foregn workers(slaves?) who do the work are too weak to protest even at their condition.But who knows.Unpredictable times perhaps as the power of the US and the West generally declines..

    • The Saudi rulers are playing a double game. On the one hand they try to tell their religious citizens and the rest of the Sunni Muslim world that they are the protectors of Islam. On the other hand they wine, dine and dance with the United States and the West. The religious Saudis are made to think that obedience to the ruler is obedience to God. The so-called Divine Right to the throne helped the rulers of feudal Europe to keep their subjects under oppression. What can explain the Saudi rulers’ hypocrisy more than their obedience to the US when Washington says nary a word to Israel’s continued oppression of the Palestinian people.

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