The Tangled Web That Is The Syrian Crisis.

by Daniel Russ on June 25, 2013


Lybian Rebels


The foreign press has done a good job of covering the Syrian Crisis with equanimity.  NPR and the New York Times have as well. The main broadcast syndicates, ABC, CBS and NBC have also done a good job in print. The coverage is important here because this is box of kindling that could spread all over the Mid-East and the role we play has to be perfect in form. This is complicated mess and there is little to make it stick to an American audience who cares more about what Kim and Kanye will name their priviledged offspring.


Assad is an Alawite and a reluctant heir to the throne. He was actually in Ophthamology school when his brother, the next in line, died in an automobile accident in 1994. He was then groomed for the seat of power that he probably has no instinct for. Alawites are a sect of Shia Muslims, or shall we say, they are “not Sunni”. Alawites follow the eleventh Imam after the death of Mohammed, a scholar named Hassan al-‘Askari and his protégé ibn Nusayr. Many call the Alawite Nusairis but this is considered an epithet. The Alawite have a strange mashup of orthodoxies, from strict Islam to celebration of seasonal Zoroastrian festivals and even Palm Sunday. From the very beginning, this was a targeted and brutalized sect. Still, they developed a reputation as fierce fighters under the imposing and overt contempt in the Ottoman Empire, they took refuge in the mountains.


Their followers and the Sunni population have for years lived together in a relaxed copacetic arrangement. Neighbors of these different sects thrived in the shadow of Syria’s stubborn Internationalism, it’s defining secularism during the 1970s and 1980s. Fundamentalist Jihadi mercenaries did not find that much work in Syria, until this uprising started to delaminate about a year ago. It began with a truly grassroots protest against Assad’s legendary cronyism, the regime’s endless relationships with brutal and corrupt police chiefs around the country. It began peacefully and its agenda was a better Syria. The rebels themselves were mostly working class Sunnis, and a few Shiites.


When the first open revolt against the Assad regime began, Assad himself was flustered, and not sure what to do. Leaders in Bahrain and Qatar urged him to negotiate, maybe even remove some dirty officials. But Assad I suppose is a creature or habit. He decided, and probably under the direction of his security apparatus, to go the way of his father and suppress the revolt brutally. This looked like Occupy Wall Street with more pain. Large groups of people, protesting by lighting candles in the park suddenly disappeared and were tortured and executed. Police began shooting people on the streets in front of cameras. You might say, that’s when things went south for the government.


Over the last two years the rebels did a remarkable job of taking territory from the Syrian army. However, the make up of the rebels themselves has changed. What was once a truly parochial people’s revolt, began attracting the zealot mercenary jihadi armies that roam the Arab world. Now the Free Syrian Army represents the same absolutism and barbarity as Assad’s security apparatus. And therein lies the problem: as bad as Assad is, what would replace him would be no improvement. And upgrading the armamentarium of the Free Syrian Army will not stop the bloodshed. Obama was played here with the specious chemical weapon usage. Now we are pouring gasoline into a fire that few of the top analysts in the world could predict the outcome.



In today’s New York Times Robert F. Worth talks to Alawites about the struggle:


“But there is another reason for the unpolished face of the Syrian rebellion, a crueler one. One night in Damascus, I met a 33-year-old computer programmer named Amir who had been part of the nonviolent protest movement from the beginning. “We started the protests with three principles: nonviolence, no foreign interference and no sectarianism,” Amir said in English as we strolled in the cool night air. “The regime targeted the protesters until they were forced to abandon all three of them.”



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