Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Alawites' bloody retreat into own enclave

The Alawites (a branch of Shia Islam) had a state of their own in Syria's coastal region for 12 years after the collapse of the Ottoman Emipre (see 1920s map). They even issued their own postal stamps (see pictures).

The French who seized and colonised "Greater Syria" from 1922 to 1943 helped to create several mini states from previously semi-autonomous regions including Lebanon (with its Christian, Druze and Shia Muslim majority at the time) and an Alawite state along Syria's coastal strip. The latter was re-integrated into Syria in1936. This divide-and-rule strategy was essentially designed to keep the "fundamentalist" Sunni majority at bay in the rest of Syria.  Nationalist Alawites, Sunnis and Christians refused to join the Troupes Speciales du Levant that later became the Syrian army, so the French recruited mostly poor Alawite peasants who had been marginalised and mistreated by the rest of the population. These Alawites gradually worked their way up through the ranks and eventually took power in Syria, led by Hafez Al Assad in 1972.

The Alawite army/security/militia-based  dictatorship consolidated its rule over the country by co-opting wealthy Sunnis and  minorities, and sharing the pie with them,  and hiding behind a false non-sectarian Arab nationalistic agenda  while at the same time aligning itself with Iran and the Shia of Lebanon (Hizbullah).

Now that they have shot themselves in the foot and at risk at being exterminated by a popular uprising (which is supported by other Arab states that are fearful of Iran) the Alawites are beating a retreat towards their enclave. They have been moving heavy weapons, missiles and sophisticated air defences into well-camouflaged spots and tunnels in the Alawite mountains and ethnically cleansing the surrounding areas as they do so.

It is unlikely that Syria will break up again into mini states. Many of the 2.5 million Alawites are strongly loyal to Syria as a nation-state and wise enough not to allow the Assad ruling family and its cronies to lead them into the abyss in desparation. Russia is not foolish enough to allow a ruling gang to fragment the country and re-create an Alawite state. Despite all the theatrics and political machinations on the world stage, a deal has already been struck between the Russians and Americans to bring the Assad regime to an end without endangering the delicate balance of power in the region.

In the end the Russians and Americans will have to pick up the pieces and help to re-construct the country. In the cold light of day, the civilian death toll (large and ugly as it is) still looks to them to be a cheaper option than direct intervention. They will intervene when the senseless revenge massacres against Alawites start and before the regime loses control of one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

High treason and a boat to Israel

Syria has been ruled by stubborn mountain idiots with big guns and false army medals, white-collar thieves and street thugs for forty years.  Their rule has  been sectarian,  tribal, fuedal and brutal, reflecting their true character, deep cultural roots and minority fears.

The Assad gang never truly felt loyalty to Syria as a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nation state. Once defeated they should be charged with high treason and their Syrian nationality withdrawn. They should then be put on a boat and sent off to Russia, Israel or the Hague.

While the regime is busy bombarding and murdering its fellow citizens, Israel (ruled by an equally sectarian, stubborn, opportunistic and sly bunch) takes full advantage of the chaos in Syria to fortify its occupation of the Golan (see this).

Syrians can only re-claim their country and dignity through blood and tears.  There is no other way to win real freedom. Foreign intervention can only cause further destruction and breed another generation of disloyal ruling elite who are indebted to foreign powers and believe in eliminating their political opponents rather than building a truly democratic state. Our only hope now is that the combination of external political pressure and army defections will eventually tip the balance against this murderous Assad gang and its cronies.

Joshua Landis, in his latest article Stay Out of Syria  makes the following comment:

"According to a recent study, autocracies with a median population age of over 30 years old are most likely to transition to liberal democracies -- Syria has a median age of 21. This is the same as Iraq's and just slightly older than Gaza's and Yemen's. Because of its poverty and youth, political scientists give it small chances of becoming democratic and stable any time soon. Beware of drinking the democratization Kool-Aid".

This is one of the most feable and shallow arguments against domocratic transition that I have ever heard. Has the author of the study bothered to look at countries like India, Ghana, Indonesia and even Nigeria where semi democracies exist despite a low median age and complex ethnic and religious structures?  All it takes is education, justice, a taste of freedom and a sense of responsibility for the young to adopt  basic democratic behaviour.

True political leadership builds healthy societies based on fundamental human values. In the years between independence and the hijacking of power by the current regime, Syria experimented with democracy for short periods. Until March 2011, the nation had been brainwashed into believing that the country could only be ruled by force. The nation has now matured but not its leaders.

Today's revolt against tyranny is a wake up call by the very youth who are judged too young and too ignorant to want democracy. If they grow a long beard and hold a copy of the Koran with one hand and a gun with the other it is only because they have seen too much blood, too much oppression and lost faith in anything that is man made. Their faith in humanity will be restored once the oppressor has been defeated and brought to justice.