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Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Syrian Civil War

There are terrible things happening in Syria.  Not so however, if we believe the BBC’s text service, its pro-Arab propaganda arm, Teletext, which reported today that ‘thousands have been killed since the conflict began in March last year.’ It seems as though we are now minimising the impact of the Syrian Civil War.  This is more than news fatigue.  With the arrogance that only a journalist can display we are witnessing the rewriting of history.

The BBC and Teletext paid homage to Hezbollah’s leader who recently quoted a similar figure.  The number of casualties in the Syrian conflict is between 25,000 and 33,000 dead making it ‘mercifully’ (for its relatively ‘small’ number of victims) the most lethal conflict currently being reported anywhere in the world. It may be difficult to know who to believe and what to believe but it is interesting that the BBC via Teletext tows the Shiite Islamic line.

March 15, 2011 marked the start of the Syrian Civil War. It began with public demonstrations in support of the Arab Spring and in 2012 it degenerated into a Civil War.  News that 200 men and women, children and babies were executed appeared to do nothing to galvanise the international community into action. Does it matter whether the regime or freedom fighters committed the atrocity? In 1982 it was Hama and in 2012 Homs – instant ethnic cleansing by Assad Senior or 17 months of killing by Assad Junior, where is the difference? When Assad Senior levelled the city of Hama to the ground (Homs at that time was the centre of Muslim Brotherhood activity in Syria), he killed tens of thousands of his own people. But it was six months before the news filtered through and then it was covered by a single page in Time Magazine even as this genocidal blitzkrieg was ignored virtually everywhere else.

Since then, not much has changed in Syria.  The impact of mobile communications has certainly had no impact on the grizzly outcome. Everyone discusses Syria but no one does anything to stop the slaughter. The issue for the world is what kind of Syria will we have to deal with in the future?

Mainstream Sunni Muslims regard the Alawite as belonging to a heretic sect, barely Muslim. But by other Shiite Muslims the Alawite are regarded as more like errant or perhaps lapsed brethren in need of a stern push back to legitimacy. This latter view is certainly the Iranian opinion.

Between Sunni backed Riyadh, and Shiite backed Damascus and Tehran, competition for chaos has created subterranean supply routes through Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan and Gaza. No-one can fully control the back channels of global terrorism. A proxy war is now in play with each side funnelling arms to its surrogate. This is not a conflict of good verses evil but one of conflicting evils. A lesson from history which we time and again fail to learn proves that belligerence is not confronted nor liquidated by appeasement.

Dismissing the Alawite minority that has ruled Syria since the 1920’s the Christian minority is so closely associated with the Shiite leadership, their physical survival must surely be in doubt if al-Qaida or Salafists take control of the government.  The Kurds and the Druze support Assad in their dread of Salafist radicalism. But they are also too closely associated with the murderous regime not to fear retribution.

What is the difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafism? Salafists represent the angry and impatient ‘young-bloods’ of intolerant Islam while the Brotherhood does an excellent job of presenting a moderate image in the West while it curses us all and prays in what the Arab world calls the ‘holy language of Arabic’ for our annihilation. But the Muslim Brotherhood is more than a fraternity. It is an international racist, irredentist and colonialist business. We should all be concerned because it recognises no borders and equates success with a bloodied body count.  In a term known as ‘blowback’ the British Jihadists who travelled to Afghanistan to fight the Russians returned to the UK radicalised, trained for mass murder and a security threat to Britain.  Now those Jihadists, so enthusiastic for revolution in Syria will return ‘home’ to the UK with hate in their hearts and the means to express it violently.

The riots after the 2009 elections in Iran showed extremists everywhere, the West’s lack of commitment to helping the oppressed.  And while the US administration has drawn up emergency plans to seize control of any Syrian sites with stores of biological or chemical weapons (no country can afford stockpiles of non-conventional weapons to ‘go missing’) it was a Western failure to support regime change in Iran that created this terrible momentum for backward looking religious fascists across the Near-east.   It emboldened the forces of reactionary Islamism everywhere.

If peace removed Syria from ‘the circle of evil’ as Ben Caspit described it in Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper (28th August 2006) it would be worth returning the Golan Heights to Syria because it would mean “blocking the flow of rockets from Tehran to Baalbek via Damascus, neutralising Hezbollah, paralyzing Hamas and completing the circle of peace around Israel.”  Of course since 2006 the geopolitical situation has changed and not just with reference to Egypt. In 2007 the failed opportunity for peace with Syria was based on the return of the Golan Heights to Syria but Syria wanted all of the Golan including the land that bordered the Kinneret, thus it would have controlled Israel’s water supply. Any claims to the shores of the Kinneret were counter-historic and based on revisionist and colonialist aspirations.  It was in fact at best, a feign intended to distract international attention away from Syria’s secret nuclear programme.

There are fears that Syria with its minorities could become the next Afghanistan.  Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Yair Naveh has said that Syria possesses the largest chemical weapons arsenal in the world so any attempt by al-Qaida to grab some of this stock would be cataclysmic. An aggressive arsenal of both conventional and non-conventional weaponry is a serious escalation of the conflict in terms of identifying the players trying to wrestle control of Syria from the Alawite minority. The first use of IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) occurred in June 2012. It may mark a significant escalation in foreign interference by radicals. In fact Iran has admitted that members of Iran’s elite special operations unit al-Quds force are operating in Syria (as well as Lebanon).

Dr Guy Bechor (Israeli writer) pointed out that the most successful war is a war averted. This may be true but sometimes we bow to the inevitability of conflict in order to save lives. The problem with Syria today is that we have no idea who will rule the country in the future.  The current stable of front-runners is illiterate in terms of human rights and respect for humanity and they are violently, murderously opposed to learning. They are fanatics and the problem is that the fanatic will as easily slit the throat of an Alawi baby as they will a Jewish baby, a Christian baby or even a Sunni baby.  We have witnessed this inhumanity too much already.

Hardened jihadists having cut their teeth in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria will ultimately want to enjoy the corrupt fruits of their long and painful labours but competition will create the kind of turbulence that may, if we are lucky, cause the international movement to cannibalise and ultimately consume itself in an orgy of ethno-religious fratricide (as it did in Algeria) but that is the best case scenario!

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