The proxy war destroying Syria

Pain of Syria

By Jamal Kanj

Writing about Syria is emotionally draining and intellectually overwhelming.

As evident by the level of destruction and killing, the mutual hatred between President Bashar Assad’s regime and the armed opposition surpasses their love of the country.

More than 70,000 people have been killed and, not counting internally displaced Syrians, there are more than one million refugees in neighbouring countries.

The Syrian people, who selflessly opened their homes and shared their schools with the children of refugees from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, are themselves living in horrible conditions in camps.

Greater Syria, first broken up by British and French colonizers under the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, is being fragmented further by internecine strife agitated by competing foreign powers.

The Syrians are trapped between an arrogant tyrant and an opposition led by thirsty, prospective dictators united in their hate and lacking a futuristic vision for Syria.

Russia and Iran are supporting a doomed dictatorship, while the West pours just enough fuel for the opposition to sustain an unwinnable war.

The Syrians are trapped between an arrogant tyrant and an opposition led by thirsty, prospective dictators united in their hate and lacking a futuristic vision for Syria.

Without mentioning the Arab summit’s vain resolutions, four important local and regional events took place in the past week that offer an insight into what’s in store for Syria and the Middle East at large.

The murder on 21 March of a senior Sunni Muslim cleric, Shaikh Muhammad Bouti, in a Damascus mosque, along with 49 peaceful worshippers, violated a central Muslim tenet on the sanctuary of holy places – irrespective of Bouti’s political position.

Although it could be argued that the regime’s atrocities emboldened Al-Qaeda-inspired fighters, the opposition can’t continue to present itself as an alternative to dictatorship when it is associated with organizations professing a divine mandate to kill people they disagree with.

The second event was the sudden resignation of Moaz Khatib, head of the anti-government Syrian National Coalition, along with 12 other members of the coalition’s leadership.

Khatib was forced to back down several weeks after he posited direct negotiation with the government to put an end to the carnage in Syria.

This, along with disagreement over the formation of a government-in-exile and the sidelining of historical opposition figures, were some of the “red lines” Khatib promised never to cross.

…the opposition can’t continue to present itself as an alternative to dictatorship when it is associated with organizations professing a divine mandate to kill people they disagree with.

On the regional level, there was the collapse of the Lebanese government following a political impasse over whether to extend the term in office for the head of Lebanon’s internal security forces and a dispute over a committee to oversee parliamentary elections in June.

Lebanon is divided into two diametrically opposed political blocs: one supporting the Syrian regime and another siding with the opposition.

The resignation of the Lebanese prime minister deepens the national political rift over the violence in Syria.

This, juxtaposed with ongoing military skirmishes in the city of Tripoli between supporters of the two rival camps, is an omen of a larger regional conflagration should foreign powers play a more direct role in the Syrian conflict.

Speaking of foreign powers, the fourth event was the only success President Barack Obama could claim from his trip to the region.

The Obama-orchestrated Israeli apology to Turkey and the subsequent rapprochement between those two countries is inseparable from what is going on in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page on 23 March that “the crisis in Syria … was the main consideration” for the apology.

His national security adviser, Yaakiv Amidror, said: “Between us and Turkey is a country that is falling apart.”

The timing of the apology, three years after Israeli soldiers killed nine Turkish activists aboard an aid ship bound for Gaza, is another clue that external advocates pushing for a military solution have a veiled agenda to dismantle Syria.

It is sad to witness a vacuous dictator and truculent opposition unwittingly breaking up Syria, a mosaic of ethnicities and religions, into mini Israel-type ethnocentric states.


A version of this article was first published in the Gulf Daily News. The version here is published by permission of Jamal Kanj.

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