The Syrian revolution made simple
By Nureddin Sabir
Editor, Redress Information & Analysis
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.
The picture below, highlighting the choices facing the Syrian people, illustrates the stark reality of the Syrian conflict.
On the first row is the Bashar Assad regime, ostensibly led by the nationalist Baath party but in reality dominated by Assad’s Alawite sect, in particular his own relatives.
Bashar comes from a family of traitors and mass murderers. His father, Hafez, was defence minister when the 1967 Arab-Israeli war broke out. He surrendered the Golan Heights to Israel without a fight and then went on to hail this as a victory because, he claimed, Israel’s main aim was to unseat the Baathist regime and, though the Golan Heights was lost, the regime was still in power. In his perverse, parochial and narrow logic, this was a “victory”.
In 1970 Hafez staged a coup d’état and became head of state. Six years later, he intervened in the Lebanese civil war to ensure that the Maronites, led by the fascist Phalange party, remained in power. In the process, his army massacred hundreds of Palestinians at the Tal al-Zaatar refugee camp.
In 1982 Hafez brutally repressed a popular uprising against his regime centred in the city of Hama, resulting in the death of tens of thousands of civilians.
In 2000 Hafez died and was succeeded by his son, Bashar. Since then, Bashar has struck a bargain with the Israelis: he would let them keep the illegally-occupied Syrian Golan Heights in return for them persuading the Zionist lobby groups which control US politics that his regime is good for Israel. That is why Bashar has never – not once – raised the issue of the occupied Golan at any international forum. It is also why he has not prepared any contingency for the liberation of the territory by force if necessary. And it is the reason Israel is saying “Assad must stay”.
Apart from Israel, Assad’s other allies in the present conflict include Russia, for whom Syria is the only physical foothold in the Middle East; Iran, which is motivated by purely sectarian objectives – Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’i Islam, is seen by Shi’i Iran as a natural ally; and Lebanese Hezbollah, which also has sectarian motives buttressed by its heavy reliance on weapons from Iran, delivered via Shi’i-dominated Iraq and via Syria.
On the second row of the picture above are the Syrian Islamist fighters, including Jabhat al-Nusra, the Judicial Council, Ghurabaa al-Sham, Suqur al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, Umma Brigade, Fatah al-Islam and Abdallah Azzam Brigade, among others. All of these have foreign links, e.g. to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. In general, they all hate everyone who is not exactly like them. In terms of sentiment and outlook, they are very similar to the Afghan Taleban and if, goodness forbid, they ever come to power in Syria they will massacre each other and everybody else who is not an exact replica of themselves.
There are, of course, other fighters who are not Islamist or are only mildly Islamist These are euphemistically known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – we say euphemistically because, in reality, the FSA does not really exist as an army with a single command structure. It is made up of different armed groups with different commanders, different motivations and different aims.
Finally, in the third row are the Syrian people – the most important component of this struggle. The extent to which the Syrian people are represented by the existing umbrella political organizations – the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the Syrian National Council, the National Coordination Committee as well as the Muslim Brotherhood – is debatable.
But what is beyond debate is the fact that the people of Syria, with all their ethnic and religious groups, want freedom, democracy, liberation and justice. They do not want Assad or any other tin-pot dictator, and they certainly do not want to replace the Assad family tyranny with Islamist fascism.
What is also beyond doubt is that the Syrian people have been let down very badly by the incoherent and fractious groups that claim to represent them.