The Implication of Syria's Civil Strife
Fri 7th Sep 2012
There is a tendency for today's political commentators to pigeon hole events as if each were a bubble on its own and had nothing to do with the rest of the world. As we have seen in recent years, the economic woes of the US caused us considerable pain in Europe. Syria's internecine conflict has a serious effect on many surrounding countries and they, in turn will have an impact on others - the old Domino Theory is alive and kicking.
Syria's Civil War is essentially a war between the majority Sunni Muslims and the minority Alawites (Shi'ites) who have ruled Syria for over 40 years. The result is a foregone conclusion. President Assad will lose and the Alawites will be ousted. Or will they? And before they do, what will be the price paid by others?
Iran is a Muslim Shi'ite state despised by Saudi Arabia which is a Muslim Sunni country whose Government embraces an extreme form of Sunnism called Wahabism which tries to revive what it perceives to be the original purity of Islam. Their brand of right wing politics is similar to the extreme Jewish settlers in Occupied Palestine and to the extreme Christian Evangelists in the US. And like these two, the Saudis would do anything to maintain their hold on power. Iran, being Shi'ite is perceived to be a threat to Saudi power. Iran supports Syria's Alawites. So Saudi Arabia is arming the Syrian Sunni Free Army. That is the first impact of Syria's civil strife.
Syria has close links with Lebanon which, until 1923, was part of Bilad Al-Sham (literally "country of Damascus / Damascenes"). Syria occupied vast swathes of Lebanon for almost 30 years from 1976. Israel had drawn a red line in Lebanon that it had warned Syria not to cross. Lebanon has a precarious demographic mix of Christians, Sunnis and Shi'ites. Syria has, along with Iran, supported the Shi'ites by arming and financing Lebanon's Resistance Movement known as Hisbollah (the Party of God). Tripoli and surrounding areas in north Lebanon have been the recipients of a large number of Syrian war refugees. It also houses Lebanon's small Alawite community. It does not take great imagination to see this tinder box exploding as it did recently with Tripoli witnessing street fighting reminiscent of the Lebanese Civil War that started in 1974 and lasted some 16 years. So, Lebanon is the second country to be wary of Syria's Civil War spreading over the long border with Lebanon.
Iran supports Syria which is clearly not acceptable to the US and its powerful ally Israel. Israel has made it abundantly clear that it would like Iran's potential Nuclear capability wiped out. The Americans are reluctant to do this because it is a Presidential election year. If Obama wins then it is possible that war with Iran would be averted. If Romney wins, then all options are open but the best advice Iranians could have is to prepare to be virtually annihilated by Israel and the USA. Since Israel does not want Obama to win, then Romney's chances of winning are very good because of the strong influence that Israel exerts on American internal affairs. And if President Bush the younger was seen as a warmongering madman, he is a Mickey Mouse compared to Mitt Romney whose main speciality had so far been to look after Mitt Romney by buying companies, sacking everyone, asset stripping the companies and turning a quick profit regardless of the pain caused to others. Iran's support for Syria's murderous regime will be the excuse for an attack on Iran.
And in what way will Syria affect the Palestinians? As always, every major unrest in the Arab World gives Israel the opportunity to carry out its plan to take more land. Lebanon's Civil War was the pretext that allowed Israel to launch its Operation Grapes of Wrath and occupy South Lebanon's natural resource rich area and to carry out a long cherished dream of diverting the Litani waters for use by Israel. It also used the Civil War to try and foist a Christian State on Lebanon that would help justify its own Jewish status in the eyes of an increasingly sceptical world. It failed because of Hisbollah's successful resistance to its twenty year occupation. Israel used the chaos in 1947 to expel a huge number of Palestinians from their villages. Those who tried to return home were shot or deported as "infiltrators". And, in recent years, Israel used the disarray of Arab politics and its accompanying decadent societies to affirm its occupation of Palestinian lands through a huge Jewish Settlement programme. That the Jewish Settlements can not and will not survive with millions of Palestinians surrounding them is not in doubt. Furthermore, the Jewish Settlements have fragmented Palestinian territories such that a two State solution grows more unlikely by the day. There are only two options left: to annex all Palestinian lands to Israel and accept that Palestinians will then eventually become the majority citizens of Israel and the Jewish State will disappear. The second option is obvious. Israel will use Syria's Civil War, the war with Iran and the further fragmentation of the Arab World to ethnically cleanse the rest of Palestine as it partially successfully did once before.
The Palestinian party Hamas has received much support from Iran and Syria. A recent rupture has caused Hamas to move away from Syria. However, our history in Palestine is riddled with missed opportunities. Israel's undoubted success is only partly due to its organisational genius and American support. It is more largely due to us Palestinians lacking any organisation or grand plan with vision. We have missed out on peace with Israel so many times whilst Israel cheerfully expanded at our expense. Now we are desperate for a Palestinian State on barely 22 per-cent of our land and we have spent years watching more Palestinian lands slowly being stolen by Jewish Settlers as we were being increasingly squeezed into ever diminishing unmanageable cantonised Bantustans. Syria's Civil War, its deleterious impact on Lebanon, Iran, Saudi Arabia and, by association, many others, may emerge as our Palestinian death knell - unless a visionary leader with charisma and courage suddenly emerges when there has not been one for hundreds of years.
Arab countries are lurching even further into an Islamic form of government as evidenced by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood doing so well in both Parliamentary and Presidential elections. Of course the Egyptian military will never allow such a result for, like their American masters, democracy is great as long as Muslims do not win (witness Hisbollah in Lebanon, the Islamic Party in Algeria and others). Such Islamisation is partly being caused by virulent Western Islamophobia, Israel's Jewish imperatives, Christian governments using God as the prompt for invading Iraq and dismantling Palestine. No wonder that religion is making a come back.
So, is religion at the bottom of our woes in Palestine, in Israel and in Syria? Unequivocally "no". If each faith lived by its professed creeds, we would indeed enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The faiths are fine. It is their abusers for reasons of greed and power that are at fault.
For us Palestinian, an apt paraphrase would tell it as it is: "The fault, dear reader, is not in our faiths or our foes, but in ourselves that we are victims. There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, drowns us all forever more."