FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Syrian Mirage

by PIERRE PICCININ

More than a year after civil unrest broke out and plunged part of Syria into the chaos of the ‘Arab Spring’, the Baath government remains firmly in control and the majority of the country is calm; almost untouched by an opposition which is scattered and confined to the cities of Homs and Hama, as well as a few towns on the Turkish and Lebanese border. The main reported cases of unrest are linked to regular attacks from Salafist bands which are of an extremely violent nature and more importantly, the Free Syrian Army. The latter counts amid its ranks numerous Qataris and Libyans, all whom have been trained in the art of urban guerilla warfare by the French army in refugee camps, which provide perfect bases from which to operate and orchestrate attacks.

How can one explain the resilience of this regime? A regime which is more or less in complete control despite facing what is usually described as a “revolutionary populist uprising”? One which is determined to overthrow the “Alawite dictatorship” from the political and economic realms of Syrian society, the so-called privilege of the Alawi, a community which accounts for  no more than about 10% of the population?

Perhaps it is because the reality does not correspond to this over simplified equation.

Indeed, the communitarian and religious Syrian patchwork is far from closing ranks on the Alawi population. Moreover, this group, do not in fact monopolize the political landscape.

Therefore, even back in the 1980s, when Hafez Al-Assad, father of the incumbent president, Bashir, and author of the “Alawi coup d’état”, succumbed to serious health issues, he had designed a directorate of six members to run the Syrian government – All six were Sunnis.

Furthermore, all the prime ministers who have served in Bashir Al-Assad’s government have been Sunnis.  Similarly key positions including the Ministers of Defence, Finance and Oil and the heads of the numerous police corps and the secret service do not depend on the Alawi community. The Druze, Christian, Shiite and Kurd minorities also benefit from governmental representation.

This would explain why the opposition is a fractious minority whose support base lies outside Syria’s borders rather than at the heart of the population.

In these circumstances it is understandable that Russia (and China), treading carefully in order to preserve her last card in the Middle East, resolutely opposes the pressure to sign up to the latest United Nations Security Council resolution. This would undoubtedly lead Syria into a scenario similar to Libya, where tens of thousands of civilians would perish as during the destruction of Sirte (and Russia has asked for there to be a UN commission to investigate these Atlantic war crimes).

The most striking element is this whole situation is that the UN has neither the right nor the objective, to decide the nature of a sovereign government, less still the identity of its head of state; meaning that the text proposed to the Security Council by the Arab league, calling for the departure of President Bashir Al-Assad, a text supported by Qatar with substantial French backing, is directly opposed to the basic principles of international law and completely surreal.

Furthermore, if the Baath regime is dictatorial and brutal, so are numerous factions of the opposition: an opposition which is seriously divided and made up of groups with conflicting objectives, none of which necessarily represent the Syrian population; for on the one hand there are the radical Islamic factions, who massacre their opponents and commit atrocities against the military (kidnappings, mutilations, decapitations…) but also civilians who refuse to support their objectives. This is why Russia has demanded that any UN resolution must be applied not only to the government forces but to all factions resorting to violence, including those supported by foreign states, specifically France and Qatar.

It would therefore seem that from an Alawite fantasy to the surrealism of the United Nations, Syria as depicted by the mass media certainly bears very little resemblance to the reality of the actual situation.

Pierre Piccinin is a professor of political science at the Ecole Européen de Bruxelles I.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail