The Conflict in Syria


On March 21, 2012, the fifteen-member UN Security Council voted unanimously, for the first time, to push the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, towards a diplomatic settlement, by ordering it to comply with the Six Point plan presented by Kofi Anan, the former UN Secretary-General. Assad, in fact, accepted the plan on March 27.

This diplomatic process was inscribed into a “Presidential Statement,” not a Council resolution. The difference between the two is that the former requires unanimous support from the Council, and it is also non-binding. The Statement threatened Syria with certain unspecified “further steps,” that do not necessarily include military action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, but that include tougher diplomatic and economic measures backed by Russia and China, which would harm and embarrass the Assad regime. Additionally, that would include sanctions against Syria’s First Lady, Asma, thus preventing her from traveling in the 27 nations that constitute the European Union.

The Presidential Statement expressed its “gravest concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria, which has resulted in a serious human rights crisis and a deplorable humanitarian situation.” The Statement, however, made concessions to Bashar al-Assad by not including “threats, ultimatums, and “unilateral demands.” It, moreover, appeased Assad by including a Russian proposal that condemned the mid-March bombing attacks on Syrian government installations in Damascus and Aleppo, describing them as acts of terrorism, rather than “resistance,” which the Syrian opposition claims.

This action by the UN Security Council, which was not vetoed this time by Russia and China, was meant to extract from Syria an agreement to endorse the Kofi Anan plan, which begins with a cease-fire, and culminates in a peace process demanding that all parties unite behind it, else those consequences, costs, penalties would be activated. Undoubtedly, the new attitude by Russia and China must have steered the Assad regime towards embracing the Anan Plan.

Such a plan, which has scrupulously avoided severe action against Syria, yet carefully avoided recriminations, seems to strike a balance between the intransigence of Bashar regime, heretofore backed by Russia and China, on the one hand, and the positions of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and even Israel, on the other.

This type of conflict resolution is cumbersome and complex, combining the local with the regional, and the latter with the international. Although Libya has many attributes similar to those of the Syrian situation, the former is essentially a tribal society. Libya is no Syria. Libya has neither the middle class, nor the sophistication of Syrian society. Syria, on the other hand, is a modern state which plays a leading role in the Middle East and is considered a center of Arab nationalism. It has developed a network of crucial regional alliances including the Soviet Union and later Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah.  Libya’s dictator for more than four decades, the late Moammar Qaddafi,  saw himself as a protégé of the Egyptian Leader, Gamal Abd al Nasser.

Not only is the Syrian conflict complex, but also regional and global, as well. Syria is the center of a cold war, not unlike that which prevailed during the second half of the past century. The Syrian faction consists of Iran, Hezbollah, some Lebanese elements, Russia, and China. Its opposite number includes The US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, and Jordan. Of course, these coalitions are not mutually exclusive nor are they permanent “alliances.” Shifting alignments, at the present, reflect shifting interests, and in fact, can be viewed as an attempt to settle ongoing competition for hegemony, domination, and super-ordination, if not re-colonization. Most probably, the latter applies to Libya, Syria, Bahrein, Yemen, and Iraq. The former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, expressed her optimism when she made her famous statement about an emerging new Middle East, i.e. a subservient region defined by a US, Saudi, Israeli hegemony in which Syria will cease to be the address for Arab nationalism and anti-colonialism.

Thus, the ongoing crises in Syria,  designed to marginalize the Assad regime, under the pretext of human rights, would represent an attempt to settle previous accounts: Syria’s close ally, Hezbollah would not be allowed to get away with an apparent military victory over Israel in 2006; Syria would not go unpunished for its alleged role in the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister, the late  Rafiq Hariri; nor will Syria’s “coalition” remain exempt from the consequences that usually come with the counter revolutionary restraint presumably inherent in Rice’s “new Middle East” formula,  particularly in the aftermath of the seemingly successful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. These revolutions cannot run loose in a Middle East that is steadily becoming an American lake.

How long will the lake remain to serve the interests of colonial powers in an age of de-colonization will depend on the dwindling economies of the Anglo-Saxon world, which may face difficulties in trying to sustain a neo-colonialist order in the Middle East. It may also depend on the continuing readiness of NATO to support counter-revolutionary forces ala Libya, the enduring ability of America’s surrogates, such as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar .etc to escape the revolutionary tide in the Arab world and the rising expectations of a new public whose willingness to sacrifice for a democratic polity has proven to be boundless. A western lake and an Arab spring simply cannot co-exist.

NASEER ARURI is Chancellor Professor (Emeritus) of Political Science at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. His latest book (with the late Samih Farsoun) is Palestine and the Palestinians: A Social and Political History.

November 26, 2015
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!

Joseph G. Ramsey
Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises
Dan Glazebrook
Turkey Shoot: the Rage of the Impotent in Syria
Andrew Stewart
The Odious President Wilson
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration