Syria: the Global Power Lab

Syria has been in a state of turmoil since the spring of 2011. The civil uprising that started in Darra, 90 kilometers South of Damascus with the hope of overthrowing or atleast democratizing the repressive Alawite regime of Bashar -Al-Assad, Syria’s longtime dictator and son of the former president Hafez-Al-Assad, who placed himself in the centre of Syria’s power-halls in 1970s through a series of coups and incarcerations, has now turned into a full-blown war of humongous proportions. The war now concerns more than 65 countries, across 5 continents and shows little hope of receding very soon. Quarter of a million Syrians are dead, half of Syria’s population has been displaced with around four million Syrians seeking shelter outside their country as refugees. However, to say that the responsibility for this catastrophe lies solely with Assad’s brutality or Baghdadi’s rogue ambitions is to give a narrow view of things. Longtime nefarious meddling of international and regional states into the workings of middle-east politics is a crucial factor to consider. Even if there was no Arab Spring, this chaos was a long-time coming. ISIS didn’t evolve out of Damascus suburbs or non-existent madrasas in Allepo but the US-run prisons of Camp Bucca in Iraq.

Saudi Arabia and Iran’s moronic turf-war has unraveled to drastic consequences in Syria. Shia Iran, while openly supporting the murderous regime of Assad by providing military power and services of its elite Revolutionary Guard, is ignoring the fact that Assad has been barrel-bombing heavily populated areas and torturing people with absolute impunity, which has resulted in thousands of innocent deaths much greater in number than ISIS. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is backing what they call moderate rebels against Assad regime but the tip-off here is that Saudi, the self-appointed supremo of “Sunni Islam” is worried more about showing-off their petro-power while innocent civilians are getting slaughtered. Erdogan, President of Turkey, is playing his own ballgame by targeting Kurdish enclaves held by YPG, across Syrian border. By exaggerating the “security threat” posed by YPG Kurdish nationalists, he’s cunningly trying to garner vote in favor of his party, AKP, during the upcoming general elections. In dark times, people tend to support dictators and who’s more authoritative in Turkey than Erdogan and Co?

Coming to the dirty kingpins of Global War for Power, United States and Russia have stumbled upon a goldmine to yet again flex their cynical military and diplomatic skills. “Power is not a possession. It has to performed,” Foucault once professed. That’s what Russia and US seem to be doing, again, this time at the cost of life and lives of millions of Syrians. Propping up Assad with weapons and open diplomatic support, Putin is desperately trying to be in the Bush league. More recently, Russia has started pounding rebel and ISIS held areas of Syria with airstrikes and cruise missiles but the worrying aspect of this approach is that the rebels and ISIS do not hold “Land Without People” but civilian areas. Russia’s recent diplomatic rhetoric reflects classic power-politics rather than a concern for bringing Syria out of this chaos. Or maybe, in the words of George R.R Martin, Putin has found a ladder in this chaos.


A recent analysis by Reuters has revealed that almost 80% of targets that Russia declared to have it in Syria are not held by ISIS.

In the case of United States, its policy towards Syria has met disaster after disaster. United States, like a schoolchild, for the past four years has been desperately trying to maintain its supremacy in the chessboard of world politics with little success and thousands of lost lives. US led coalition of more than 60 countries has miserably failed to stop the spread of ISIS or Assad Regime’s butcheries. Their rebel-recruitment plan has met an embarrassing end and now Obama administration is set to rain weapons directly into the hands of “moderate rebels” – An infinitely more sophisticated Taliban in making. Meanwhile, their Kurdish mercenaries in Raqqa and Hasakeh are commiting “war-crimes” by “forcibly evacuating” residents from these provinces and “demolishing their houses”, as reported recently by Amnesty International. US failure in Syria can be gauged from the fact that their official stand has changed from “Definitely No Assad” to “Assad can be a part of transitional process”. In between this evolution of stands in US, thousands of Syrians have been butchered, maimed and tortured. If Assad was to be a part of transitional process, why did Syria have to bleed so much? United States’ disinterest in securing Syrian lives is evident from the fact that it has given asylum to only 1500 refugees out of total 4 million. This self-interest filled approach of two “infidel countries” positively serves the rhetoric of one latest contender in the rumble for power.

Enter Islamic State of Iraq and Levant or Islamic State. Calling ISIS solely a murderous crazy cult with no context and relation to US-led Global War on Terror is myopic. Similarly, calling it a Chosen Army that’s piously focused on Islamic principles is, well, not reading their official magazine. Dabiq, the ISIS monthly, proudly propounds “sex slavery”. The leadership and support-base for ISIS has a relationship, directly proportional to the repression that US-backed regimes in Iraq perpetrated on Sunni populations post Saddam. ISIS, now in its own right, is as brutal. The magnet of ISIS is so strong that 30,000 fighters from 100 foreign countries are a part of their roster. However, if one reads the interviews of ex-ISIS fighters published by media outlets like New Yorker magazine, it’s evident that the group attracts two things- Pretentiousness and Lust For Recognition. Besides, the rise of ISIS had led to an inescapable condition where Assad now legitimizes his rule by projecting himself as the lone savior against an army that has plans to pillage Rome. Unfortunately, many now see him as a lesser of two evils. One can call me a hopeless Muslim but if delaying Caliphite for sometime saves the life of one innocent Syrian, It’s a deal that I would not take but jump into.

No country deserves to be a Lab, no people deserve to be treated like rats. No state has a right to carry out experiments on a whole population. If Hitler was experimenting in Auschwitz, Putin, Obama, Rouhani, Salman, Erdogan, Cameron, Hollande, Abadi and likes are doing it in Syria and ISIS is a cannibal, feeding from the dead corpses and multiplying from the half-alive ones, constantly produced by this experiment. The end to this “global civil war” lies in true leadership, not power-politics. There is a difference between meddling and healing and Syria needs the latter.


More articles by:

Umar Lateef Misgar, from Islamabad Kashmir studies International Relations at Islamic University of Science and Technology. Feedback-umar.misgar@gmail.com. Twitter @Kaashur

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