All the news not fit to print
Email | Back to History | Back to the world news | Home | Support this website

TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

What to do in Syria Part 2: know your enemy
What to do in Syria: ask the Muslims of the world
The End of Syria
Articles on Syria before 2013

  • (june 2013) What to do in Syria Part 2: know your enemy first.
    Syria's dictator is Bashar al-Assad, and his regime is mostly drawn from the Alawite sect, a variant of the Shiite religion: what should make us pause is that Assad is not Saddam, and the Alawites are not the Taliban. I supported the war in Iraq, or, better, regime change in Iraq, because Saddam Hussein was widely considered (within the Arab world itself) one of the most brutal tyrants in history and there was no doubt in anybody's mind (in that part of the world) that Saddam would have acquired and used weapons of mass destruction at the first opportunity. He had already invaded two neighbors (Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990) in two bloody wars, and had already carried out two genocides (one in the 1980s against the Kurds and one in the 1990s against the Shiites who rose against him). The man was simply mad, and his entire regime consisted of hired assassins. The Europacifists who marched in the streets in 2003 were basically defending Saddam Hussein's right to remain in power forever because nobody had a serious alternative: there were sanctions against Iraq that were mainly hurting ordinary families while leaving Saddam and his sons leave the life of the sheik, and even those Europacifists were largely in favor of removing those sanctions. If not force, what would have removed Saddam Hussein from power? No anti-war activist ever provided a decent answer to that question (other than the selfish "it's none of my business"). I supported the regime change in Afghanistan that removed the Taliban from power. I thought (way before 2001) that the Taliban were one of the most harrowing regimes in the world. They turned Afghanistan, a land of religious tolerance, into an emblem of Islamic intolerance. They tore down the giant Buddha statues, the equivalent of someone burning down the Kaba in Mecca. What would Muslims do if someone burned down the Kaba in Mecca (which, as far as i am concerned, is a piece of crap worth a lot less than two giant statues)?

    Assad is not Saddam because he has not attacked any neighboring country (his father invaded Lebanon but that was long ago) and has not carried out any discrimination against the various ethnic groups of Syria (Christians, Kurds, Sunnis). The Alawites are not the Taliban because they actually represent the most "westernized" element of Syria society: highly educated businessmen and, lo and behold, businesswomen. Assad's regime is secular: Islam is for the mosques, not for the government. And Assad, while technically opposed to peace with Israel, has been a stabilizing force along the Israeli border: Israel calls him "a predictable enemy", which is a lot better than an unpredictable one. Assad's main crime in Western eyes has been to support Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that is detemined to destroy Israel, and he has done so taking weapons from Iran, the West's arch-enemy in the Middle East. Neither, however, violates international law: Hezbollah is a legitimate party in Lebanon that has frequently won fair elections and Iran is a neighbor with which Syria has trade agreements. The USA may not like Assad's friends, but the USA has accepted much worse friends from countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (the original supporters of Al Qaeda and the Taliban), not to mention countless murderous dictators in Latin America.

    Assad is like Saddam an enemy of Al Qaeda. The USA neglected this fact when it attacked Saddam and realized only later that it had just created a new vast battlefield for Al Qaeda to expand. Ten years later Al Qaeda still routinely kills 50-100 Iraqis every month. Sure enough, the weakening of Assad's power in Syria has allowed Al Qaeda (or, better, the Nusra Front allied to al-Qaeda) to enter Syria and even occupy territory where shari-ha law has been imposed (something that it never achieved in Iraq). They say that the enemy of the enemy is your friend. The USA did not apply that logic in Iraq when it removed from power an enemy of the Islamists (Saddam Hussein) and did not apply that logic in Iran (the only country to fight the Taliban way before 2001). Assad is an enemy of Al Qaeda but is a friend of Iran (and of Iraq's Shiite militias, the ones that used to fight the USA in Iraq), so it depends which factor one considers more relevant for the USA: destroying Al Qaeda or constraining Iran's ambitions.

    Therefore the motivation to remove Assad from power is much lower than it was in Iraq. Secondly, the USA finds itself (yet again) with strange bedfellows: Saudi Arabia and Qatar (two medieval monarchies) are the main supporters of the Syrian rebels, and second is Turkey, a country that in theory of a Western-style democracy, but in practice still denies the Armenian genocide (a century later), still refuses to grant the Kurds independence or at least autonomy, has slowly introduced Islamic-inspired laws, has jailed and intimidated journalists (Turkish CNN did not broadcast the riots in downtown Istanbul that were broadcast worldwide by CNN International) and bans one million websites (including the one you are reading right now). Qatar's sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi called on all Muslims to carry out jihad in Syria against Assad claiming that Alawites and Shi'ites are even worse than Christians and the Jews: that's the company you have if you fight Assad. A victory by Al Qaeda in Syria would be a devastating blow to the "war on terrorism" but a victory by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey would be no less a triumph for the anti-Western forces of the region, because it would signal a shift towards conservative Islam in a country like Syria that has always been a model of secularism. Note, for example, that women are virtually absent from the armies of the rebels but are joining Assad's paramilitary forces, the National Defence Forces (NDF). The reason is simple: the condition of women in Syria has always been relatively good compared with the rest of the Islamic world, and a regime change is unlikely to benefit women (political commentators tend to forget that women constitute 50% of a country's population). Last but not least, there is no question that religious people tend to interpret a victory as a sign from their god to continue the fighting. If the Islamists win in Syria, they will not stop there. Israel fears that they would turn their guns toward Israel, and the USA should fear that they would do exactly what they did when they won against the Soviet Union: they turned against the USA.

    There are cynical reasons why the USA and Israel may like the status quo, i.e. a protracted civil war. The main one is that it is a drain on Iran's economy (since Iran is basically footing Assad's bill) and it keeps Hezbollah distracted from Israel (in theory, its very reason to exist) besides lowering its credibility at home (Hezbollah as Assad's personal militia is not as appealing to the average Lebanese as Hezbollah the defender of Lebanese independence against Western and Israeli influence).

    It is also likely that Obama is a more rational calculator than domestic detractors and international enemies give him credit for. Obama knows that after two failed wars in Islamic countries he has to think twice how to use his power: he can use it only once militarily, and even once is probably one too many for his electorate. In his mind (and in the minds of many analysts) a nuclear Iran is a bigger problem than a chaotic Syria. If the USA has to intervene in that region of the world, it better do it to demolish or at least slow down Iran's nuclear program, a feasible goal (and probably tacitly shared by Russia), rather than to stop a messy civil war that probably cannot be stopped anyway (and that has Russia on the opposite site). Israel probably agrees with the Obama view: Israel can carry out surgical strikes to make sure that, while Syria disintegrates, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda do not gain weapons that can be used against Israel the day after; but the main nightmare for Israel remains Iran's nuclear program.

    The chance that Syria falls in the hands of Islamic extremists is well known to all the parties. What we forget is that we've been allied with Islamic extremists once (when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan), if not twice (during the Lebanese civil war), so this wouldn't be the first time that we tacitly approve of car bombs and suicide bombers when it serves our (Western) purposes (in this case the purpose of getting rid of Assad and inflicting a strategic defeat to Iran).

    Ultimately, the reason that i don't support military intervention in Syria like i did in Iraq and Afghanistan is that, quite simply, i am not sure what the Syrians themselves want at this point. Suicide bombers have blown themselves up in the centre of the Syrian capital Damascus, and i don't think we should reward those suicide bombers, no matter who they were fighting: they killed random police officers and civilians, not soldiers on a battlefield. If i lived there, at this point i would be more worried of Syria becoming a replica of Taliban Afghanistan than of a mild dictator like Assad staying in power, and, if Assad were finally smart enough to make the democratic concessions that he refused to make, i would definitely opt for the lesser evil.

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
    Back to the world news | Top of this page

  • (may 2013) What to do in Syria: ask the Muslims of the world.
    The problem with the Islamic world (at least from Morocco to Pakistan) is its fundamental hypocrisy. Muslims are very good at criticizing everything and the opposite of everything, and then also at taking no responsibility for either doing something or doing nothing. Whatever the West (and in particular the USA) does or doesn't do is never welcome by the Islamic world. If the USA does not intervene, it means it is supporting or at least tacitly enjoying the situation. If the USA does intervene, then it is an evil invader or at least destabilizer of peaceful Muslim lands (no matter how many million people have been killed by Muslims in those peaceful lands). For mysterious reasons the Islamic world is the one place in the world where problems are not created by the people who live there, but by everybody else.
    Needless to say, this mindset has cost dearly to the Islamic world. Look around and you'll see that every other region of the world is developing rapidly. Not long ago China and India were starving, now they are emerging superpowers: they did not blame their problems on everybody else, they solved them. Latin America was starving too, and now most of it is following their examples. Even sub-Saharan Africa is developing at a faster pace than most of the Islamic world. At the end of World War II the Arab world was second only to Western Europe. Now it is almost last. Keep blaming everybody else for the problems that you created, and you'll quickly find yourself at the bottom.
    Obama is wise not to intervene in Syria. The civil war is already widely blamed on the West and on Israel in the court of Islamic public opinion. There are routinely articles in newspapers and sermons in the mosques that use this or that conspiracy theory to argue that it was all designed by the evil non-Muslims. The moment the USA drops one bomb on Syria, one billion Muslims will rise up against the USA to defend the martyrs of Syria, blaming on the USA every single person killed in that civil war, just like they did in Iraq (where 99% of civilians were killed by fellow Muslims in the name of Islam) and in Afghanistan (where the mess was created by fanatical Muslims way before the USA even learned where Afghanistan was on the map).
    Foreign intervention in the Islamic world should obey a simple rule: "they" have to beg us to do it. And "they" means the entire Islamic world. First of all, their leaders have to demand it in public (not behind closed doors as they usually do), and in clear words, and in Arabic (or Urdu or Farsi or whatever). Somehow the West has been tolerating for decades that the leaders of the Islamic world (at least from Morocco to Pakistan) say one thing on western television in English and the exact opposite in their country in their own language. In English the Islamic countries want the West to intervene, but in Arabic they blame the West for intervening. Behind closed doors they beg the USA to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but in public they accuse the USA of genocide.
    Second, every Islamic country should hold a referendum asking their people "do you want the USA to 1. provide weapons to the rebels, 2. bomb the regime, 3. invade the country or 4. do nothing?" The vote should be public, so that everybody in the world (including the people of Syria) will know how each and every Muslim voted.
    They have to learn to take responsibility, instead of always blaming their problems (created by them) on everybody else except them. It is the best thing that the West can do for the Islamic world: teach them to take responsibility for all the problems they have, every single one caused by them. Stop blaming the rest of the world (Israel, the CIA, Russia, China, etc) for your problems (that, incidentally, started centuries ago, before the USA even existed).
    Thousands of innocents are being killed in Syria for a simple reason: because a few years ago the Muslims of the world rose up against the USA when the USA decided to fight one of the most heinous dictators in the world (Saddam Hussein) and one of the most heinous regimes in the world (the Taliban). The entire Islamic world sided with Saddam Hussein (and his "insurgents" as Al Jazeera called them) and with the Taliban against the USA. The USA learned the lesson, elected a president who is opposed to invading countries and removing dictators, and now the USA does not support any revolution anywhere in the Islamic world (until they are over) and has openly declared that it is shifting its focus from the Middle East (a place where people are consistently hostile to the USA) to the Far East (a place where people consistently learn from the USA). This is yet another problem that the Islamic world created for itself: it alienated the USA, the only superpower, i.e. the only country that have the power and the credibility to broker peace. Instead of seeing the USA as a tolerant society in which all religions are welcome (unlike Islam, that forbids non-Muslims from entering Mecca and that de facto keeps expelling non-Muslims), and instead of seeing the USA as the land of opportunities (unlike the Islamic world that is mostly the land of corruption), and instead of seeing the USA as a role model on how to invest in education and technology (guess which region of the world ranks last in education), and instead of seeing the USA as a model for how to protect women from abuses (guess which region ranks last for women's rights), the Islamic world sees the USA only as the country to blame for everything and for the opposite of everything. The USA should not do anything in Syria until the entire Islamic world (both its leaders, its news media and its ordinary citizens) publicly thanks the USA for removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein from power, the best things that happened to the Islamic world in at least 50 years.

    See also The Islamic world is perfect: the Muslim double standard, part 2

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
    Back to the world news | Top of this page

  • (april 2013) The End of Syria.
    I am skeptic that Syria can continue to exist as a united country. It seems to me that the only way that could be achieved is by a thorough ethnic cleansing by a brutal regime of one kind of another.
    The interested parties, including the West, show incredible little compassion for the millions of ordinary Syrians who simply want to get by with their lives. If you focus on what is best for ordinary people, it is not only Iran and Russia who are to blame. The West is siding with Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who are de facto the ones at war against president Assad of Syria. They are the ones arming the Sunni rebels against the Alawite regime of Assad. Without those arms, the rebellion would have ended in an indiscriminate massacre of Sunnis by the Alawite military elite. The West has been quick to back Qatar and Saudi Arabia (and most of the Arab League has done so too, since they are all Sunnis except for Iraq) but the West forgot that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are Wahabi monarchies. These are the ultrafundamentalist Muslims who originally spawned and sponsored the likes of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. A Wahabi dictatorship is hardly better than the secular dictatorship of the British-educated Assad. The West, in its attempt to save the rebels from genocide, allied itself with an idealogy that might be even more anti-Western than Assad's, a situation that is eerily similar to what happened in Afghanistan when the USA, in order to fight the Soviet Union, allied itself with the Arab fighters that later became Al Qaeda (reminder: the Soviet Union nevre killed a single citizen of the USA, whereas Al Qaeda managed to kill more than three thousands of them).
    The West is also delusional in thinking that the civil war can be ended by simply channeling more arms to the rebels. Sending more arms into a civil war has always caused the civil war to spiral out of control, not to taper off. Assad's supporters will simply find ways to send him more arms too. The net result will simply be more dead bodies in the streets of Syria. The West has not learned (or has forgotten) the lesson of Lebanon, a lengthy bloody civil war that was prolonged precisely by the fact that both factions kept getting more and more weapons. Incidentally, that civil war ended when the West (notably Ronald Reagan) eventually gave up and ran away, a precedent that Syria's president Assad must remember well since the winner was his father, who easily invaded Lebanon four years after the West had left. Just like back then, the powers that are more likely to end the civil war are not the ones that are located very far but the ones that are located very near, namely Turkey and, like it or not, Iran. (I am leaving Israel out for the obvious reason that no Arab country would accept its involvement and Iraq out for the obvious reason that it has its own civil war to sort out). Nor can Russia be left out, if nothing else because Russia has been humiliated on so many fronts that it might make a stand in Syria for the sake of proving that it is not finished. (See Russia, Syria and the West)
    If we care for the civilians, the fastest and cheapest way to end the civil war is to accept a compromise with Iran and Russia over the fate of Assad. The rebels, galvanized by the West, have so far refused to talk to president Assad, but Assad does represent the Alawites, and the Alawites constitute a significant minority (and, incidentally, the most westernized minority) of the population. Assad must be aware that things will never be what they were and is probably willing to make a deal if only a deal is offered to him. Offering him only the option of death or exile is not a good starting point. Offering him a little Alawite state (on the coast between Lebanon and Turkey) in return for a democratic Syria (90% Sunni and 10% Christian) might be a better way to jumpstart the negotiations. Russia would keep its naval base and Iran would keep some influence in the region.
    However, it would not be the end of the story for the West, because the winner of that civil war will owe his victory to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, hardly sponsors of democracy, and hardly protectors of Christian minorities...
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
    Back to the world news | Top of this page

    Articles on Syria before 2013

Email | Back to History | Back to the world news | Home | Support this website

TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.