By Muhammad Bilal Iftikhar
Syrian Conflict is becoming international flashpoint. Especially after the assassination of Russian Ambassador ANDREI KARLOV and Humanitarian Situation in Aleppo things are getting dirty. Russia has suspended negotiations with US and there are reports NATO is planning to open another front in Ukraine where NATO backed Ukrainian Regime have stepped up attacks on Russian forces in Breakaway Eastern Ukraine.
Syrian conflict has laid foundation of future global conflict. This essay will look at the causes of Syrian conflict historically and also Part played by other players
Syrian conflict is the most confusing conflict of today — as propaganda machinery affiliated to two opposing camps fighting a proxy war in Syria are also fighting an information and Propaganda war. To simplify what’s happening in Syria, so that we can understand the reality, we must first understand that there are two simultaneous wars going on in Syria. The first war is between Syrian majority and Asad regime where more than 75% Syrians are trying to remove minority Asad regime who is denying their basic human rights.
The second war is a war fought Between Iranians and Saudis. U.S. and its allies like Saudi Arab and GCC states are backing resistance against Bashar Al Asad where as Iran, Russia and Hizbollah are backing Asad’s regime.
To hide the strategic interests, both sides are using the cover of ISIS’s presence and Al Qaeda affiliates, and in the name of war against terror hiding their crimes against humanity. In order to gain sympathy and foot soldiers both are presenting this war as sectarian war to their ideological allies. The biggest casualty of this war is Syrian and Iraqi population.
Present Syrian regime came in power in early 70’s when Bashar Al Asad’s father, Hafiz Al Asad became president of Syria and took charge of Bath Party. Syrian Bath Party was inspired by Iraqi Bathists and Egyptian Nasserists, and were propellants of Arab Nationalism. This was the era of Cold war and Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Syria were presenting themselves as bastions of Arab Nationalistic Socialism .
After Hafiz Al Asad took charge he instituted one-man rule and organized state services into sectarian lines (the Sunnis becoming the formal heads of political institutions, while the Alawites were given control over the military, intelligence and security apparatuses).
Due to Hafiz Al Asad’s special treatment with Alawites and discrimination with Sunni Majority and other minorities, Sunnies revolted against Bathist regime in 1976, which reached its peak in 1982, during Hama uprising . It is estimated that around 40 thousand people were killed from 1976- 1982 and revolt was crushed by heavy-handed approach.
After the end of cold war Bath parties of Syria and Iraq were able to retain power. Syria in new world-order participated in war against Iraq in 1992 and negotiated with Israel. Hafiz Al Asad died in 2000 and after his death his son Bashar Al Asad was elected unopposed by Bath Party.
Death of Hafiz gave hope of freedom to Syrians and resulted in Damascus Spring — debates and discussions in intellectual circles demanding reforms and rights. Bashar Al Asad’s regime used force and repression and ended the Damascus Spring. Intellectuals like Ma’mun al-Homsi , Raid saif Riad al-Turk, Arif Dalila, Walid al-Bunni, Kamal al-Labwani, Habib Salih, Hasan Sa`dun, Habib Isa, and Fawwaz Tello were prosecuted and were sent to prison.
Arab Spring and its success in African Arab countries came as a fresh air to repressed Syrians . Protests started in January 2011 and were met with an iron hand by Bashaar’s regime. On April 18, 2011, about one hundred thousand protesters came out in Homs calling for resignation of Basher Al Asad. This time also Bashar’s troops resorted to violence which aggravated the situation. Alawite dominated Syrian Army ruthlessly tried to crush the uprising against Bashar.
Bashar’s use of tanks and heavy weapons on protesters resulted in defection of Sunni, Ismaeli, Druz and Christian officers who laid foundation of Free Syrian Army or FSA. Soon after the public revolt in Syria Jihadi elements like Al-Qaida and ISIS started pouring in to Syria to wage Jihad. Arab countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia had grudge against Bashar Regime especially for his remarks against King Abdullah back in 2007 and also for rejecting plan of Qatar –Saudia Arab- Jordan- Syria –Turkey Pipeline which Asad rejected on Russian advice.
On the other side, Iran which saw a window of opportunity after Iraq invasion by U.S. in 2003 came to rescue Bashar’s regime as Bashar’s survival enables it to complete Iran- Iraq –Syria-Labanon pipeline which will take Iranian gas to Mediterranean ports- European countries and will also consolidate Iranian hold from Iraq to Lebanon.
Saudis and other GCC countries believe that Iran is supporting Houthis in Yemen. Iranian officials gave open threats to Saudi Arab when its forces intervened in Yemen which shows strategic importance of Yemen to Iran. Iran Sees Yemen as traditional area of influence as during Sassanid Rule Yemen was under Iranian control. The rationale behind this support is if Houthis succeed in their struggle. Iran will be able to control Red Sea traffic, where as Iran due to its location can any time block sea traffic passing through strait of Hurmaz. Arabs are afraid of double envelopment of GCC Arab states and they believe if Iran Succeed in Syria and Yemen they will be forced into submitting to Tehran .
According to CIA fact sheet, the population of Syria is 17,064,854 in which Sunni are 74% and Alawi, Ismaili, and Athna Ashari constitute 13%), Christian 10% (includes Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian), Druze 3%, Jewish (few remaining in Damascus and Aleppo). Ethnically, Arabs are in majority 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other amount to 9.7% of total population.
Today, Syrian struggle against authoritarian regime of Bashar Al Asad is being high jacked by Persian Arab revelry and Iran Saudi conflict. Then there is a much sinister game of securing Israel by reshaping middle east with Kurds in North, Shias in Middle and Sunnis in South — all divided and fighting each other.
There is also a strategic game of energy, security played by U.S. and Russia. Russia has an important Naval base in Syria and the country is seen as an important base in oil politics.
At present more than 20 hundred thousand Syrians are refugees around the world. They are being killed by Bashar’s regime, Russians, Hizbollah, Al-Qaida, ISIS, Americans, French and all so called civilized and rich powers. The Syrian nation is the most awfully lucky nation on the earth being killed, and tortured by those who want to help them.
Only way to stop this holocaust of Syrians is to remove Asad from Syria and let Syrians choose whomever they want. The only way forward for peace in Middle East is removal of Bashar Al Asad and give right of governance to Syrian people but with involvement of US Nato and Russia it seems difficult especially when Russia ,Iran and Syria are opposing any settlement for Real Politik reasons.