Wny the mess in Syria?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by DKR, Feb 8, 2012.

  1. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    The easy answer is that there are no easy answers.

    Let's begin with some background:
    Throughout the Syrian uprising of the last two months, the dominant media narrative has followed the now-familiar arc of a freedom-seeking populace mustering the courage to finally confront an autocratic, anti-democratic regime responsible for decades of repression. Ya, well, about that...

    Little mentioned is another element of the unrest, one readily apparent to most veteran Syria watchers: faith.

    President Bashar Assad is an Alawite, a minority sect often described, in the convenient shorthand on which journalists rely, as an “offshoot of Shi’a Islam.” The Alawites’ creed, however, is so far removed from any mainstream Islamic orthodoxy that most Muslims worldwide – Sunni and Shi’ite alike – are apt to describe them either as heretics or as wholly outside the Islamic faith community, or ummah.

    So what? They are all Muslims, right? No, not really.

    For 1,000 years, the Alawites were the most despised and suppressed of Syria’s faith communities – an isolated, rural people practicing a secret, syncretic religion rumored to incorporate Christian, Shi’a and pre-Islamic rites. In 1963 Syria’s Alawite-led Ba’ath Party seized power, an event so religiously and politically implausible that half a century later, mainstream Arabs and Muslims still struggle to comprehend it.

    Here's the money quote - “An Alawi ruling Syria is like an untouchable becoming maharajah in India or a Jew becoming tsar in Russia,” the historian Daniel Pipes wrote in his book Greater Syria, “an unprecedented development shocking to the majority (Ed note - Muslim) population which had monopolized power for so many centuries.”

    So - how did this all happen? Western influence after the fall of the Ottoman Empire (WWI)

    The advent of French rule after World War I ushered in a golden age for the once down trodden sect, which was granted short-lived autonomy as the “Alawite State” on Syria’s coast in the 1920s and ’30s. Colonial authorities hoping to stem Sunni nationalism propped up the Alawites and other Syrian minorities, giving them preferential treatment in the army and laying the groundwork for today’s Alawite-dominated military.

    Hafez Assad – a former air force pilot and the father and predecessor of the current president – came to power in 1971, eight years after the coup by his own Ba’ath Party. The movement was putatively socialist and Arab nationalist, but dominated by young Alawites eager to end Syria’s centuries-long domination by an urban, Sunni elite.
    One of Assad’s first acts was to replace the constitutional requirement that Syria’s president be Muslim, with a law stipulating that the president’s religion is Islam – essentially certifying his own Muslim faith.

    In the four decades since, the new Alawite elite have considerably weakened the Sunnis’ once-inviolable commercial dominance, and turned Syria’s military and intelligence services into its own private domain. The one significant challenge to Assad the father’s rule – a 1982 Muslim Brotherhood revolt in the central city of Hama – was brutally quashed, with security forces killing an estimated 20,000-30,000 people.

    So, the former slaves to Muslims were determined not to revert to the old ways. Since they had the guns...and the Golden rule applies, they stay in power.

    Add in poverty now that the economy is liberalized (free market)

    Most of low-class labor works mainly in services , as maids, porters, doormen, etc. have no social security or other benefits, can’t get married because they have to live with their parents, due to both unemployment and the severe housing shortage.
    ’’the struggle against hunger, poverty and unemployment. Such slogans could come to the forefront alongside .’’ Dr. Hassan Chatila said, an economic researcher, based in Paris.

    Sky News has this bit of interest about a possible civil war in Syria -

    More likely. Syria is governed by the Baath party which is secular and has kept a lid on sectarian tensions in the country for decades.
    However, the people know that the top positions in the military and government have usually gone to the Alawites of Syria, of which the Assad clan are members.
    This has caused resentment.

    The Alawites are an off-shoot of Shia Islam but Syria is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country. (remember my note above - they are not Shia')

    Please note the Baath Party was also a key player in Iraq - Its main ideological objectives are secularism, socialism, and pan-Arab unionism.It seized power in Iraq in 1963, (same year as in Syria) later, Saddam Hussein took power.

    Quite the mix, so now what?

    Two words - Muslim Brotherhood. A key player in the fall of Libya - which pissed off both Russia and China, they lost oil contracts, we saw them at play in Egypt and in Lebanon. Remember, in 1982 they led the revolt in Syria.

    Now you have a large, poverty stricken Muslim sub-population, a "religious" group in play (Muslim Brotherhood) and a former oppressed minority in power that wants to stay in power...aided by the Russians and Chinese.

    What you get is seen on the TV nightly. The US refused to do anything in Egypt and who took power? Muslim Brotherhood
    We intervened in Libya and who took power? Muslim Brotherhood

    We stick our nose into Syria and guess who will wind up in power?
    I'm guessing - The Muslim Brotherhood.

    Don't know if anyone cares, but the ties between Syria and Iran cannot be ignored. As cannot the Hezbollah and Iran connection.

    With India now no longer sending rice to Iran, starvation is a real threat. How Iran will react to the sanctions remains to be seen - but the area around and within Syria, Lebanon and Iran is a powder keg - the only question is what will set it off.

    Have fun. If you want to dig past this quick look at he region, the web is full of resources. The JPost and French papers are likely the most current and accurate.
    jungatheart, chelloveck and tulianr like this.
  2. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    DKR, wrong, wrong, wrong. There is an answer. A simple answer: Syria is Iran's only major ally in the region. They are equally against Israel, and threaten's Israel's northern border. With Syria destabilized and fighting internally, it removes the threat of a retaliatory attack from the north on Israel. Best case scenario, the current regime in Syria is removed, and a more amicable, US and Israeli "friendly" regime placed in power. Worst case, the internal strife in Syria prevents a concerted and coordinated military strike on Israel. Simple really.
    larryinalabama likes this.
  3. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Yet the rebel Syrians are wondering where the US is, and hoping we show up before Assad kills all of them.
  4. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    The Jerusalem Post reports-

    Hezbollah is prepared to attack Israel if Western powers interfere in Syria against the regime in Damascus, a Lebanese Hezbollah official said Sunday according to the Palestinian News Network.

    The unnamed official said Hezbollah was prepared if Western powers intervened in Syria in order to stop Syrian President Bashar Assad's crackdown on anti-government protesters, even if the "price for it" is to engage the IDF in battle in order to divert attention away from the Syrian arena.


    Israel has said that Hezbollah along with Iran are providing weapons to their ally Syria to help suppress Syrian opposition activists calling for Assad's ouster, in a conflict that has resulted in the deaths of more than 6,000 Syrians.


    The reason that there’s no plausible end-game in Syria anytime soon — and that thousands more Syrians may be fated to die before the conflict is ended — is that the Assad regime is fighting a very different war to the one envisaged by many of its opponents. For Arab and Western powers, and many Syrians, President Bashar Assad is a doomed despot desperately holding on by force to the power he can never hope to exercise by democratic consent.

    But for Assad — and more importantly, for the minority Allawite community on which his regime is based — this is an existential struggle against an implacable sectarian foe. A majority of Syrians may be fighting for their rights and dignity; for the ruling minority it’s a battle to avoid the fate that befell Iraq’s Sunnis after the fall of their brutal benefactor, Saddam Hussein.

    Source-: Why Syrians Fight, and Why Their Civil War May be a Long One | Global Spin | TIME.com

    And in the end, I still stand by the MB being the ultimate 'winner'.

    As they say, time will tell.
  5. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Because it is Assad and his supporters that are the loyal allies to Iran. The rebels are very likely supported by "exterior" interests with money, guns, ammunition etc. The Rebel Syrians would welcome aid from the US.
  6. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    Overt US aid may be a welcome if tainted chalice

    The Rebel Syrians may welcome US military aid indirectly, but they may well be just a little wary of the US, given the US's previous track record in encouraging popular uprisings in the south of Iraq in 1991. George Bush senior exhorted the Shiite majority, particularly in Southern Iraq to rise up in revolt against the ruling Iraq Sunni Ba'ath party minority...then did absolutely diddly squat to support the revolting Shiites...Naturally, Saddam and his Revolutionary Guards (Which Gulf War I left largely intact...funny that) ruthlessly crushed the revolt with much carnage and many cruel reprisals. Who would want to stick their neck out for the sake of some unreliable dude in the Whitehouse again???

    I am confident, however, that the CIA is undoubtedly working overtime to get cashed up CIA assets in place to play their spooking games.
    tulianr likes this.
  7. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Indeed they would welcome boots on the ground as well as "lawyers, guns, and money." The reference from whence the question came was a news vid of a rebel specifically asking "Where are the Americans?" (In English, while being interviewed by some unidentified reporter.)

    Anyway, that whole mess supports my theory that there is no help for that part of the world. National boundaries and sundry allegiances are meaningless, it's the tribe that counts. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," right up until we've squashed the perceived common enemy and we can get back to boxing each other's ears.

    One does not drive an M60 into quicksand. We need to stay out of that quagmire lest we make another sump for treasure. I can't get my mind around aid, military or humanitarian, to any sect or political party in that nekka da woods; it will be misused and corrupted. Says me, and maybe me only, let them duke it out, revise the maps to accommodate the new national, political, and tribal boundaries as necessary, and defend Western (our tribal) interests (par ex., keeping the Straits open.)
    Cephus, Alpha Dog and Falcon15 like this.
  8. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Oh, I agree wholeheartedly. Cut the strings to Israel, let the Mid-east sort out their own problems. Unfortunate for us, our politicos and the powers that be cannot STAND to see the Petrodollar threatened. This is so interconnected and convoluted that I believe we will only become disentangled from the mess over there when the Petrodollar goes. Bad news for the US in general, great news for the world as a whole because it would free up the market a little more.
    chelloveck likes this.
  9. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Israel is a success story, one might say. We, and others, have supported them for a long time, and our support has allowed them the luxury of becoming self sufficient, mostly. (NB, we succeeded in propping up Europe, Japan, and others after WWII, very successfully. Uniformly grateful, aren't they? But they ARE on their own two feet.) That is the putative aim for what we've done in Iraq, with less sterling success. It's what one might hope to achieve in any of the 'stans, too. Just because it worked once is no guarantee it'll ever work again. Now, do we abandon a success, or continue? And how far to go with supplying props?

    Petrodollars are a convenience, an accounting tally, if you will. For all I care, the equivalent of bushels of tomatoes will work as well. Bad news if some other standard is adopted? Maybe a short term dislocation, sure. Long term? Doubtful. One thing wiping out or finding a substitute for the petrodollar WILL do is force the US to take defensive measures against the depredations of the cartel that will result. Exactly, I add, as the cartels have had to do as long as the petrodollar existed and we have manipulated it. Loss of the pd will have the salutary effect of forcing the US to develop our own resources (Drill, baby, drill!!) instead of letting them all lay fallow until the rest of the world wakes up to Peak Oil. (Yes, peak oil is real. When it will arrive is the uncertainty.)

    It's all about the money, honey. All the friends bought along the way will remain friends as long as we send frns to them in a timely fashion. Can we afford to keep buying loyalty? I leave that as an exercise for the student.
    Cephus likes this.
  10. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

  11. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Any headline containing a question mark is not news, it's speculation.
    tulianr likes this.
  12. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    The very first sentence answers the question, Grhit, it was rhetorical.
    Debkafile, the source of the information, is well regarded, has a very good reputation for correct intelligence, and is well connected in the Israeli intelligence community.
  13. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Ran across this on BlackFive, a milblog

    Source:(BLACKFIVE: Another View of the Syrian)

    The first thing I learned from them was that the only two countries in the Middle East where Christians are completely free to worship openly are Lebanon and Syria. The second thing I learned was that Syrian Christians are key supporters of the Assad regime. That’s when my conversations became interesting… Read on
    At that time, the burgeoning insurgency in Syria was beginning to become a regular news item in the US, and I was desperate for some local perspective. I assumed that fellow Christians would be opposed to Assad for the same reasons I am; namely his support of terrorism, his affiliation with the repressive Iranian regime, and his family history of open warfare and conflict with Israel. As it turns out, while those high minded objections to Assad are perfectly rational and reasonable sitting in front of a computer in California, Syrian Christians have other things to be concerned about. For instance, surviving in a nation full of radicalized Sunnis that support Hamas, and Shia that support Hizb’allah.

    The Assad regime is of the Alawite branch of Islam, which is kind of a despised offshoot of the Shia sect and only accounts for about 10% of the population. The Christian community there is estimated to be 12-15% and so the Assads long ago forged a political alliance with them the basis of which pretty much boils down to, “If you support me, I’ll protect you from the angry Muslim hoards that surround you, and if not, well good luck with that.” This is not unlike the arrangement that Christians made in Iraq with Saddam Hussein. It’s not so much that the Christians support either Assad or Hussein as much as they don’t actively oppose them since neither dictator was particularly concerned about whether his actions were drawing much affirmative “support”.

    The Syrian Christians to a man told me that the “freedom fighters” where nothing more than Sunni Jihadists looking to take advantage of the various “Arab Spring” movements that had been successfully overthrowing stable dictatorships throughout the region in favor of radicalized Muslim groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda.

    They told me at that time that these groups were not only the main aggressors in the conflict, but that they were specifically targeting Christians for both religious persecution and for political retaliation. Several told me that in Homs the graffiti left by the insurgents often stated, “Alawites to the grave, Christians to the cross.” They told me that rather than the Syrian Army crushing this resistance movement as the Iranians had in 2009, they were actually trying to protect their core constituents from a murder and intimidation campaign that was beginning to mirror what al Qaeda had perpetrated in Iraq during 05-06. The clear strategy of the “freedom fighters” was to attack civilian targets and local police as a way of drawing the Army into a campaign of suppression that they could use to fight the media battle in the western press. Funny, that strategy rings a bell doesn’t it?

    Fast forward to today when I sent an email to one of these leaders to ask him again about his interpretation of events:
    Dear Matt,
    Greetings from Lebanon!
    Glad to hear from you.
    Izdihar is now in Damascus visiting her ill mother. I guess that she is in the process of preparing a full report for you and the church.
    I am just sent you a prayer request in a separate message.
    Violence has been escalating in Syria particularly in the last week. The media is playing a dirty game in this regard. Our relatives and friends in Homs are sharing with us that more than 200 Christians have been killed in the city. Most of them were shot by Islamiscts/Jihadists that claim to be “freedom fighters”. They committed unbelievable atrocities ranging from looting to rape and murder. Even our Presbyterian church in Homs was not spared as they control the street where the church is located. Many Christians and other minority groups left Homs if they were able. The army was playing a some how passive role, but it seems that it decided now to act and face the so called Syrian Free Army. I surely do not quit the regime of committing big mistakes, but what is happening in Syria is far from being a revolt for democracy and human rights…
    Please let me know if you have any questions.
    With best regards,
    Yours truly,


    Dear friends,
    Hope you are doing well.
    My mother, sister and her family live in the hot area of Homs district in a predominant Christian area called “the Christian Valley.” They are less than 2 miles from the famous Crusaders castle, Krak des Chevaliers (Krak des Chevaliers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
    I was on the phone yesterday with my mom and sister. I am sad to tell you that Jihadists armed groups have controlled the Krak des Chevaliers now. They are also issuing calls for Jihad from the mosque next to the Krak. I also just heard from the news that three police men from the town police station were slaughtered. All three police men are Muslims. I asked mom, sister and her family to come to Lebanon, but they insist of staying at home. People in the area are so worried and children are so scared. Your prayers are much appreciated. Thank you.
    Today the Jihadists attacked the town church and kidnapped the priest. His destiny is still unknown.
    The last days have seen unprecedented violence in Syria. Militant groups are using all means to force the UN security Council to intervene and it seems that the one way to do that is by raising up the level of bloodshed and chaos in Syria.
    LORD, have mercy!
    As you can see, all is not how it appears in the media. They are trying to create the same old binary conflict that they were wrong about in Egypt and Libya where the insurgents are good and the regime is evil. In reality it’s the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t. I hate to say this as an Iraq War veteran, but there is no avoiding the conclusion that our invasion into Iraq was the catalyst for a Christian holocaust there. That’s not what we intended to happen, but that is what happened. The once vibrant and always peaceful Iraqi Christian community was systematically hunted down and killed by both al Qaeda and JAM with the bulk of the survivors fleeing to…Syria.

    And in Lebanon -

    TRIPOLI: Three people died and 23 were wounded during fierce clashes on Saturday between Lebanese Sunni Muslims hostile to Syria’s regime and Alawites who support it, a Lebanese security official said.
    “A Sunni and an Alawite were killed and 23 people were wounded in clashes that continued since Friday between people from the neighbourhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh” in the northern city of Tripoli, the official told AFP.
    A 17-year-old girl died of her wounds later.

    Ten soldiers were among those wounded in the fighting, among them a sergeant whose wounds were critical, the official added.
    The two sides fired guns and rocket-propelled grenades at each other in the bloodiest clashes since last June when six people were killed in the wake of demonstrations against the Syrian government.
    Sunni-majority Tripoli has in the past few years been the scene of intense clashes between Sunni supporters of the anti-Syrian opposition and Alawite Muslims loyal to a Hezbollah-led alliance backed by Iran and Syria.

    Looks like the MB is getting impatient.
  14. Tikka

    Tikka Monkey+++

    Judging by this article, it is pretty much a moot point:

    Assad wins out against opposition as Russia and Iran strengthen ties
    DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 11, 2012, 10:24 PM (GMT+02:00)

    DEBKAfile, Political Analysis, Espionage, Terrorism, Security
  15. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine Monkey+++ Founding Member

    I do not know much about who is who in this tangled web but it seems to me that we have stuck our hands inside a hornets nest. Shame in the end we'll probably be stung by both sides when it is all said and done.
    Cephus likes this.
  16. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    The petrodollar is not "just" a convenience, or accounting tally. It is the only reason the US has been able to hold itself together in the face of economic doom.

    The Petrodollar- The real reason for the wars in Iraq, Lybia, and the drumbeat for war with Iran - YouTube
    Yep. The Petrodollar.
  17. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    ANY "money," no matter what you name it, is nothing more than a medium of exchange. Dollars (frns) yen, renminbi, yuan, peso, drachmas, pounds, francs, baht, reales, they all function similarly in their AOs. (I discount the Euro as it is failing.) That they can be manipulated is beyond doubt. We bludgeoned the world into basing the oil trade (as well as other trade) on the dollar because we could post WWII, and in the process strengthened the locals around the world until they can now challenge the petrodollar as well as its progenitor. And they are ---
  18. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Not even dollars - now barter

    From our friends at Aero Hedge
    A Very Different Take On The "Iran Barters Gold For Food" Story | ZeroHedge

    Much has been made of today's Reuters story how "Iran turns to barter for food as sanctions cripple imports" in which we learn that "Iran is turning to barter - offering gold bullion in overseas vaults or tankerloads of oil - in return for food", and whose purpose no doubt is to demonstrate just how crippled the Iranian economy is as a result of the ongoing US embargo. Incidentally this story is 100% the opposite of the Debka-spun groundless disinformation from a few weeks ago that India was preparing to pay for Iran's oil in gold (they got the asset right, but the flow of funds direction hopelessly wrong). ((Note - ZH folks tend to dismiss Debka as mostly rumor - at best))

    And further

    Unless of course, this is the ultimate goal. Yet going back to the Reuters story, it would be quite dramatic, if only it was not the case that Iran has been laying the groundwork for a barter economy for many months now, something which various other analysts perceive as the basis for the destruction of the petrodollar system. Perhaps regular readers will recall that back in July, we wrote an article titled "China And Iran To Bypass Dollar, Plan Oil Barter System." Specifically, we wrote that "according to the FT, China has decided to commence a barter system in which Iranian oil is exchanged directly for Chinese exports. The net result: not only a slap for the US Dollar, but implicitly for all fiat intermediaries, as Iran and China are about to prove that when it comes to exchanging hard resources for critical Chinese goods and services, the world's so called reserve currency is completely irrelevant."

    See the source article for links to the earlier oil story.

    The 'petrodollar' is no more, at least as far as China is concerned.

    Got gold?
  19. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    One of the beauties of a medium of exchange is that it readily adjusts to supply and demand. I am not so sure that the value of a tanker of oil adjusts as quickly, thus barter on the dock is apt to get interesting. I wonder if the sanctions against trade provides for an exception that will permit barter dockside. How many bulk carriers of wheat is a tanker of oil worth next month? Ah, the beauty of commodity futures trading ---
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