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Thread: Syria

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    Syria

    We haven't really discussed the events in Syria.

    I was watching the CBC news on 31st August where they were interviewing retired US Army Colonel Douglas MacGregor (http://www.douglasmacgregor.com/) who as it happens was against any military action by the USA. He mentioned specifically the fact that Asad actually supports Christian groups. He went on to say that Asad is actually fighting the very people that caused so many American and other lives to be lost in Iraq, the Suni Islamists. These are the people that have already attacked some 60 Christian churches in Eqypt. This tweaked my interest as the media usually takes the approach of attacking Asad so to hear this on the main media was a bit of a surprise so I did a bit of research on this and found a fairly substantial article and here is how it starts... Minority alliances in the Middle East have been a constant reality for groups under threat from perceived “majority” interests. Most of these alliances were military in nature and often covert. Israel has reached out to Christians in Lebanon and Kurds in Iraq. Berbers in Morocco have also engaged Israel. In their shared effort to fight Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) entered into an alliance with the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA). Yet in Syria, where minority Alawites dominate the government and find themselves in conflict with not only the Sunni majority but other minority groups, minority alliances take on a new precedence in their efforts to control the country.

    Syria has been described as a “safe haven, in a region where religious minorities often struggle for survival.” However, Syria is currently descending into what may become a sectarian civil war, with the mainly Alawi minority-run Ba’thi regime of Bashar al-Asad facing off against Syria’s majority, Arab Sunni Muslims. This Levantine state is morphing from a quasi-paradise into a boiling cauldron. The way the Asad regime gained and retained its increasingly important allies in the Druze and Christian communities, and a general quiescence from the Kurds, can be used to chart how long the regime can stay in power, in addition to establishing the solidity of Damascus’s important minority alliances.

    It is well known that Syria’s ruling elite itself comes from a minority, namely the Alawi sect. It has also been asserted that because of the Alawite’s own precarious position vis-ŕ-vis Syria’s Sunni majority that they are natural allies for most of Syria’s other minorities. Through a mixture of patronage networks, fear of massacre at the hands of Sunni Muslims, and a wish not to cede power, most Alawites have remained loyal to their coreligionist rulers. Though, support for the Ba’thists from other minority groups has not always followed this specific model.

    Unlike other Arab Spring states, such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, Syria is home to a wide and diverse range of ethnic and religious minorities. These groups include the dominant Alawites, Druze, various Christian groups, Kurds, Shi’i sects, and small numbers of Yazidis. According to most estimates, the collective numbers for these minorities range between 25-36 percent of the Syrian population. What is more, around 7-15 percent of the Sunni Muslim population is not Arab, but ethnically Kurdish.
    You can read the rest of this article at
    http://www.gloria-center.org/2012/04/syria’s-31-percenters-how-bashar-al-asad-built-minority-alliances-and-countered-minority-foes/.
    however the Conclusion of the article is worth quoting here...
    Bashar al-Asad has specifically tailored his approach to numerous minority groups, based on their utility to his regime and on how he could best keep them within his fold. Working to appeal to, oppress, or pit minorities against each other and against the majority has been of extreme benefit for the regime. Engaging coreligionists and coethics abroad has also created a far more complicated and dynamic relationship within these minority communities. These further complications have only added to the influence Asad has been able to wield within Syria.

    Even with major political leaders backing demonstrations, the pragmatic Druze will only move against Asad if it is certain that anti-Asad forces will win. Although Syria’s Druze were among the last to be engaged by Asad, they have recognized a value in staying quiet. This is a clear sign that any Druze moves will be predicated on how they can best retain the autonomy and safety of their community. While Asad did little to back Druze cultural interests, his support for their autonomy and enforcement of stability gave the group enough reason not to turn against his rule.

    The fractious Kurds, longing for a more formal autonomy, have seen some of their major wishes granted by the regime. They too are playing the waiting game. Even after over 40 years of discrimination, Asad’s support to some Kurdish groups has created a mixed impression for Syria’s Kurds–one of an oppressor and ally. These opposing tactics have given rise to a Kurdish paralysis.

    The destruction and oppression of the region’s Christians has also caused the group to back the proverbial “lesser of two evils.” Asad’s recent pushes with the community have built a form of loyalty from the community. Now Asad can pose as a more legitimate defender of Christian rights. With Asad, Syrian Christians have found security, access to political leadership, and a quasi-acceptance of their unique cultural attributes.

    As those backing anti-Asad movements become more militant and Asad reacts with a heavier hand to counter them, minorities will do their best to remain out of the crossfire. The fact that minorities are attempting to remain neutral suggests some of Asad’s tactics to win the favor of these groups have been successful. In the wake of anti-minority Islamist takeovers in other post-revolutionary Arab states, some minority groups see that the only way to protect their hard-won stability and cultural recognition is by backing the devil they know. In this current environment, Asad will continue to hold sway among Syria’s minorities.
    END. This article was produced by The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, directed by Barry Rubin, and is a research center located at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya (IDC). IDC is Israel’s first private institution of higher learning. They focus on the modern Middle East and its relations with other regions, through a unique and creative application of new information technologies to scholarly and analytical work. They believe that these new tools can revolutionize the study of international affairs. There basic conception in this regard is presented in the article “Bringing Middle East (and International Affairs) Studies into the Twenty-First Century.”

    Alastair

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  3. #2

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    Re: Syria

    I read a bit about this too. Apparently the army officers also belong to a minority religion but the majority of the lower ranks are Sunnis according to the article I read which commented that it would be difficult to get the soldiers to carry out some of the officers orders.

    Elda

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    Re: Syria

    I see that Obama is having problems getting support for his policy and even France may be an issue according the news today as the French people want a vote on the issue. There is a lot more at stake here than most realize I would say.

    Alastair

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    Re: Syria

    Might be worth while to learn more about Syria...

    Documentary BBC - A History of Syria (2013)

    Published on May 14, 2013
    Robin Barnwell, who directed and produced 'A History of Syria with Dan Snow', explains the challenges of filiming amid the conflict, and describes the spirit of the Syrian people he met.

    The Syrian Airlines jet performed an alarming dive on its nighttime approach into Damascus airport in an attempt to avoid any hostile fire. The exterior lights on the aircraft were switched off to make it less visible to any rebel fighters attempting to shoot the plane down. Syrian army artillery rounds were flying through the air, thudding into residential suburbs not far from the airport.

    Once we'd landed, I saw little of the Syria I knew from my previous two visits. The airport that had been the gateway to the country for tourists was quiet. The road to the centre of Damascus was eerily empty. Our driver drove as fast as he could, speeding us past signs welcoming us to Syria on a road that regularly comes under attack or is caught in the crossfire in a conflict that has now cost more than 70,000 lives and displaced millions. How, I wondered, had Syria and its people, whom I had such warm memories of, reached such a state?

    Like many people, I first travelled to Syria in 1995 to immerse myself in the country's extraordinary and varied history. Now I was in Damascus to direct and film a documentary that would explain how history had helped shape and influence the appalling civil war that is tearing Syria and its different communities apart. It was a strange relief to be in Damascus, as visas for journalists and filmmakers, issued by the Syrian government, are difficult to obtain.

    The programme's Middle East producer had doggedly convinced a suspicious Syrian Ministry of Information that now was the right time to make a history of Syria after weeks of officials telling us to come back after the 'current, temporary problems' were over. We persisted in pushing for access because history can help explain the current violence in Syria; violence that has become increasingly incomprehensible for audiences of news programmes around the world.

    I was surprised by my own ignorance about the subject. It was only after weeks of reading and meetings with experts before actually arriving in Syria did I map the historical connections, linking present day events with the past. How though, were we to go about making a documentary in a country consumed by civil war?

    Permission to film almost anything and anyone was frustratingly difficult to obtain. The official from the Syrian Ministry of Information assigned to take us around kept apologizing for the numerous new restrictions that had been put in place. Getting access to the beautiful Old City of Damascus now involved negotiating a way through sandbagged checkpoints past soldiers who were suspicious of foreigners and visibly on edge.

    Surreally, though, Syrians were rushing around going about their daily business, seemingly ignoring the near constant sound of gunfire and fighter jets which screeched overhead to bomb targets in the suburbs. An even stranger sense of normality prevailed in other locations we filmed, particularly in Syria's coastal city Lattakia, where no fighting was taking place. We mingled with couples watching the sunset over the Mediterranean and for a moment one was back in pre-conflict Syria. But the effects of war were never far away.



    Alastair

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    Re: Syria

    It seems to me that the governments in all those countries, eg Syria, Iraq, Iran, you name them, have a lot of problems controlling their military which plays a big part in their civil wars. It's totally ridiculous, in this day and age, that wars are still being fought over religion.

    Elda

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    Re: Syria

    I found a couple of documentaries of Iran...

    History of Iran - The Persian Empire

    The history of Iran has been intertwined with the history of a larger historical region, comprising the area from Anatolia and Egypt in the west to the Indus Valley and Syr Darya in the east, and from the Caucasus and Eurasian Steppe in the north to the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in the south. The southwestern part of the Iranian plateau participated in the wider Ancient Near East with Elam, from the Early Bronze Age. The Persian Empire proper begins in the Iron Age, following the influx of Iranian peoples. Iranian people gave rise to the Median, as the Persian people gave rise to the Achaemenid, the Parthians, and the Sassanid dynasties during the classical antiquity.



    Alastair

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    Re: Syria

    There is another one...

    Behind the Rhetoric: The Real Iran | BBC Documentary



    Alastair

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