About Parties. There was once a Syrian Spring. The water in which it emerged was necessarily choppy and the wind, blustery – a long-standing, proven brutal, utterly undemocratic, Baathist, Stalinist, minority regime ruled the roost. The “Spring” was not to be a holiday party any time soon. Born also with a backdrop of brackish backwaters of another such a state to the east, Iraq, now occupied, disunited, dismembered, disenchanted and disillusioned, things were set to turn very rough, very quickly. And it did! To the southwest lay the ominous cumulonimbus cloud exuded by a small nation-state perpetually on an expansionary mode, a state of affairs acknowledged by all except by a set of twin nations joined at the hips and in denial – the UK and us, the US.
While the “Spring” was not a moment too soon, it was summarily waylaid the moment it aspired to be so. In the meantime, while still unclear at whose behest, diabolic brilliance and opportune facilitation, there emerged ISIS/Daesh (Arabic derogatory name: does not include ‘Islamic’ or ‘State’; rightfully so, since it has not been recognized by even a single country) in a role “diametrically” opposite to the “Spring-Cleaner” across the Red Sea to the south, SISI. The latter gentleman being no less than the latest incarnation, maintainer and purveyor of the original Middle-Eastern Stalinist regime, which, also, has been welcomed and anointed by the twin nations. In fact, just before stepping down from the helms of the US State Department, the then Madame Secretary of State sent a terse but scary signal that the US supports the Liberals – meaning Morsi had to be either stopped or made to fall, even though nary a year had passed since Egypt’s first, freely held election. So, turning the wheels of counter-revolution were sanctioned. Fifty years of human capital relentlessly invested by millions of sincere, hardworking, creative, fair-minded people and the hope and expectation and blood and tears of thousands were remorselessly destroyed with one nod.
One is immediately reminded of Iran 1953 when the US was complicit in removing and killing its first freely elected leader, Premier Mosaddegh, and whose aftermath is still washing up on our shores. Morsi has been removed and is sentenced to die. The Secretary’s one-liner also reminds one of a very old story from an old country: 1171, England. Irate with Thomas Beckett, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who he himself had appointed to the high office, King Henry II is reported to have said: “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” And surely enough, as the sun rises to the east, a handful of knights made sure a quick, vicious, untimely end came to the independent, assertive priest beholden to the integrity of his high office rather than to the king.
Interestingly, even as some Muslims have “flocked” to it, the Daesh is historically, legally and spiritually an unrecognizable, improbable alien among the Muslims. It fits the description by which the western orientalists, in the past and even today, have caricaturized and demonized Islam and Muslims. So, Daesh’s genesis and bearing are quite suspect among the broadest spectrum of ordinary Muslims. Incidentally, the presumed Baathist Iraqi soldier inductees to Daesh are likely to be of the “Muslim Light” variant; Johnny-Come-Lately to the folds of the faith. So, are they the knights defending the Sunnis against the Shi’as? Hardly! Did they defend the Sunnis when they had the chance to do so while ruling and controlling Iraq for about four decades?
As to the so-called Shia’-Sunni conflict in Iraq, no party can be absolved of sins or guilt. One party has been doing it now. The other party did it earlier. However, it is resolvable if the leaders of Iraq had some amount of humanity and a sense of brotherhood in them as well as the strategic sense that the two parties would either float together or sink together. And that goes for the Kurds, too. They should know who their historic brothers are and who populates the neighborhood. Any long distance brotherhood they forge will be done by the distant party for its narrow interests only so long it is convenient. If they choose to trust their future to being a virtual satellite state, their destiny will be that much amputated. They will have, also, once-for-all repudiated their claim on Gazi Salah Uddin Ayoubi [the leader of Kurdish origin who liberated Jerusalem from the ISIS of the past – the marauding crusaders]. The twins love leftist regimes everywhere in Muslim lands, former Soviet Union and all, as tools for fighting the Muslims. The Kurds should ask themselves: Are we Leftists first?
It is a blatant diplomatic dichotomy and affront that we, the US, distanced ourselves as we did from the Egyptian Spring, while wholeheartedly embracing the Syrian Spring even though the value make-up, institutional framework and work ethics of both existing governments were the same, besides both being minority representations, with the Syrian entity being far more so. The thing is, while Morsi was in ascendancy, the twins could not become full players in the front-end of the decision. So, they played rearguard, counter-revolutionary role there. In Syria, however, as in Libya earlier, the action was still on and nothing had changed as to who was still governing. This facilitated the twins to enter the game as front-end players. Doing so indelibly skewed the organic nature, integrity, legitimacy and clarity of the effort of the plain folks of Syria. And so, the mess was on.
At this stage, one wonders who we are, as Americans, to decide who should sit at the peace talk table on Syria. Morally, legally, intellectually, or historically the US is a non-entity here. It’s an oxymoron that the closest and most vaunted ally of the occupying forces of Al-Quds could also be the well-wisher of the parties in contention with the said occupier. Beyond the references earlier, to make it transparent, it is by now well established that we, the US, do not support organic democracy anywhere among Muslim nation-states because it ‘stinks’ of Islam and ‘reeks’ with practicing Muslims. Everywhere it turns we see the specter of Islamic Iran. But Iran was made into a so-called “monster” out of our own narrow, myopic self-interest, at the behest of domestic and regional interest groups, and through a prolonged proxy war with chemical weapons and all and brutal embargo on contrived charges. From Algeria to Hamas, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, the people want solid Muslims in charge. The twins, however, appear to be hell-bent for it not to be so. If it takes generational war, so be it! This is an open admission by some experts and warriors from among us. So, just because we made a few bombing runs, armed a few groups whose allegiance has been made suspect by over eager US largesse and conditioning, strategically inserted or selected key operatives, a country that joins the Europeans in calling the refugees migrants as if they are gypsies while blocking any significant entry of such harried humanity through its own borders should have, at most, less than an equal say as other local parties on the future of Syria.
Unless. Unless, of course, we see the barging in as a part of an overall war agenda and follow-through martial strategy. If executing this option would have been painless, we would have gone forward and done so.
But despite the potential pain and the fact that our threat assessment gives us a breather, we are asserting ourselves. It has helped that the US has been welcomed and urged on by another regional dictatorship that has methodically developed the Shi’a strawman, in league with three-decade long western pursuit of not only highlighting but promoting this particular “divide” among Muslims, as the perpetual and eternal bogeyman to contort democratic aspiration of the local populace, Shi’a and Sunni alike.
These are but two ways (preempt any change or institute counter-revolution) the twins interfere with the institutionalizing democracy in Muslim nation states by bonafide, methodical, peaceful, fair-minded Muslim sons and daughters. The third way is direct attack should the change go through successfully – for example, material and moral support for the prolonged war perpetuated on Iran in the 1980s and subsequent embargos on it, the boycotting of Hamas entity immediately after its first victory and the material endorsement of repeated killing sprees in Gaza, and the allowance and promotion of long and bloody civil war in Afghanistan post its Mujahedeen-led liberation. [Our coldblooded self-interest may be measured from our refusal to spare even a billion dollars for our Mujahedeen “friends” to rebuild post-Soviet Afghanistan, while having pumped 50 billion dollars 50 years earlier into post WWII Europe under the Marshall Plan. Every time we doubted, suspected, pilloried, spurned and marginalized an organic, mainstream Muslim movement, we generated a vicious alternative – Algeria’s decade of destruction, Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS, today’s Sinai resistance, etc.]
Now, how about Iran? Should it be a party? Very much so! Iraq and Turkey? Definitely. They represent immediate regional interest. Even Lebanon! Millions of refugees have flooded into the neighboring countries. Also, because of ISIS in Iraq, the latter needs to participate. And, Egypt? Really, why? To promote the Syrian Spring! BTW, if by including Egypt the US has some expectations, it may be sorely disappointed. The Syrian and Egyptian governments have been historical allies at so many levels. As for the other big brother country, like Sisi’s Egypt, it has a biased agenda primarily motivated by the survival of its regime. The best weapon it has is the fear and hatred of Shi’a. So, while it opposed the Egyptian Spring, it favors the Syrian Spring. How can it be explained? The quasi-Shi’a nature of the regime in the latter country, of course! Love for the citizens of Syria is clearly not the determinant. If true neutrals are wanted then perhaps empathetic fellow Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia could be included.
We cannot have a practically divided Iraq in Syria nor can we have a cowardly, apologetic, obfuscation that led to the eviscerated Bosnia, and the annihilation of Libya as a state altogether making the Libyan Spring utterly pointless. Can we, the West and our local allies be trusted with the weight of evidence against us? Hasn’t the West done enough damage in the 1920s, 1940s, 1980s, 1990s, and finally 2000s? Should we be allowed to repeat our past success through the low key, long lasting WW III, which has been launched on the unsuspecting, long suffering Muslims?
That smaller Muslim regional states are willing to sell out their fellow Muslims in the historical hinterland for parochial interest is nothing novel in this generation. Should such statelets have a place or play in the deliberations? At one time, the twins gathered such nations by instilling unnecessary fear in them in an effort to show the world that there was a coalition of willing follower nations. Also, the project undertaken was so massive and promised to be so prolonged, the burden was going to be too much. The job had to be shared and local jumping-off and fallback outposts secured. So, the twins got what they wanted. The consequent destruction of neutrality has now so imperiled such states that they are entrapped into an inorganic and unholy alliance with a rather foreign value system. To note, Singapore, Hong Kong or Taiwan have made many treaties and contracts to preserve their self-interest, but they have not gone on attack mode on the historical mothership nor encouraged anyone else to do so. Otherwise, would that not constitute crossing the Rubicon?
About Principles. There are multiple elements that any reliable, fast-holding agreement drawn up to resolve the Syrian conflict should contain. Perhaps the list may appear as below. Their significance is self-evident.
- The country cannot be split up.
- The country cannot be a base to any foreign entity.
- The Shi’as and Sunnis must reconcile with every family returning to its original homestead.
- All minority rights, with those of Alawites in particular, should conform to standards historically recognized among Syrians and their neighbors.
- All extra-judicially acquired arms being held by parties must be turned in while under the protection of a reliable and involved third party until the peace plan finally holds.
- The time frame for reconfiguration under this action plan cannot exceed two years.
- The Syrian Spring must be respected in several ways:
- If Islam is viewed as organic to the land through referendum or some form of consensus, then it must be given a proper role in future governance of the state.
- A person’s Life, Property, Reasoning, Faith and Dignity must be treated as being sacrosanct.
- Discontinuation of the Baath Party.
- Investigation, along South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation method, of all crimes of significance perpetuated by the State and by any family, group or individual connected to the State as well as by the warring factions, inclusive of all death squads as well as secret service activities of the state.
- To follow the Fatheh Makkah method as well as to conform to the Hudaibiyah method of ‘less is more’ in dealing with past ills and their perpetrators.
- Accounting of all properties and finances acquired by any party or individual.
- No sectarian or regional political parties allowed.
- The Military will be reconstituted to properly represent the various population groups.
- The Military will not hold any separate Trust Fund or be involved in any business interest.
- The Military leadership will be properly and fairly cleansed at all levels.
- The country’s military strength will be restored and revamped to reflect regional security issues.
- The country will receive specifically targeted long-term aid at favorable terms for governance, health, education, agriculture, infrastructure and rehabilitation by non-western entities.
Syria was not in a happy situation before. It is not today. Can it be better off in the future? Of course! Only fair play and goodness can make the sordid past a distant past. It starts with genuine apology for it begets forgiveness and reconciliation. But that requires parties with wholesome vision, solid determination and meticulous planning. People’s aspiration must be respected. Modern options on governance and economy must be adhered to. But too many cooks can spoil the broth and too few may skew the outcome. There should be wariness about small opportunist parties as well parties themselves in turmoil and suffering from dichotomy. As for countries like the US or Russia, inevitably they will be in the game. Even though their strategic interests are murky vis-à-vis the region, they do balance out each other as well as use their heft to get the other players into the room while guaranteeing a durable agreement. For such more powerful parties in the game, being dispassionate neutrals would be really beneficial. Syria should not be viewed as just another strategic option by them. That would be the unkindest cut of all and the height of dishonesty and irresponsibility!