Ethnic rivalry a factor in Libya and Syria

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Pengwern's picture
Joined: 18-10-11
Mar 9 2012 16:01
Ethnic rivalry a factor in Libya and Syria

This development in Libya, reported in yesterday's Guardian, supports my point argued months ago about Libya being a country based on a Cyrenaican Monarchy with a very separate Islam from the rest of the country, which was replaced by a Gaddafi regime which put the Tripolitanians in power.

The Cyrenaicans now want autonomy and the current government want to force them to bow to the new national government endorsed by Cameron and Sarkozy, their backers. The Benghazi rebellion which kicked off this struggle was not purely anti-regime, as reported in the west, but ethnic and religious too. The west's grudges against Gaddafi, combined with the potential for an oil bonus, dictated the way the west saw this and how it argued the need for 'humanitarian intervention'.

Both the European Left and the western governments have a long and eurocentric history of failing to recognise the internal ethnic dimensions of national states set up by the imperialist west with borders drawn up by the west. As Amy Chiu's recent book argues, the typical pattern in the modern world is that ethnic minorities constitute the local ruling class, sustained in that by historic and active imperialism, which often gives the ethnic dimension a correspondence with oppression. In Egypt and elsewhere, they usually became a rentier class with supportive, vertical links to brethren in more humble (but never the humblest) socio-economic strata - a mechanism which brings the Orange Lodge to mind.

The regime in Syria, similarly, is based on an ethnic - religious minority: the Alawites, who allied with the French decades ago in opposition to Sunnis and Shia. The article below, written some time ago by US historian Daniel Pipes (his reputation as an anti-Bolshevik historian belies his empirical strengths, which are in evidence here) shows the deep antagonism between Alawis on the one hand and both Sunnis and Shia. The BBC and western media in general, whether out of ignorance or for other reasons, never mention this, which might leave some people who are aware that Syria is an ethnic patchwork, wondering why very specific cities (and districts within cities) have risen against the regime, whereas other are either quiescent or supportive of Asad.

This is the living, breathing legacy of old colonial imperialism and the reproduced product of its modern-day variant.