Implications of the Syrian Revolt

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Joined: 10-11-11
Dec 6 2011 02:23
Implications of the Syrian Revolt

Whether the present Syrian dictatorship is an Assad-clique conspiracy that implicates their fellow Alawis (my hunch) or an Alawi conspiracy fronted by the Assad family (the obvious reverse), I think it's obvious that one of the reasons the Sunni majority would be against the regime is sheer dogma: the Alawis are regarded as "anti-Muslims," heretics whose sin is worse than unbelief. (Which is not to discount another, more "progressive" motivation -- "Down with the tyrants!" -- which I'm pretty sure we all share.) And regardless of which end controls the wagging, it also seems obvious to me that the Alawis political awakening during the French mandate was a mutual co-optation whose initial motive on the Alawi side was simple self-defense: they'd gotten tired of ethnic-sectarian oppression, constant social-economic-political discrimination and the occasional pogrom. (My grab-bag of loose analogies includes Zionism and the Black Panthers.) And my take on the situation now is that the Assadists and most Alawis in general see it as a battle for their people's self-preservation, which might well be correct.

Put simply, I think if the revolution succeeds the chance for an anti-Alawi bloodbath is high, regardless of the mindset and motivations of the "revolutionary central committee." And that the mindset of those who'd commit a bloodbath or at least a pogrom would not be amenable to fine distinctions on the order of "the Grandma had no official position; let's concentrate only on the one government employee in the family." Historically speaking it's always more likely that they'll "kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out."

Give that, and given that mainstream news/opinion coverage labeled the rebels "the Sunni majority," I'm finding it rather damn difficult to work up more than a superficial visceral support for the Syrian uprising. And yes, despite knowing almost nothing about the actual day-to-day situation, I do think there are bound to be more currents at play than the Sunni Islamist one; nevertheless I can't help suspecting that the "Death to the heretics!" wing will come out on top. For one thing they've been opposing the Assad regime from its beginning in the the late '60s -- an extension of the ulama's centuries'-long effort to "command the good and forbid the evil."

From the admittedly little I know I'd prefer a CIA puppet regime to either Assadism or rule by the Muslim Brotherhood (or worse, the more "radical" Islamists). Which is not easy for me to say because I've hated the CIA since reading about Watergate and Vietnam when I was a kid in the early '70s.

What I'd really like is for those "innocent" Alawis to flee en masse, but short of a humongous UN interposition I don't foresee that happening.

Does anybody out there have more real, actual, concrete knowledge to share with me? Including translating articles etc. from Arabic, which I know not at all? I'd especially like to hear from people with "inside dope" that would elude the Associated Press.

Joined: 12-10-11
Dec 21 2011 21:22
Bedlamist wrote:
From the admittedly little I know I'd prefer a CIA puppet regime to either Assadism or rule by the Muslim Brotherhood (or worse, the more "radical" Islamists). Which is not easy for me to say because I've hated the CIA since reading about Watergate and Vietnam when I was a kid in the early '70s.

that's a bad stance to have, especially since there's no telling what a CIA puppet in Syria would actually look like. CIA puppet doesn't actually indicate any specific style of government.

Pengwern's picture
Joined: 18-10-11
Mar 9 2012 23:15

Sorry, Bedlamist, for starting another thread on this; I just didn't see yours, which started earlier.

Here is mine, from yesterday -

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.

Joined: 11-03-13
Mar 18 2013 22:36

The history of western Imperialism in Syria goes back to (at least) 1097.

Ignoring everything except the last 200 years is typical of both the west and the left, but the conflict in Syria has more to do with the long & brutal oppresion of the Alawis and the Ottoman attempt to completely exterminate them five centuries ago.