Friday 17 August 2012

“The Syria we know is dead”

Joret al-Sheyyah, Homs

The added value of this brilliant think piece, which I paraphrased from Arabic, is that its author is Ibrahim al-Amin, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Beirut daily al-Akhbar, which is close to Syria and Hezbollah
So far, the Arabs’ enemies have succeeded in pummeling Syria.
The regime’s durability does not at all mean survival of the state.
The Syrian army today is the regime’s cornerstone. But the Baath Party, civil institutions and public supporters are all now engaged in parochial power struggles.
The historical clout of Syrian state authority has been severely undermined. Security services risk becoming sluggish and passé. Blood that is being shed day after day deepens the schism. The result: a sharp dip in stability, a steeper economic slump and an even more acute drop in the yearning for the state.
This is at the upper layer.
At the base, collective recourse to self-management instruments benefits opposition forces, chiefly the armed groups that are sinking roots where the state switched off, the army evaporated and the loyalists decamped.
Syria’s rural areas were the uprising’s backbone before becoming the bedrock of its militarization. They now serve as the armed rebels’ action and planning centers.
These rural areas had uplifted the Baath revolution decades ago. The late Hafez Assad relied on them to consolidate his rule. They were the counterbalance that opened the door to a new Syria.
There are scores of understandable or objective reasons why the rural areas’ share of economic and human growth lagged behind. Numerous mistakes committed by state authority over the past 20 years overburdened the rural areas, driving their inhabitants into the poverty belts surrounding major cities and the scourge of mass unemployment.
Loafers and the collapse of public services over and above political, security and sectarian hegemony turned the rural areas into fertile ground for the first popular uprising in Syria since French Occupation times.
All this is now out of date. The round table meant to address these problems has been pushed aside. The regime chose the easier course of blunt repression. The insurgents erred by selling their movement down the river Syria’ enemies – whether Arab, foreign or global hegemons.
The result was Syria’s descent into a cruel civil war, where there is no room for reason and where evil and wrath prevail over all else.
The outcome doesn’t look promising.
Seventeen months after the outbreak of the crisis, Syrians at home as well as distant observers are back arguing over whose prognosis was more accurate. Everyone is sarcastically saying: We had forewarned of what is happening today. But each side then follows up this phrase with premises and conclusions.
The regime and its supporters reiterate that the oppositionists in Syria did not discern differences from other Arab countries and ignored regional and external interests whipping up support for any protest leading to Syria’s destruction.
The opposition camp in turn reiterates that the regime disregarded realities on the ground, chose to deny the existence of a genuinely internal problem and focused its efforts on a security solution that led to militarization of the popular uprising.
Speaking of disagreements, loyalists call for calm, urging the opposition to lay down arms, clear the streets and get involved in a “realistic dialogue” with the regime. As for the oppositionists, they set the regime leader’s exit as a precondition for a settlement involving his supporters in and outside government.
In brief, there are no signs of compromise by this or that side. As foreign interests overlap with the internal faceoff, the bloody war rages on. Everyone is looking forward to fundamental changes on the ground that would pave the way for political exchange.
Until then, Syria’s doors remain wide open to all manners of killings and destructions and to a confrontation so brutal as to justify the fears of Syria’s allies and enemies for the country’s future.
Meantime on the ground, configuration of borders of densely- and scarcely-populated mini-states is underway.
The Syria we know is dead. And all the dreams of a civic state in this sectarian Mashreq perished with it.
Also, not too far from Syria – meaning along its eastern, western, southern and northern borders – there are states and peoples paying the price of dispensing with a united Syria.
Iraq is bracing for new sectarian infighting. The alliance striving to bring down the regime in Syria is seeking to topple the current regime in Iraq. Even the United States, which won special privileges in post-Saddam Iraq, is growing closer to Christian Europe’s and the Sunnite Gulf’s belief that a dismembered Iraq is preferable to one ruled by the Shiites and dominated by Iran.
Jordan is steeped in a deep internal crisis resulting from shoddy governance and the state’s reduced chances of fully independent survival. Jordan is being pulled in opposite directions by two powerful magnets: one wanting it to decisively throw its lot against the Syrian regime and the other warning that Syria’s collapse would empower political Islam in Jordan and breathe new life into the old concept of “Jordan is Palestine.”
Turkey, which boasted being the regime’s heavyweight, is witnessing an Islamization process that would dispense with the trappings of civic equality introduced by Ataturk.
Talk of discrimination is already rife among confessional, sectarian, national and ethnic Turkish minorities. The miserable adventure of its theoreticians and politicians would force the Justice and Development Party to tighten its grip on power and thus undermine democracy as well as pubic and private liberties. Privatization would be the party’s only recourse to protect the country’s economic growth that would be flattened by the loss of Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Also, all the restrictions that curbed part of the PKK’s (Kurdistan Workers Party’s) power would dissipate. Much of Syria’s lands will provide fertile ground for rebellious Kurds striving for an independent national identity.
As for troubled Israel, existential questions don’t leave its mind. Survival of the (Syrian) regime means consolidation of the anti-Zionist “Axis of Resistance.” The (Syrian) regime’s downfall on the other hand would expose Israel’s northern front to negative repercussions regardless of who rules Damascus.
But the bigger problem for Israel today is the loss of its ability to launch preventive and pre-emptive wars. There are the added fears of Israel taking a miscalculated step that would see it pay the foremost and more exorbitant price.