|Artwork by Syrian artst Wissam Al Jazairy|
By Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia’s analyst, author and kingpin of the impending Al Arab TV news channel writing today for pan-Arab al-Hayat
An ugly sectarian scenario is now in motion in Syria.
Some doctors are indecisive by nature.
If lab results confirm their diagnosis that a patient requires difficult surgery, they first prescribe medication, hoping this would help spare the patient a complex surgical procedure.
Skeptics would say the doctor sought to profit from prolonging the treatment or lacked confidence in his ability to perform the surgery. Optimists would argue the doctor simply tried not to put the patient’s life at risk.
U.S. President Barack Obama faces a similar problem with the Syrian patient. The intentions of the other treating physician – Russian President Vladimir Putin – are flagrant. But there is no escape from leaving the Syrian patient under the consortium’s care.
Obama and Putin know the medication they prescribed is not working. They asked their foreign ministers to get together and hammer out a political solution.
The two presidents are aware the regime totally rejects “peace” as a self-defeating proposition and that the opposition craves for peace after having been forced to take up arms.
The two presidents also realize the regime’s talk of “negotiations” is a PR gimmick.
To pave the way for peace negotiations between the two warring sides, the regime and the Russian Federation want arming of the opposition to cease.
But there are no “two warring sides.” There is simply a repressive regime bent on retaining power on one side and an enraged and revolting population seeking freedom and a new Syria on the other.
The regime is not facing one Syrian party or sect. The Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Coalition embrace and enfold all the Syrians’ sects, which despite their different stripes and trends are now united “against the regime.”
They will break up into opposing groups and political parties once they contest democratic elections after the regime’s fall.
The majority of quasi-loyalist Syrians now living in Damascus and in parts of Aleppo and Homs that remain under regime control will take to the streets to demand change as soon as the regime security services begin to falter.
Obviously, one precondition for any peace agreement between the regime and the opposition – if Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry sponsor one – would be a cessation of violence by the two sides.
By definition, the cessation of violence would ensure freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully without risking prosecution.
This would take us back to the starting point demanded by the Syrian people in March 2011 and then by the Arab League, the United Nations, Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi.
That starting point has been rejected by the regime all along. It will be rejected again and again for evermore.
Peace and nonviolence don’t work in the regime’s favor. The regime lives by the sword and won’t win except by the sword.
So why waste time on fruitless initiatives?
The answer lies in the game of so-called “international diplomacy.”
Obama, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and all Arab and European leaders wish for something to happen in Damascus that would bring the conflict to a close without their intervention.
But there are no signs of such a thing happening.
Instead, the Syria crisis has started spilling over.
Seven Iraqis were killed last week as they escorted Syrian soldiers who had sought refuge in Iraq after being evicted from a border crossing. The Syrian “regular army brethren” were in a convoy heading to recapture the border crossing from the Free Syrian Army. Unidentified gunmen ambushed the convoy inside Iraqi territory. It is unclear whether they belonged to the FSA or to its Iraqi Sunnite allies. The latter are avowed supporters of the Syrian revolution, raising its flag in their uprising against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government.
Iraqis who are already divided over their internal affairs have thus added an extra discordant issue.
In turn, Iraq’s Shiites are not hiding their backing of the Syrian regime’s war despite claiming deployment in Damascus of their armed brigade, named after Abul Fadhl al-Abbas, is simply meant to protect the shrine of Sayyeda Zeinab.
Incidentally, the shrine is revered by Syria’s Sunnites, much as the Egyptians venerate the Tomb of Imam Hussein in Cairo.
It’s all pure and utter sectarianism.
An absurd exploitation of a 1,400-year-old conflict is rearing its head to entice the simple-minded into a fierce battle once the FSA breaches the walls of Damascus.
Further away to the West, the no-less sectarian Hezbollah is already fighting inside Syrian close to Lebanon’s northern borders.
Those borders were demarcated by the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, which tailored Lebanon’s froniers to the correct size of its sects. The borders were meant to geographically apportion predominantly Sunnite villages to Syria, ultimately serving as a buffer between Lebanon and the Alawite mountains.
Therein lies Plan B – an Alawite state that Bashar al-Assad would set up for his Alawite community.
Hezbollah is accordingly out to secure a supply line to the would-be statelet. Hence its offensive in the Qusayr region, such as the Serbs did in Bosnia.
Hezbollah’s drive to create a supply route to the rump Alawite state entails ethnic cleansing in an area stretching from northern Lebanon to Qusayr and all the way to the west of Homs.
However, should Syria remain whole in the hands of nationalist forces, the noose would tighten around Hezbollah’s neck. It would be cut down to size and turned into a political force on par with others in Lebanon.
Ensuring the viability of an Alawite state envisaged by the faltering regime also calls for a parallel ethnic cleansing campaign along Syria’s chiefly Sunnite coastline.
A gloomy sectarian scenario is unfolding. Denying it is wrong. Not so speaking about it.