Monday 22 July 2013

Killer love: The Alawites and the West

Postage stamp issued by the short-lived Alawite state under the French mandate

Fawaz Tello, a veteran Syrian opposition campaigner now based in Berlin, penned this think piece in Arabic for the portal.
A leader of the 2001 “Damascus Spring” movement, Tello spent five years (2001-2006) as a political prisoner. He moved to Cairo end February 2012.
The author, Fawaz Tello
His degrees in Civil Engineering and Business Administration are from Damascus University.
To put his think piece into perspective, of the Syrian population of 22.5 million, 74 percent are Muslin Sunnis, 11 percent are Alawites, and 15 percent are from other religious denominations.
Last June 18, a Lebanese daily close to the Syrian regime quoted a Syrian official as saying in the presence of a UN organization representative, “We shall prevail with or without Bashar al-Assad. For us, what matters most is to see the state – i.e. the regime – survive without losing its regional status.”
Obviously the Syrian official is “Alawite.”
By saying, “what matters for us,” and by equating “state” and “regime,” he simply meant “Alawite rule.”
Over a year ago, after meeting diplomats and attending Syrian opposition conferences, I wrote two articles.
In them, I warned that the United States has -- since the first (February 2012) “Friends of Syria” conference in Tunis -- already contrived a roadmap for Syria.
With opposition groups’ blessings, the U.S. then underpinned the blueprint at the (June 2012) Action Group conference in Geneva and at subsequent “Friends of Syria” meetings.
Essentially, the roadmap is the political solution proposed for Geneva-2, whereby the “Alawite regime” retains the state’s military and security branches, which are sectarian Alawite par excellence.
These would supposedly be reformed gradually “in order to conserve state structures.”
In other words, proponents of Geneva-2 concur with the Syrian official who encapsulated “the state” in the word “regime” and “the regime” in “Alawite rule.”
The Americans, Europeans, Russians and Iranians share this rationale, their only dispute being over the role of “the regime president” in the negotiations and in the transitional stage.
The Americans have lately made common cause with the Russian position, meaning that at Geneva-2 the regime president would negotiate his “future role.”
That’s a new political rib-tickler worth adding to America’s stock of international wisecracks, particularly the joke of “non-lethal weapons.”
So Geneva-2 recognizes the current regime as a full and powerful partner without reference to justice or bona fide power transfer.
Rebels had to be coerced militarily to accept such solution. This was done by giving the Syrian regime a free hand to stifle the revolution by all means possible, including ceaseless carpet bombing and shelling; the use of ballistic missiles, chemical weapons and airpower; inexhaustible supplies of arms and ammunitions; blithe disregard for the regime’s recourse to sectarian mobilization by inviting mercenaries from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran.
By contrast, the Geneva-2 partners exerted immense pressure to starve rebels of arms and ammunitions, which some Arab states promised them 18 months ago.
The Geneva-2 Western patrons used the pretext of “opposition unity” at a timewhen Jabhat al-Nusra was nowhere in sight. The group’s catchword “wrong” hands later became the chief excuse although the “wrong hands” hardly represent five percent of the Free Syrian Army and moderate Islamic groups’ forces on the ground.
After Iran’s overt intervention in the battle for Qusayr through her proxies in Lebanon and Iraq, Arab countries resentful of Iran’s expansionism turned a deaf ear to Washington and started channeling weapons to the rebels.
That’s when the West -- read Americans and Europeans -- resorted to the political ploy of publicly declaring they would be arming the rebels while trying behind doors to prevent this from happening.
The West never stopped hoping the regime would succeed in crushing the revolution or in forcing it to the surrender negotiations table.
Never before did a dictatorship willingly transform into a democracy – neither at once nor piecemeal.
The Syrian Alawite official realizes this. But he is telling the West that Alawites would stay behind the sectarian dictator until they sense defeat, which is when they would make a deal with the West to dump the dictator and safeguard “Alawite rule.”
That’s what the “Western Friends of Syria” give the thumbs up to.
In truth, it’s the case of the West giving something it does not have to an undeserving side, the side being partisans of the sectarian Alawite regime, most of whom are actively supporting the dictator militarily and politically.
The West is saying a sectarian Alawite minority regime in league with other minorities is more suitable than a secular and moderate Sunni regime, even if modeled after Turkey’s.
The fitting secular Muslim, the West is saying, should preferably be “hostile” to all the cultural, authentic and manifest trappings of Sunni Islam. Problem is such Muslims are marginal among Sunnis and stand no chance of winning elections.
This explains the West’s penchant for quasi-democratic minority rule that leaves the military and security striking force in minority hands.
The clearest example yet of such political and intellectual bigotry by Western decision-makers and think tanks is Iraq, which was delivered to Iran on a silver platter at the expense of the West’s Gulf Arab allies.
What is happening in Syria today is the continuation of that policy. Iran is left to carry on shoring up Syria’s sectarian regime at all levels even if she swallowed Syria altogether and her expansionism detonated the entire region.
All this is to keep alive the Alawites’ half-a-century-old rule of Syria by means of the most repulsive sort of overlapping international support from America, Europe, the Soviet Union then Russia, Iran and Israel.
This minority regime gave the State of Israel unparalleled leeway to appropriate the Golan. It also gifted Israel a unique prize by crushing the Palestinian Revolution. Above all, by seizing power in the 1963 military coup in the name of the Baath Party, the minority regime interrupted the significant economic, political and social strides Syria was making to become a free and liberal Muslim democracy.
The latest evidence of the West’s complicity and its partiality towards Alawite governance is its refusal to pass on a simple message to the ruling Alawite sect.
The message is this: “You have to accept the new Syria as ordinary citizens. Instead of being stripped of your total control of state institutions posthaste, the erosion of your privileges would be phased. You have the choice of endorsing or resisting the change. It’s an opportunity that is slipping through your hands day by day.”
The West has yet to tell the pro-Assad Alawites their war crimes and human rights violations will not go unpunished. Although sectarian killings and massacres in Syria are still one-sided, their insistence on setting up an Alawite statelet would trigger a full-scale civil war against them and the regime.
Any shape or form of dismemberment or partition of Syria would lead to protracted internecine strife that could last for years and envelop the region.
Geneva-2 is stillborn. It could have drawn breath 18 months ago, but not anymore. Syria is neither Bosnia nor Yemen. Her revolution is total, not halfway.
No matter how long the war would last to shatter the dream of Balkanizing Syria and bring regime criminals to justice, the Syrians will fight on for a better life with their backs to the wall.
To be ruled by a sectarian minority is the Syrian majority’s worst option, even if such choice were to open the gates of hell on the West, the region and the Alawites.
The West, the region and the Alawites are the least of the Syrian majority’s worries.