Syria Spirals down into Sectarian War (Cole at Truthdig)

My column is out at Truthdig, “Sectarian Violence Undermines Syrian Regime”


“The Syrian government’s resort to Alawite death squads in recent weeks, however, has threatened the big-city alliance that has allowed the Baath to survive. The sight of Sunni women and children massacred by the Shabiha in Houla and Mazraat al-Qubair drove Sunni shopkeepers in the capital to instigate a general strike. Protests and small insurgencies are now taking place even in Damascus.”

Read the whole thing.

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6 Responses

  1. The Russians have apparently read the writing on the wall:
    An unidentified officer confirmed that “Two major amphibious ships – The Nikolai Filchenkov and The Tsezar Kunikov – are preparing to be dispatched to Tartus outside of their schedule.” It is believed the two ships will be carrying a large group of marines and could be used to evacuate Russian citizens and property.

  2. Dr. Cole, so does the US have a dog in the Syrian fight? On the one hand we have a despicable regime. On the other we have what looks to me like an extremist Sunni gathering that looks like the same car bombing thugs Iraq now faces, that are Saudi supported and potentially with AQ ties. The Saudi’s are clearly coming out for the regime, the French seem to be for the uprising. I don’t see what course the US should pilot in this case.

    • I don’t know about the US, but I think all of us non-combatants have an interest in preventing military machines from being trained on non-combatants.

    • My understanding is that the House of Saud is supplying arms to the opposition. They want badly to see the fall of the Shia Alawite regime to help weaken Iran’s regional influence. It seems logical that this would be the case.

      Dr. Cole’s discussion of Shabiha’s thuggery helping to diminish Assad’s approval among his backers is encouraging. To expect Damascus business people to support the mass murder of women and children by government hirelings is rather stupid, which Assad is not. He is obviously desperate.

      I don’t see Al-Queda usurping the revolt from the true revolutionaries. Secularism is ingrained in Syrian society. Would Syrian’s die by the thousands to remove the current police state, only to have it replaced with radical Islamist authoritarianism? It is unlikely, as Syrians are also smart.

      The U.S. dog in the fight would fare better if State could get it’s facts together. It does not help for SecState to complain about Russia delivering new choppers to Assad’s forces when they were actually old, existing equipment refurbished in Syria. If one cries “wolf”, then it better be an actual wolf, or we lose more legitimacy internationally. We should persist with as much humanitarian aid as is deliverable, preferably some of it in cash to keep the opposition afloat. The current situation is inhumane, so some of that floatation could mean an upgrade in arms from the Gulf or Saudi Arabia. We should feed our dog from a long distance, however.

      • Political Islam is a new force in the Middle East. It is not enough to say that since Syrians have become used to secular regimes over the last several decades, they would resist the imposition of a Sunni-based Islamist regime. The same could be said about Egypt, which also has had fairly secularist regimes in power since even before the Free Officer’s Revolution of 1952, yet Egyptians have voted in free elections a parliament with a large majority of Islamists (MB and Nour-Salafists) and now, apparently, an Islamist-MB President.
        The reason for this is that the Islamists preach that they don’t believe a Muslim state can have a “socially-just” society without having a religiously “righteous” society. In other words they don’t believe that tinkering with the social and economic system can really improve the lot of the people as a whole without raising the level of their religious conciousness and observance. Of course, there is a major debate within the Islamist movement about how to implement this. They question remains whether they can ally themselves with the remaining secularist forces and use education and persuasion to convince them that the Islamist religious way is the correct one, or they can hold that a secularist politician, because of his lack of religious faith, can ever really prevent personal considerations from entering his political calculations and thus diverting his efforts for the people to simple personal aggrandizement (which has been the lot of so many Arab politicians over the decades), thus, requring Islamists to move as fast as possible in the direction of religious renewal of the society and political echelons together.
        This philospophy came about because many Islamist thinkers had to confront the reasons for the economic and political decline over the centuries of the Arab/Muslim world. They came to the conclusion that it was due to Muslims, who while nominally were still religiously observant, had absorbed and internalized secular Western values and the decline of their societies were an inevitable product of that concious or unconcious secularization.
        The bottom line is that Islamist movements in Syria are confronting these ideas and should they get power, they will have to come to decisions on how to proceed, as I have indicated above. They feel that secularism is a dead-end for Syria. It is time that Western observers realize that we are seeing a real revolution of ideas in the Muslim Middle East and things can not remain the same and the old secular systems and values will be under long-term criticism and pressure, no matter who takes power.

  3. Are you really so certain that it was the Shabiha that carried out those killings?

    For what purpose, exactly?

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