The following is a paper I did a few years ago on the Syrian situation. I decided to blog it today in light of the on-going crises in the Near & Middle East, a region I feel will never have any peace.

Syria is a war-torn country badly in need of help. Help from foreign armies, help from a Higher Power, and help from the United Nations. However, outside military are reluctant to interfere in a war Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified as being ‘murky’. “It is not clear what constitutes the Syrian armed opposition – there has been no single unifying military alternative that can be recognized, appointed, or contracted,” he stated at the Senate Armed Services Committee on 7 March, 2012.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is headquartered, in name only, in Turkey, and has ties with three of Syria’s most powerful militias: the Harmoush Battalion (N. Jebel al-Zawiya Mtns.), the Khalid Bin Walid Brigade (Homs), and the Omari Battalion (S. Hawran plain). While the FSA is not unified, it is regarded as ‘identifiable, organized, and capable’.

To understand war in the Middle East, one must understand how religion and politics meld in that region. Since 9/11, through elections, the Islamization of politics in the Greater Middle East has changed dramatically. Economically, educationally, and socially as well as politically, there have been growing demands for justice in this area of the world. Religious-nationalist ideology drives Islamic politics and has become the motivating action ‘defining the interests of both non-state and state actors’. Annual Editions Developing World, 11/12, 2011 Custom Edition, Robert J. Griffiths

Authoritarian governments have become the norm in Muslim countries, while most secular ideologies have been failed, or are failing. There is a very weak identification with the state in most Middle Eastern nations, which is one reason Islam has become such an identify factor for Muslims. Not to mention that, religious programs are broadcast at every opportunity, carrying the “sacred word” from all centers of Islam throughout the globe, to every country with a Muslim population of any size. The troubles in Syria started with a revolt against the Assad family, which has been ruling the country with an iron fist for more than 40 years. (The Assad clan mainly keeps out of the media; a few important members of their inner circle, including a brother-in-law of the president, were assassinated recently in Damascus.)

The Assad family belong to the Alawite sect, a minority in the nation of Syria, which is more than 70% Sunni Muslim. The Sunnis are those who have revolted against the Assad family rule. Just as the Orthodox Jew is different in ways from the Satmar Hasidic Jew, as the Catholic is different from the Mormon, so are the Sunnis from the Alawites, a sect of Shi-ite Islam. Islam as practiced in most Muslim countries tends to either be moderate (Malaysia, for example), hardline (most Middle Eastern and North African countries), or somewhere between the two (the rest). Religion and politics exist uneasily together in Islamic countries and from world events and the textbook, that will possibly always be true. The Challenge of Third World Development, Religion and Politics, 2011 Custom Edition, Howard Handelman

Syria’s citizens are faring very badly during this drawn-out conflict. Shops open just between 9 and 3 pm, food prices have become prohibitive, people are being driven by their homes, facing death and/or dismemberment, bankruptcy, and the ongoing threat of sniper shells. Many of those that supported the Assad regime now want it to end. They feel that the Assads are to blame for what ails the country, from loss of jobs, homes, and even in some cases, lives. Many well-to-do and middle class Syrians have crossed the border into Lebanon, totally overwhelming the smaller nation and taxing its refugee centers and aid agencies.

There are pro-Assad loyalists too, as well as those caught in the middle, not sure which side looks ‘attractive’ from where they sit. One citizen stated that: The regime is a beast but the FSA, the Salafists and the international agenda are going to destroy the country.” Another said: “Syrians are killing Syrians.” Yet what can anyone do outside of the United Nations? It may be up to them to keep the peace in Syria and all over the Middle East, as well as the rest of the world. Without it, there can be no global development in war-ravaged Syria or any other nation engaged in ongoing battles.


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