[Marxism] Patrick Seale on Syria

Ken Hiebert knhiebert at shaw.ca
Wed Aug 1 15:28:10 MDT 2012

Seale seems to me to be well informed.  i would like to read some responses to this article.
				ken h


The Destruction of Syria

by Patrick Seale

Released: 24 Jul 2012

Once one of the most solid states in the Middle East and a key pivot of 
the regional power structure, Syria is now facing wholesale destruction. 
The consequences of the unfolding drama are likely to be disastrous for 
Syria's territorial integrity, for the well-being of its population, for 
regional peace, and for the interests of external powers deeply involved 
in the crisis.

The most immediate danger is that the fighting in Syria, together with 
the current severe pressure being put on Syria's Iranian ally, will 
provide the spark for a wider conflagration from which no one will be 

How did it come to this? Every actor in the crisis bears a share of 
responsibility. Syria is the victim of the fears and appetites of its 
enemies but also of its own leaders' mistakes.

With hindsight, it can be seen that President Bashar al-Asad missed the 
chance to reform the tight security state he inherited in 2000 from his 
father. Instead of recognising -- and urgently addressing -- the thirst 
for political freedoms, personal dignity and economic opportunity which 
were the message of the 'Damascus Spring' of his first year in power, he 
screwed the lid down ever more tightly.

Suffocating controls over every aspect of Syrian society were 
reinforced, and made harder to bear by the blatant corruption and 
privileges of the few and the hardships suffered by the many. Physical 
repression became routine. Instead of cleaning up his security 
apparatus, curbing police brutality and improving prison conditions, he 
allowed them to remain as gruesome and deplorable as ever.

Above all, over the past decade Bashar al-Asad and his close advisers 
failed to grasp the revolutionary potential of two key developments -- 
Syria's population explosion and the long-term drought which the country 
suffered from 2006 to 2010, the worst in several hundred years. The 
first produced an army of semi-educated young people unable to find jobs 
<http://www.agenceglobal.com/index.php?show=article&Tid=2840#%23>; the 
second resulted in the forced exodus of hundreds of thousands of farmers 
from their parched fields to slums around the major cities. Herders in 
the north-east lost 85% of their livestock. It is estimated that by 
2011, some two to three million Syrians had been driven into extreme 
poverty. No doubt climate change was responsible, but government neglect 
and incompetence contributed to the disaster.

These two factors -- youth unemployment and rural disaffection -- were 
the prime motors of the uprising which spread like wildfire, once it was 
triggered by a brutal incident at Dar'a in March 2011. The foot-soldiers 
of the uprising are unemployed 
youth and impoverished peasants.

Could the regime have done something about it? Yes, it could. As early 
as 2006-7, it could have alerted the world to the situation, devoted all 
available resources to urgent job 
<http://www.agenceglobal.com/index.php?show=article&Tid=2840#%23> creation, 
launched a massive relief programme for its stricken population and 
mobilised its citizens for these tasks. No doubt major international aid 
agencies and rich Gulf countries would have helped had the plans been in 

Instead, the regime's gaze was distracted by external threats: by the 
Lebanese crisis of 2005 following the assassination of Rafic Hariri; by 
Israel's bid to destroy Hizballah by its invasion of Lebanon in 2006; by 
its attack on Syria's nuclear facility in 2007; and by its bid to 
destroy Hamas in its murderous assault on Gaza in 2008-9.

From the start of Bashar al-Asad's presidency, Syria has faced 
relentless efforts by Israel and its complicit American ally to bring 
down the so-called 'resistance axis' of Tehran-Damascus-Hizballah, which 
dared challenge the regional dominance of Israel and the United States.

Syria had a narrow escape in 2003-4. Led by the Pentagon's Paul 
Wolfowitz, the pro-Israeli neo-cons embedded in President George W. 
Bush's administration were determined to reshape the region in Israel's 
and America's interest 
<http://www.agenceglobal.com/index.php?show=article&Tid=2840#%23>. Their 
first target was Saddam Hussein's Iraq, seen as a potential threat to 
Israel. Had the United States been successful in Iraq, Syria would have 
been next. Neither Iraq nor the United States has yet recovered from the 
catastrophic Iraqi war, of which Wolfowitz was the chief 'architect'.

Syria and its Iranian ally are once again under imminent threat. The 
United States and Israel make no secret of their goal to bring down both 
the Damascus and Tehran regimes. No doubt some Israeli strategists 
believe that it would be greatly to their country's advantage if Syria 
were dismembered and permanently weakened by the creation of a small 
Alawi state around the port-city of Latakia in the north-west, in much 
the same way as Iraq was dismembered and permanently weakened by the 
creation of the Kurdish Regional Government in the north of the country, 
with its capital at Irbil. It is not easy to be the neighbour of an 
expansionist and aggressive Jewish state, which believes that its 
security is best assured, not by making peace with its neighbours, but 
by subverting, destabilising and destroying them with the aid of 
American power.

The United States and Israel are not Syria's only enemies. The Syrian 
Muslim Brothers have been dreaming of revenge ever since their attempt 
30 years ago to topple Syria's secular Ba'thist regime by a campaign of 
terror was crushed by Hafiz al-Asad, Syria's President at the 
time. Today, the Muslim Brothers are repeating the mistake they made 
then by resorting to terror with the aid of foreign Salafists, including 
some Al-Qaida fighters flowing into Syria from Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, 
Jordan and other countries further afield. The liberal members of the 
Syrian opposition in exile, including several worthy academics and 
veteran opponents, are providing political cover for these more violent 

Some Arab Gulf States persist in viewing the region through a sectarian 
prism.They are worried by Iran's alleged hegemonic ambitions. They are 
unhappy that Iraq -- once a Sunni power able to hold Iran in check -- is 
now under Shia leadership. Talk of an emerging 'Shia Crescent' appears 
to threaten Sunni dominance. For these reasons they are funding and 
arming the Syrian rebels in the hope that bringing down the Syrian 
regime will sever Iran's ties with the Arab world. But this policy will 
simply prolong Syria's agony, claim the lives of some of its finest men 
and cause massive material damage.

America, the dominant external power, has made many grievous policy 
blunders. Over the past several decades it failed to persuade its 
stubborn Israeli ally to make peace with the Palestinians, leading to 
peace with the whole Arab world. It embarked on catastrophic wars in 
Afghanistan and Iraq. It failed to reach a 'grand bargain' with Iran 
which would have dispelled the spectre of war in the Gulf and stabilised 
the volatile region. And it is now quarrelling with Moscow and reviving 
the Cold War by sabotaging Kofi Annan's peace plan for Syria.

There can be no military solution to the Syrian crisis. The only way out 
of the current nightmare is a ceasefire imposed on both sides, followed 
by a negotiation and the formation of a national government to oversee a 
transition. Only thus can Syria avoid wholesale destruction, which could 
take a generation or two to repair.

/Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the //Middle East. His 
latest book is /The Struggle for Arab Independence: Riad el-Solh and the 
Makers of the Modern Middle East /(Cambridge University Press)/.

Copyright © 2012 Patrick Seale -- distributed by Agence Global

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