International stakes in Syrian revolution

Syrians are not buying any of the empty political statements of international community.

 Unlike any other Arab spring uprising, the Syrian revolution turned into one of the bloodiest revolutions in history, thanks to foreign intervention. Having lived for more than 40 years under brutal dictatorship, Syrians found themselves revolting against a regime supported by Hizbollah, Iran, Russia, and China. Armed with nothing but the weapons they capture from government forces, the Syrian rebels, against all odds, were able to stand in the face of two super powers, and few regional powers, for the two past years. Such determination for freedom in rarely paralleled in human history.

Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East, knows that for the vast majority of its people, this conflict is not just about Syria. The imbalance that was created by the US invasion of Iraq is a core reason for the turmoil we are witnessing right now, and is likely to have future consequences on this region for years to come.

When pro Iran Shia groups took over control in Iraq from the Americans, a huge shift of balance happened in this extremely volatile region. The Gulf states, who host notable Shia populations, began to worry from this increased influence of Iran in the Gulf. The Shia populations in these countries themselves started to demand bigger roles in government.

The vicious cycle of mistrust was escalated with the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis in Iraq by armed Shia militia, and the accusations of terrorist attacks against Shia shrines and areas.  The Iraqi wound caused a lot of grieve, it is still not forgotten, and is still a major factor in the relation between Sunnis and Shia’s as a whole in this region.

When the Arab spring came to Syria, which is ruled by Alawayats, a group viewed by Shia themselves to be too extremes, the spark was added to the intensely charged atmosphere. It is now not a simple matter of America handing over Iraq to Iran, either by mistake or deliberately. It is now a matter of direct conflict between the two sects, and in this region, the stakes are very high. The outcome of this conflict will determine the near future of many individual countries in this region, as well as the region as a whole, and possibly even the whole world.

That is why Russia and China made what is now clear to have been a wrong bet on the Assad regime. They cannot afford to lose their strongholds in this region, for many global geopolitical reasons, and didn’t expect the revolution to be this resilient, or for this conflict to extend this long, and become this complex. At least if we give them the benefit of the doubt.

The Israelis, who have strong relations with the government of Vladimir Putin, have a vested interest in making sure this conflict escalates into a pan Islamic warfare. This might be another reason why Russia is defying logic in supporting the Syrian regime, and thus, prolonging and worsening the conflict in this region.

In fact, because the Bush administration took Iraq by force, and against the well of Russia and China, the rules of the game have changed as far as these two countries are concerned. The two, and in particular Russia, believe they are “entitled” to Syria, for the basic reason that “America took Iraq”. I have little doubt that Obama heard something to this effect from Putin in their famous “frosty” meeting last year.

Major international players refuse to rethink the way they view this region, and are still looking down on its people, whom they want to treat like cattle, and appoint a loyal shepherd on them. If you think about what’s happening, it seems as if the model that is being worked out for all post-Arab-spring-states is to be an extension of Africa. In such scenario, nations are divided along ethnic or sectarian lines, and “war lords” are “hired” by world players to shift the balance for one super power or another, or to secure certain privileges or resources for whoever pays more. In a state like this, no single group can maintain control by itself, without foreign support. Therefore, the foreigner becomes the determiner, the decider, and the de facto ruler of any such country.

From this we can see the reason why England and France want to arm the Syrian rebels. They couldn’t care less about how many Syrians are killed, or how much of Syria is destroyed, and they seem to genuinely believe they can sell an image of support to Syrians by photo ups at Al-Zaatari refugee camp. What matters the most for Europeans in this conflict is to have a “horse in the race”, and secure a footstep in post revolution Syria. As it stands now, if Assad will win, which is very unlikely to happen, then Russia, China, and Iran will have Syria as a stronghold, and Europe will not have any presence or influence in it. And if the rebels will win, which is what is happening right now, slowly but surely, Europe will most likely not have as much privilege in the future of Syria as they would if they throw in few weapons when it doesn’t really matter anymore.

Though France and England want a piece of the cake, the rest of Europe is not willing, or cannot financially afford an involvement in one more conflict. Dealing with their internal economic headache is their number one priority at the moment.

 But, we need to give Europe the benefit of the doubt as well, just in case the official version is true, and some European states are indeed afraid the weapons might fall into the wrong hands. If this is the real reason why Europe refuses to arm the Syrian rebels, then this would be Europe at its purest form – Insecure and Islamophobic.

If Europe cannot overcome its fear of Muslims, chances are, it will never be able to coexist with its biggest neighbor, and biggest minority. The notion that Muslim extremists are going to take European weapons and attack European countries with them, for no reason other than hating Europe sounds more like an idea coming out of George W. Bush’s head. The idea that Muslims hate Europeans, or are, by the nature of their beings, a threat to Europe, regardless to how Europe treats them is everything that is wrong in this ailing relation between the two.

If there are going to be extremist groups in the Arab world who want to commit violent acts against Europeans, either by their own convictions, or driven by another international player in the region, then Europe’s chances of having the support of Syrians against such extremist groups is higher if they show support to Syrians in this time of dyer need.

Furthermore, Europe needs the Muslim world if it is to have a chance to stand against the expanding influence of the new Russia – China axis. The two super powers are cooperating inside the UN Security Council, outside in many critical regions of the world, in matters of defense, and, perhaps most importantly, in economy. The growing influence and power of this block should bring Europe back to its senses, and lead it to begin building strong allies in its “neighborhood”.

What many in this picture fail to understand is that the outcome of this conflict is almost already determined. Europe must see the inevitable, and begin to think about its own interest from that perspective. There is no way 1.4 billion Muslims are going to give up Syria to Iran or to Russia, even if Syria is going to be the next Afghanistan. This is simply not going to happen. And if Europe have learned anything from its Afghanistan adventure, it must be to bet for the long term winner.

This brings us to Iran, the state whose ambitions are blinding its judgement. Shia minority, who make less than 10 percent of world Muslim population, and who swim in a sea of Sunni Muslim states extending from Indonesia to Morroco, must not be foolish enough to be dragged into such conflict. It’s not going to happen, and Iran better start learning how to behave in this spot of the world, otherwise the lesson will be painful for everyone, and specifically for Iran.

Also, I don’t know about you, but I am not buying all of this war talk between Israel and Iran. None of these two states will benefit from such conflict, and who knows, under the table maybe they are in cooperation either directly or through the Americans. As to the Americans, they might be in turn playing with Iranians and trying to inflate Iran and generate conflict in the Muslim world to “facilitate its self destruction” as some of its leaked military manuals suggested.

Despite this region still being as complicated as it always were, what is absolutely clear is that the biggest loser in this conflict are the Syrian people, the world peace, and the image of a fair world, where humans feel compassion and empathy for one another. Syria is the loudest proof that the current world order is deeply malfunctioned, and that a new world order must urgently be considered.

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