Syria and the Will of the People

Discussion of current events
neverfail
Posts: 5828
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Re: Syria and the Will of the People

Post by neverfail » Sun Aug 23, 2020 4:00 pm

Sertorio wrote:
Sun Aug 23, 2020 3:16 am
neverfail wrote:
Sun Aug 23, 2020 1:12 am
Sertorio wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 2:36 am

In the Looney Tunes world, he might, but not in ours. In the war between the states didn't the will of the people count for something?...
Are you seriously trying to compare the Assad hereditary dictatorship :twisted: with the Lincoln administration? :lol: :| :(
I am comparing two civil wars and the feelings of two nations in respect of those wars. The civil war in Syria - in which Syrians are increasingly on one side only - does not stop Syrians having opinions and voicing them. The fact that more than 50 Syrian tribes announced their support for Bashar al-Assad's government and their will to fight the US led coalition is a clear sign of what the majority of Syrians want. It is a form of democracy nobody has the right to ignore.
But what pro-rate percentage of Syria's (by now much diminished) population do those 50 tribes combined add up to? 1%? 2%?

As for "the US led coalition" it looks to me more like a coalition in which US involvement was manipulated by America's regional allies. Saudi Arabia and Gulf state allies have been supporting one rebel faction (linked to Isis) while Turkey has been supporting another - and the USA has reluctantly stepped into line rather than lose credibility with ME allies. Or are you unaware that sometimes US foreign policy moves are in response to initiaves taken by foreign allies abroad?

I see the USA as very much the follower, not the leader, in Syria policy.

Then on the opposing side: apart from Russian air support the Assad regime has benefitted mightily from Iranian support. It all relates back to religious allegance. Syris has a Shia Muslim minority which Assad (who is neither Shia nor Sunni) has been the protector of - so Hezbollah and Iran supports Assad in return. Indeed, the Assad regime has survived for three generations by assermbling a coalition of support from out of Syria's religious minorities including Alawite, Shia and Christian against the anticipated vengeance of the 60% of Syrians who are Sunni.

That puts the Assad regime in a similar position to the late Saddam Hussein's in Iraq: majority population = 60% Shia; Sunni = minority half the demographic size; Hussein was Sunni so Hassain protected his own.

By comparison the factions that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey support both get their members from Syria's Sunni majority population.

Considering how many foreign powers have been sticking their big wooden oars in stirring the boiling
Syrian cauldron I can confidently say that whatever opinions ordinary Syrians hold and voice counts for absolutely nothing in this contest of strength.

Now, please explain how this compatres to the American civil war - which in its day external powers dilligently kept out of?

User avatar
Sertorio
Posts: 4020
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Syria and the Will of the People

Post by Sertorio » Sun Aug 30, 2020 3:27 am

EllenS wrote:
Sun Aug 30, 2020 3:16 am
The population of Syria is overwhelmingly Sunni and they hate Assad and the Alawites. But, they have no social cohesion, no decent leaders, no decent army, and no umbrella ideology which displays tolerance for non-Sunnis, non-Arabs, and non-Moslems. Hence, even being 70% of the population, they have been rendered losers, for the time being.

In the long run, however, a broke Assad backed by a decimated Alawite population (12% of the country) can obviously not prevail. The country will be partitioned by external powers - mainly Turkey and Russia, with Israeli influence in the south. The Kurds will get an autonomy zone or even a ministate in the east, backed by the US and Israel. The Alawites cannot rule Syria for much longer.

Minorities can sometimes rule when they bring economic advancement and benefits in good governance to a population. The Alawites have brought nothing but a wretched criminal mafia that has destroyed the country. They should flee while they can still get out.
And who is going to break Assad? And what is going to decimate the Alawites?... Wishful thinking is a dangerous basis for policy...

neverfail
Posts: 5828
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Re: Syria and the Will of the Sunni majority - crushed?

Post by neverfail » Sun Aug 30, 2020 4:16 am

Sertorio wrote:
Sun Aug 30, 2020 3:27 am
EllenS wrote:
Sun Aug 30, 2020 3:16 am
The population of Syria is overwhelmingly Sunni and they hate Assad and the Alawites. But, they have no social cohesion, no decent leaders, no decent army, and no umbrella ideology which displays tolerance for non-Sunnis, non-Arabs, and non-Moslems. Hence, even being 70% of the population, they have been rendered losers, for the time being.

In the long run, however, a broke Assad backed by a decimated Alawite population (12% of the country) can obviously not prevail. The country will be partitioned by external powers - mainly Turkey and Russia, with Israeli influence in the south. The Kurds will get an autonomy zone or even a ministate in the east, backed by the US and Israel. The Alawites cannot rule Syria for much longer.

Minorities can sometimes rule when they bring economic advancement and benefits in good governance to a population. The Alawites have brought nothing but a wretched criminal mafia that has destroyed the country. They should flee while they can still get out.
And who is going to break Assad? And what is going to decimate the Alawites?... Wishful thinking is a dangerous basis for policy...
Yes Ellen, I am inclined to agree with Sertorio on this.

I am sure that Assad would have gone to great pains to protect his fellow Alawites from all harm during the conflict: so I have reason to believe that the Alawites would have maintained their pre-war numbers. Meantime with millions of Sunni Muslims driven into exile abroad never to return I am sure that the pro-rata of Alawites would have actually strengthened a little.

Assad's power base was not exclusively Alawite. It was built on a coalition that also comprised Christians (around 10% of prewar population); Shia (only 5%); Druze and Kurdish - a coalition of all who were not Sunni-Arab. I make that distinction as Kurds are also Sunni but that apparently does not count for much (just as in Iraq and Turkey).

So as I hope you can see by now; Assad's base of support was NOT exclusively Alawite but based upon a coalition of minority interests that incorporated up to 40% of Syria's pre-war population. Given that Sunni demographics in Syria must have been weakened by the Sunni Arab refugee exodus then should the civil war end and Syria finally get the opportunity to rebuild in peace, I can foresee the Assad grip on the country being, if anything, much strengthened.

neverfail
Posts: 5828
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Re: Syria and the Will of the People

Post by neverfail » Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:13 am

Very well Ellen, you have made your point well.

Two thoughts passed through my mind as I read through your provided link:

1. Though they may now gripe about Assad, the Alawites seem to be stuck with him come what may. Defecting to the enemy side could not possibly be an option, could it?

2. I am not aware of the Sunni side putting up a credible leadership (or agenda for government) in place of Assad - so couldn't Assad still win by default of his opponents? Indeed, is not the Sunni side riven by factions of their own: one faction in thrawl to the Turks and the other backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE? The two working against one another prolonging the conflict as a consequence.
EllenS wrote:
Sun Aug 30, 2020 4:34 am
You must have a superior armed force with greater military clout, and clever strategies with superior intelligence, and high morale and motivation. This is how Israel wins its wars against a numerically superior population. Not by wars of attrition.
Nations do not always get to fight the sort of wars they would ideally like to. Israel has been lucky so far in being able to fight wars involving the merits you describe above. It may not always be so. May God help Israel if it should ever have to fight such a war of attrition.

(By the way Ellen: what does Israel hope to gain from out of the civil war in Syria - I mean, apart from the feel-good of having yet another excuse to feel superior to the Arabs? :) )

User avatar
Sertorio
Posts: 4020
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Syria and the Will of the People

Post by Sertorio » Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:26 am

neverfail wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:13 am
Very well Ellen, you have made your point well.

Two thoughts passed through my mind as I read through your provided link:

1. Though they may now gripe about Assad, the Alawites seem to be stuck with him come what may. Defecting to the enemy side could not possibly be an option, could it?

2. I am not aware of the Sunni side putting up a credible leadership (or agenda for government) in place of Assad - so couldn't Assad still win by default of his opponents? Indeed, is not the Sunni side riven by factions of their own: one faction in thrawl to the Turks and the other backed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE? The two working against one another prolonging the conflict as a consequence.
Syria may be the Arab nation which is closest to a secular state of mind, exactly because there are so many religious groups living together in Syria. And Syria is also a very old nation which may have outgrown some destructive impulses, more readily seen in younger nations. Without interference from abroad, I would expect Bashir al-Assad and the Baathists to remain in power, although some concessions will have to be made to the (secular) oppositions.

neverfail
Posts: 5828
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Re: Syria and the Will of the People

Post by neverfail » Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:15 pm

Sertorio wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:26 am

Syria may be the Arab nation which is closest to a secular state of mind, exactly because there are so many religious groups living together in Syria. And Syria is also a very old nation which may have outgrown some destructive impulses, more readily seen in younger nations. Without interference from abroad, I would expect Bashir al-Assad and the Baathists to remain in power, although some concessions will have to be made to the (secular) oppositions.
A "very old nation"? Syria might have experienced sedentry human settlement ever since the age of neolithic agriculture began approx. 10,000 years ago yet is no more a nation than, in Africa, the contrived multi-tribal state of Congo, another legacy of colonialism, is. You do indulge in fantasies, don't you Sertorio?

Please read (or re-read) Ellen's most recent post.

neverfail
Posts: 5828
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Re: Syria and the Will of the People

Post by neverfail » Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:06 pm

EllenS wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:42 am

It's hard for anyone to feel sorry for the Alawites. They have committed unspeakable atrocities and mass murder against nominally fellow citizens (whatever that means in an Arab country). They cannot expect any real sympathy from any external player. It's possible they will shrivel up and disappear over time. How many small tribes and sects have shrivelled and disappeared from the Middle East? Read the Bible and count all the little groups that no longer exist, but once did (Moabites, Amalekites, etc). And this is only a partial list. There were many more that never left a track record of their own existence.


Yes, as a sometimes biblical scholar I consider myself sufficiently conversant with the contents of the Old Testiment to know about those long vanished communities. Meantime, the chosen people, originally the Hebrews and subsequently their offspring heirs the Jews, have endured ever since ;) .

But Ellen, I would like to humbly suggest that things might have changed somewhat since those times. Those disappeared ancient peoples were pagan tribes. Any pagan cult can normally endure only for as long as the tribe that adheres to it does. In those days if you were a gentile then automatically you were also a pagan.

Not any more; not for the past two millenia anyhow! The death and alleged resurrectuion of Jesus Christ gave birth to the first of two global religions that broke the tribal adherence connection to religious worship. Tribes, nations and states might vanish but the confessional community lives on indefinitely - apparently with God's blessing.

Ignoring the Arabian peninsula: the international frontiers of the Middle East are a past legacy of colonialism and as such are insubstantial: for the reason that they incorporated within the bounds of those contrived states clutches of mutually alien peoples not bound together by any shared community interest. However, while governments and regimes might be swept away and frontiers crumble; I believe that Arabic civilisation will endure.

Why so? Because Arabic civilisation is inhabited by Islam - a super-national faith that, like Christanity, is both Abrahamic and monotheist.
Suleiman al Assad spoke highly of the Jewish state then being prepared for birth in the British Mandate. He thought this could be a good model for the Alawites. Maybe it could have been, then. But now, it's probably too late for them. Just as with the Palestinians. Too late.
The state of Israel is the only state in the levantine Middle East that fought for and established its own international frontiers instead of having passively received them from former colonial rulers (or trustees). In other words, unlike the others Israel chose the location of it's borders. That surely makes a difference.
.........................................................................................................................

Might I acknowledge, Ellen, that it is a pleasure to swap notes with you.

User avatar
Sertorio
Posts: 4020
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Syria and the Will of the People

Post by Sertorio » Thu Sep 03, 2020 11:51 pm

neverfail wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:15 pm
Sertorio wrote:
Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:26 am

Syria may be the Arab nation which is closest to a secular state of mind, exactly because there are so many religious groups living together in Syria. And Syria is also a very old nation which may have outgrown some destructive impulses, more readily seen in younger nations. Without interference from abroad, I would expect Bashir al-Assad and the Baathists to remain in power, although some concessions will have to be made to the (secular) oppositions.
A "very old nation"? Syria might have experienced sedentry human settlement ever since the age of neolithic agriculture began approx. 10,000 years ago yet is no more a nation than, in Africa, the contrived multi-tribal state of Congo, another legacy of colonialism, is. You do indulge in fantasies, don't you Sertorio?

Please read (or re-read) Ellen's most recent post.
If Syrians cannot be a nation, neither can the Israelis. They have lived for centuries in the most diverse places in the world, spoken the most diverse languages, even prayed in different languages. Askhenazi and Sephardic Jews are at least as different as Alawite and Sunni Syrians. You should think your arguments through, before you post them...

User avatar
Sertorio
Posts: 4020
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Syria and the Will of the People

Post by Sertorio » Fri Sep 04, 2020 4:38 am

EllenS wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 12:46 am
No, that is not correct. Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews are united in one faith connected to the Land of Israel, regardless of what level of belief or observance they demonstrate. As I said, Judaism and its connection to Zionism is the common glue that holds together the Jewish people in Israel. Nothing else compares to this, and certainly not secular ideologies like socialism or democracy.

Those Israelis Jews who do not think that Judaism is important to them are the ones who emigrate to the West. You see them everywhere including in Europe, even in Berlin. What this means, practically speaking, is that the ones who remain in Israel - which is now 7 million - do identify with being part of the Jewish people, by definition.

As for Syria, the Alawites are a pagan tribe with a former religion which was an offshoot of Shiism combined with nature worship. The problem is, their religion has largely disappeared under Assad family rule, just as Christianity has disappeared in much of Europe. They no longer identify with it as a faith, just as a tribal background. The Sunnis meanwhile have a sturdy, long-lasting religious faith, which most of them still subscribe to, and it is the dominant faith of the Middle East. The Sunnis always viewed the Alawites as heretics of Islam. The Alawites in their current secularized condition are still viewed as heretics because they don't recognize the "truth" of Islam or of other Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Judaism. Now, add to that their slaughter and exile of millions of Sunnis in a tribal war, and they are really never going to be accepted by the Sunnis.

There is no comparison of Alawites and Sunnis in Syria to Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Israel.
I agree I have stretched the point a bit too much, just to make my point. But I still do not see any reason for Syrians not to be a nation - even if a diverse one - just because their present borders are very much arbitrary. The fact is that the peoples who have lived on what is now Syria and Iraq have been pretty stable throughout the ages, although their religions and their rulers have changed a lot. I have had Syrian students at my university and I was impressed by their level of development. They are intelligent, dynamic, entrepreneurial, and mostly tolerant. And they adjusted beautifully to life in Portugal. I'm sure that if they were left in peace, they would reach a peaceful coexistence with the Assad regime.

neverfail
Posts: 5828
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:47 am
Location: Singapore

Re: Syria and the Will of the People

Post by neverfail » Fri Sep 04, 2020 5:37 am

Sertorio wrote:
Fri Sep 04, 2020 4:38 am

I agree I have stretched the point a bit too much, just to make my point. But I still do not see any reason for Syrians not to be a nation - even if a diverse one - just because their present borders are very much arbitrary. The fact is that the peoples who have lived on what is now Syria and Iraq have been pretty stable throughout the ages, although their religions and their rulers have changed a lot. I have had Syrian students at my university and I was impressed by their level of development. They are intelligent, dynamic, entrepreneurial, and mostly tolerant. And they adjusted beautifully to life in Portugal. I'm sure that if they were left in peace, they would reach a peaceful coexistence with the Assad regime.
A judgement by you based on superfical first impressions.

They have been "stable" down through the centuries because they have been ruled by foreign powers down through those same centuries. The most recent was by the Ottoman Turkish Empire who ruled it from 1516 (the year they wrested the entire region from the Mamelukes) until 1918 when a mixed British Empire/Commonwealth army column from Egypt led by General Allenby arrived in Damascus. Prior to 1516 the Mamelukes (based in Egypt) had ruled Syria along with the rest of the Levant for approx. 300 years.

Turkish rule combined ruthlesness in dealing with troublemakers within their imperial domain with (for a Muslim power) a surprising, indeed laudable, degree of religious tolerance towards their subjects. These Ottoman rulers were far more capable empire builders and administerators than their Arab predecessors were or could ever hope to be.

The imposed rule by foreignors has never necessarily enabled those being ruled to love one another. It also means that the subject people/peoples become conditioned to all of the big decisions affecting their lives being made by others - often in remote capitals. Decisions they normally have no say in. It means later that when the grip of imperial control is finally removed the now emancipated subject peoples are utterly unused to governing themselves and are therefore clueless in terms of accumulated political wisdom - which is probably why so many ex-colonial states that acheived independence during our lifetimes have lapsed into various forms of tyranny - a number of them quite horrid.


Just because your Syrian students made a favourable impression on you in the midst of the peaceful, easygiong, present day environment of Portugal does not guarantee that even these would behave so laudably well back in their home country - especially when the politics of life and death intrude on their own (and their loved ones') existence.

Post Reply