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Civil war in Syria

(The article dates from 2013)

Syrian people have many reasons to be discontented with their government. According to one video, made by a member of Syrian opposition in 2011, every Arab leader treats his country as his fiefdom, and people as his serfs.

The young people in Syria see no possibility for development. According to one report, in Syria there was 26% unemployment, with that among the youth over 30%. The poverty rate in Syria was 40% of the population. The events of the "Arab spring" in 2011 have stimulated the local youth - first, the pupils in schools, then students in universities, then population at large - to active protests against the Assad regime. Photo below: a teenager writing "Down with Assad", 2011.

Initially, the protests were peaceful. There were a variety of local grievances which people protested about. For example, "Thirty people protested in Dara city on February 25, 2011, as a result of outrage at the treatment of a local woman, Dr. Fatima Masalma. She had been imprisoned for remarking on the phone to her friend that Egyptian president Mubarak’s deposal should happen to “ours next.”

In another instance, "on February 27 (2011), twenty boys were imprisoned for writing “freedom” and “the people want the fall of the regime” on the walls of their school in Dara; reports emerged that some of the boys were being tortured. Their fathers and tribal respresentatives appealed for their release to Dara security chief Atef Najib and were rudely rebuffed".

Finally, such small-scale protests snowballed, and one of the largest demonstrations against the regime was held in Hama, from 400 to 500 thousand people (remember the 1982 massacre!).

As the Assad regime tried to repress the protests, people turned to guns, to reply to the gunfire of the army. Thus, small units of the "Free Syrian Army" were formed.

Here is one characterization of the rank-and-file rebels, fighting the Assad regime:

"An Associated Press Report of 16 October 2012 identified that the rebels were poor, religiously conservative from the underdeveloped countryside who felt economically marginalised, were against elite merchants and industrialists who dominated Aleppo and allied to the regime. An ex-car mechanic now in the rebel army said: 'those who have money in Aleppo worry about their wealth and interests when we have long lived in poverty'. The report concluded that the uprising was 'as much a revolt of the underclass as a rebellion against the regime's authoritarian grip'."

The rebels are mostly poor, uneducated countryside dwellers, and this explains why religious, Islamic, militants were able to take a hold of them.

The command of the Free Syrian Army was formed on July 29, 2011, in Turkey. The money and equipment for the FSA is provided by the Arab league and the U.S.

On August 23, 2011, the opposition founded the Syrian National Council, which now claims to represent all Syrian people. Photo below: leaders of the opposition, August 2011.

Who is in "opposition" in Syria? According to "The Economist", these are mostly Islamists, some of whom the U.S. openly labels as "terrorists" (Al-Nusra, see chart below). Moreover, the leader of the Syrian National Council is very friendly towards those whom the U.S. calls "terrorists". One notable exception to the Islamists is the party defending the interests of Kurds, a repressed ethnic group both in Syria (and Iraq). 

According to the latest reports, there is violent fighting within opposition itself. On the one hand is the Free Syrian Army, and on the other hand are the Islamists. Kurdish fighters are also fighting against the Islamists.

In addition, the Islamist movement Hezbollah, based in Lebannon, and struggling first of all against Israel, has given a military support to the Assad regime. Thus, when on May 5, 2013, the Israeli Air Force conducted a strike against Syria, according to some sources they were hitting their old nemesis Hezbollah.

So, there is a civil war within the civil war. Islamists are fighting Islamists. Picture below: "The face of war", by S. Dali, 1940.

Meanwhile, the world is moving towards World War III. The U.S. sends a large number of warships and attack submarines to the Mediterranean, near Syria, all of them armed with cruise missiles (see map here). It is joined by a lone French warship - the British voted against participation (although that was a close vote!).

These are opposed by a group of outdated Russian warships, built in early 1980's in the Soviet Union. Russia is not willing to go to war with the U.S. over Syria, as Lavrov, a Russian Foreign Minister, says. However, if Russia surrenders its ally in the Middle East, will not the imperialism come to its doorsteps? Russia be locked in the Black Sea, with Turkey, at the call of the U.S., blocking all movement of the ships through Dardanelles. Photo below; Russian cruiser "Moskva" sent to help the regime of Assad.










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