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Jun 23, 2013

Syria the Cradle of Civilization at Brink of Destruction

Hanif Bismi
image A brief historical back ground. The Syrian Arab Republic (Al-Jumhūriyyah Al-‘Arabīyah As-Sūriyyahin Arabic) is the official name of modern day Syria, the land which could be as old as history itself. Its capital Damascus is arguably the oldest continuously inhabited in the world. Syria or Sham in Arabic is the seat of the Eblan civilization of the third millennium B.C. The modern Syria was established after the First World War and gained independence in April 1946 as a Parliamentary Republic.  Bashar al-Assad was elected by large majority in 2000 and he is the current president.  Syria is a secular Arab Muslim majority nation with large Christian and other ethnic minorities including Kurds cohesively and peacefully living since its creation. During the Suez Crisis in November 1956, Syria signed a pact with the Soviet Union in exchange for military assistance.  On 1 February 1958, Syrian President Shukri Al-Quwatli and Egypt's Nasser announced the merging of Egypt and Syria, creating the United Arab Republic which was short lived.  Syria was always a part of socialist secularist side. Syria is considered as the cradle of civilization and Syrians are overall indigenous Levantine people of various sects of Islam, Christianity and other minorities. Christianity also spread from Syria to different parts of the world particularly to Indian sub continent. Syro-Malabar Identity is unique to the state of Kerala in India.  According to Fr. Placid Podipara, "they are Hindu or Indian in culture, Christian in religion and Syro-Oriental in worship".  The head of the Church of St. Thomas Christian was sent by Assyrian Church of the East Syrian Chaldean Church.  They came into communication with Christian communities known as The Church of the East.  From the 4th century until the end of the 16th century, the Bishops of the Church of Malabar were sent from the East Syrian Church.  This heritage of Christianity is still well maintained to date in Syria under the Bashar Al Assad government. The members of the Church are known as "Nasranis" and it has an entirely different identity when compared to other Churches in India.  Their Churches also known as the Mar Thoma Church which is a Christian denomination based in the state of Kerala in India.  Mar Thoma Syrian Church or Malankara Mar Thoma Suriyani Sabha is the one of the oldest groups of practicing Christians in the world and they trace back to their origin to today's Syria.

Hanif Bismi

On 28 September 1961 Syria succeeded another military coup led by Abd al-Karim al-Nahlawi and re-established itself as the Syrian Arab Republic.  In 1971 Hafez al-Assad who belongs to Muslim minority sect of Alwites,  mainly seen in Syria, Turkey and Lebanon, consolidates power through Ba'ath-nominated legislature and “National referendum” in March 1972 confirms him as President for a seven-year term.  In the same year, a new Syrian constitution goes into effect, defining Syria as a secular socialist state with Islam as the majority religion. On October 6, 1973, Syria and Egypt begin the Yom Kippur War, only to taste defeat once again and allowing Israel into Syrian territory beyond the 1967 boundary and Golan Heights which is still under Israeli occupation. During the Lebanese civil war in 1976-90 that helped Israel to occupy Lebanon, Syria gets involved and helps Lebanon to end the civil war in 1990 after Syria sponsored Taif Agreement and Syrian Army stays back until 2005. During this period Lebanon's resistance movement Hezbollah was established with help of Iran and axis of resistance was formulated that include Syria-Iran-Hezbollah. On 22 September 1980 Iraq attacked Iran under Western backed Saddam Husain after Iran over threw US backed Reza Shah through a popular revolution and declared Iran as Islamic Republic under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.  This war was 20th century's longest conventional war that included Saddam using Chemical Weapon on his own people and against Iran.  Jubin Goodarzi writes in European Council on Foreign Relations that Syria was the only Arab supporter of Iran during Iraq's imposed war and first to recognize Islamic Republic of Iran's provisional government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan. In 2005 following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al Hariri in a bomb explosion and the West laid blame on Syria and then later the blame was shifted to Hezbollah, Syrian Army left Lebanon on 30 April 2005. On 12 July 2006 Israel attacked Lebanon and this war lasted for 33 days and Hezbollah was technically able to expel Israel army out of Lebanon. Syria was the only Arab country that helped Lebanon and Hezbollah yet again. John Cherian asks: "Which country helped the people of Lebanon in 2006, when Israel with the help of US and other Arab Kingdoms attacked Lebanon?"  " Israel's expansion to neighboring countries is not a secret". Current crisis Towards understanding the current crisis in Syria one should find answers for these questions. What was US attitude when popular uprising was happening in Egypt, Tunisia and            Yemen?

            IsmealHossein-Zadeh, (April 2012) explains that when the Arab Spring broke out in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, the US and its allies initially tried to keep their proxy rulers Hosni Mubarak, Ben Ali and Abdullah Saleh in power as long as possible. Once the massive and persistent uprisings made the continued rule of these loyal autocrats untenable, US and its allies changed tactics: reluctantly letting go of Mubarak, Ali and Saleh while trying to preserve the socioeconomic structures and the military regimes they had fostered during the long periods of their dictatorial rule.  The US and its allies have succeeded in preserving the three respective client states through a number of formalistic elections designed to co-opt opposition groups (Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) and give legitimacy to military rulers.  So far not much has changed in these countries.  For examplein Egypt, the NATO/Israel-backed military junta of the Mubarak era, which now rules Egypt in collaboration with Muslim Brotherhood, has become increasingly as repressive toward the reform movement that gave birth to the Arab Spring as it was under Mubarak.

He continues that economic, military and geopolitical policies of the new regimes in these countries are crafted as much in consultation with the United States and its allies as they were under the three autocratic rulers that were forced to leave the political scene. The new regimes are also collaborating with the US and its allies in bringing about “regime change” in Syria and Iran, just as they helped overthrow the regime of Gadhafi in Libya.

One who watches the uprising in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and the recent demonstration in Turkey on news will not able to see that these demonstrators are carrying rocket launchers, AK 47, big sword or any heavy duty weapons.  There were no reports of destroying mosques, churches or attacking minorities.  But from the beginning of the so called uprising in Syria, we saw those people carrying heavy weapons and on a killing spree. This clearly shows that what is happening in Syria is not that what happened in other Arab countries. These ‘rebels’ are well trained militants from outside Syria.  They have no feeling in destroying mosques, churches and mercilessly killing ordinary Syrians.

However the US and its allies both in the West and in the Muslim world were talking only one thing in the beginning of Syrian crisis, that was regime change and Assad has to go. 

2.         Who are the Syrian opposition group and where do they get arms, fund and training?

Free Syrian Army (FSA) aka Foreign Sponsored Attackers, is an umbrella organization of opposition groups of Syrian government mainly from neighboring countries.  Al-Nusra is the main faction which is an extension of Al-Qaida from Iraq.  The Wahabi ideology movement supported by Saudi Arabia and Muslim Brotherhood financed by Qatar.  These right wing Muslim fanatics are well supported by their Western allies such as US, UK and France.  Muslims under the Arab League and their Western media talk about bringing democracy and human rights in Syria; I wish to emphasise the question that was asked by John Cherian:  "Does any democratic and human right exist in those countries which are the Arab League?"

The Arab and their Western media portray Bashar al-Assad as a dictator; I recollect the saying of Noam Chomsky: "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the US."

Matthew Weaver reports that the EU's anti-terrorist chief Gilles de Kerchova estimates that around 500 Europeans are now fighting along with the foreign backed militants in Syria.

Eric Draitser writes that the complexities of the Arab Spring and the struggle for political freedom throughout the Arab world should not obscure what has now become an absolutely essential understanding for all anti-imperialists: the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the most powerful weapons of the Western ruling class in the Muslim world.  We look no further than the insidious role the organization is playing in Syria.

Reports say that NATO is already clandestinely engaged in the Syrian conflict, with Turkey taking the lead as U.S. proxy. Foreign minister of Turkey has openly admitted that his country is prepared to invade as soon as there is agreement among the Western allies to do so.

3.         What is main reason which bindsthe West, Turkey and Arab monarchies to form an         unholy alliance to overthrow Assad and destruction in Syria?

Recent discoveries of huge gas resource in Israel, in Qatar and in Syria combined and raising geopolitical importance of the control of natural gas not only Middle East as gas producing countries, but also of the EU and Eurasia including Russia as producer and China as consumer.In short it is all about the control of gas resources.

South Pars is the world's largest gas field shared by Iran and Qatar.  The envisioned Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline will further extent to Lebanon and Syria will be the distribution point through Mediterranean to EU as the final destination.  This plan not only solidifies economic ties between axis of resistance nations but also keeps out US interest in the region.   Qatar on the other hand wants to build its independent pipeline from Aqaba to the Gulf of Suez through Turkey as the transit route to the EU markets. The European customers are more willing do a deal with Western friendly Qatar which also benefits the US and it regional allies. 

However Qatar is doing its best to sabotage not only Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline but also to destroy Syria's Assad government due to the discovery of huge new gas field in Qarain August 2011 near the border with Lebanon and near the Russian-leased naval port of Tarsus on the Syrian Mediterranean.

4.         How does the extremism in the name of Islam affect world peace?

World has witnessed America's war on terror and weapons of mass destruction ploy and its aftermath.  Foreign backed militants in Syria,the sectarian violence and destructionin Iraq further radicalizing Salafis and Jihadis spreading violence beyond.  In Syria, US and the West working along with these Takfiri Jihadis and letting Islamic extremism not only to spill into neighboring countries but also having far reaching effects.  Recent reports show that citizens from the US and other western countries are also involved in terrorist activities in Syria and they are attacking mosques, churches, killing Muslims and Christians.

The London Telegraph recently reported one of these militant killed a Syrian soldier and ate his heart.  Lee Rigby a serving British soldier was hacked to death in a London street.  Despite her own homegrown terror Britain continues to support the overthrowing of the Syrian government and British parliament is debating on sending more arms to foreign backed militants in Syria.  Both men committed this heinous crime in the name of Islam.  

Mohamed Abdel Wahab reports that Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian living in Qatar and an influential cleric has called on fellow Sunni Muslims around the world to go to Syria and join the foreign backed militants and has appealed for further sectarian violence among minority Muslims and others.   While I am writing this article, reports show that terrorist attacks in Iraq have increased including attacks on Iranian pilgrims in Iraq.  Paul Joseph Watson and Cheryl K Chumley write that a Salfi Sheikh Yasir al-Ajlawni a Jordanian who lived in Syria for 17 years issued a fatwa permitting the jihadis to rape Syrian women.  Various reports on 11 June 2013 states that 60 Shias were killed by these Takfiri in Syrian village of Hathah in Eastern DeirEzzoz and destroyed places of worship.

Reports already showing these Takfiri terrorists in Syria are engaged in destruction of mosques and churches and recently they destroyed the mausoleum and grave of a prominent companion of Prophet of Islam called HujribnAdi in the Damascus suburb of Adra and removed his remains from the grave.  They also attacked the mausoleum of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) in Syria.  Matthew Weaver reports that Bishop BoulosYazigi of Greek Orthodox Church and Yohanan Ibrahim of Assyrian Orthodox church were kidnapped from Aleppo by foreign backed Jihadis fighting in Syria.

Ryan Keller reports that Takfiris in Syria attacked the Christian dominated al-Duvair village in Reef on the outskirts of Homs and mercilessly massacred its inhabitants including women and children. Mohamed al-Joulani the head of al-Nusra pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda and the US continue to support the Takfiri militants who are fighting against Syrian government and committing war crimes against Syrian people.  Sen. John McCain made a surprise visit to Syria recently and met Gen. Salem Idris the leader of the umbrella organization of foreign backed terrorists.

John Cherian reports (03/06/2013) that the recentescalation of violence in Iraq is a spillover from the bloodshed in Syria. Insurgent groups waging war against the Syriangovernment controlhuge partsof the border between the two countries that enable the fighters easily to move arms between the two countries. The 10-year-long American military occupation of the country has increased the sectarian divide. The Christian community in Iraq, which was around 5 per cent of the population before the American invasion, has now been almost decimated. Most of them have fled the country after they were selectively targeted by Al Qaeda-linked extremist groups.

French Bishop Philip Tournyol Clos expresses that in Homs, "opposition forces have occupied two areas, Diwan Al Bustann and Hamidieh, where there are all the churches and bishoprics."  He continues that the church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of “Our Lady of Peace” is still occupied by the Takfiri militants.  At the same time Takfiri militants threatened to destroy the shrine of Lady Zainab (grand-daughter of Prophet of Islam).

This unholy war for oil and gas will take Syria towards total destruction and the effect of this atrocity is far reaching.  Debra Jopson reports some events took place in western suburbs of Sydney, supporters of these Takfiri extremists attacking business establishments of people who support Syrian government. If the Assad government collapses there will be ethnic cleansing of religious minorities that include Muslims and Christians then that will spill globally.  It is our responsibility to stop this madness now.

Hanif Bismi is an historian and political analyst; he has Master’s Degree in Islam and Muslim History from Charles Sturt University and university certificate in Iran Studies from University of Sydney.  He iscurrently lecture at Australian Institute of Islamic Studies.