Syria: waiting for the ‘spring’

 

Dreams invoke in a person what he is not capable of. They inspire and help us achieve what seems beyond us. But for the worse part, they disappoint, as a human might be naive enough to dream of world peace and harmony all over. This is what my Syrian friends are dreaming in the darkest nights of Arab Spring.

What started as the Arab spring in December 2010 has now entered in one of its critical phases where the initial euphoria and populist stance over liberation has cooled down. The populist inertia which is always a necessary force to drive revolutions has been slowed down by the strategic influences of the regional and global powers. Syria is the latest victim of this reasoned injustice.

The recent Arab-European led resolution against the Syrian regime has divided the 15 nation Security Council and has visibly exposed the notion of democratic involvement of world powers especially when the greater strategic interests of the global giants are not in line. Russia and China vetoed the proposed resolution, which called for internal reconciliation and the stepping down of Syrian President Bashar Assad to give way for a more active involvement of the vice president. But what is more unsatisfactory, is the role of the big brother USA in the entire crises, which can initiate a three trillion dollar Iraq war for oil but seeks to wait for global reconciliation in the case of Syria.

With each passing day, the momentum of killings is increasing.  As per the UN Human Rights Chief in December, the killings exceed 5,000. The figure seems conservative when one considers the account of Arab League, which suspended its ground mission in Syria after the increase in violence. Just after the failure of resolution, the regime made an example of the opposition by bombing the heart of revolution, Homs city.

For many of us, who might view all the Arab countries with indifference, Syria has a different historical and strategic context. Sandwiched between Iraq, Turkey and Israel, the region is also a flash point between U.S and Russia. Nothing is more unfortunate than foreign powers fighting for their own strategic interests over a piece of land that is inked by the blood of ordinary Syrians.

 Here are few of the considerations that might help the readers assess the gravity of the situation and also assist the men in ranks to gauge the true extent of complexity.

Seesaw between Turkey and Iran:

The present ruling comprising of the Assad family belongs to Allawi community (a Shia sect) forming less than 15% of the total Syrian population. Iran has historically shown support for the pro-Shia regime and also utilized the Iraq-Syrian route for vital supplies to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Syria shares a long eastern border with Iraq, which serves as the gateway for Iranian involvement in the region. A change in regime reduces the political leverage of Iran in the region.

Turkey, on the other hand in North, is openly against the present Syrian regime and has won the hearts of ordinary Syrian people through this stance. This may well prove to be the political tool Turkey needs to shift the balance of power in Middle East from Iran in favor of Turkey.

Flashpoint for US /Russia:

Assad’s family has enjoyed strong relations with Russia since 1960’s. Historically, strong Syrian government has influenced the affairs in Lebanon and Jordan (all three countries shared the same rule before independence). Being the biggest of the ancient ‘Balad al Sham’ (greater Syria), the modern Syria has greater significance in the region.

It’s a general opinion in Syria that unlike the oil rich Libya, the absence of oil in the region will not draw US to the aid of Syrian people. But, considering the interest of Israel, the situation is a diplomatic challenge between two global powers.

Syria is the only country (with the exception of Palestine) which still has territory occupied by Israel since Arab-Israel wars. South of Syria, the occupied territory consists of Golan Heights along with the Tabarya Lake (one of the largest water reservoirs in the Middle East). But, the status quo has never been challenged by Syrian regime through its actions. A change in regime will surely make Americans squirm in their seats till they find the suitable replacement of Bashar. The key American concern appears to be stability in the region for the sake of Israel. Russia, on the other hand has relied on its friendship with Syria to exercise is influence in Middle East and effectively on the United States. Syria serves as the strongest political agent of Russia to counter US in the global tug of war.

This diplomatic confrontation and a consequent alliance of Russia/China over Syria and Iran nuclear issue is a reminder of a bi-polar cold war era and a litmus test for days to come.

The final calling:

With each passing day, my Syrian friends grow more impatient as the regime is resorting to the worst of the human rights violations. Fearing that the Syrian regime might use the regions strategic importance as a tool to negotiate with the international world, people doubt the authenticity of support shown by the Western powers.

In the Arab Spring, unlike the game of dominoes, every falling dictator has reacted more violently than the predecessors. While Zain Al Abideen in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak resigned themselves, it took force to overthrow Col. Ghaddafi in Libya. It might just take force again to return ordinary Syrians the right to democracy. Fearing US growing influence in the region, Russia and China are reluctant to allow that. But the real question is if the international community is willing to go an extra mile for a just cause in the face of conflicting strategic considerations. History has proved otherwise.

But, my Syrian friends still believe in dreams.

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