Syria is burning in the fuel rich region of the world “The Middle East”. Extremely jingoistic west which has become a self styled leader to bring colored democracy in every part of the world is all hands up in case of Syria.
SOME BASICS TO BE UNDERSTOOD B4 V PROCEED !
Well lets first understand the Geography of Syria !!!
Syria is located in West Asia, in a rather strategic location. It is surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine.
Some politico - socio history of Syria ..before this unrest started of !!
· Gained independence from France in 1946
· First merged with Egypt to form the “United Arab Republic”, but separated in 1961 to form the Syrian Arab Republic
· Basher al Assad succeeded his father as President in 2000.
· Demographics: 76% Sunni (includes significant Kurd minority), 10% Alawi and 10% Christian.
· The government and military are dominated by Alawi Muslims (a sect sometimes considered Shia), but the country is majority Sunni. This has led to communal tensions.
· Syria has also become a proxy battleground for the Shia-Sunni war, with the involvement of Saudi Arabia (which sees itself as the protector of Sunnis) and Iran (Shia majority).
· In terms of Palestine, the Damascus-Tehran axis supports Hamas whereas Saudi has traditionally supported Fatah Party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
How the so called Civil war took fold !!
· Pro-democracy protests erupted in the Southern Province of Da’ra in March 2011 (influenced by the Arab Spring wave).
· Government responded with a mix of concessions (like firing the Governor of Da’ra, appeasing the Sunnis and other minorities etc.) and coercion.
· After months of violent crackdown, the protests evolved into a Civil War.
· Arab League has imposed economic sanctions and suspended Syria’s membership.
· UN, EU, GCC, OIC etc. have all condemned the attacks.
What exactly are the Protestors demanding ?????
- Protestors demand fall of the regime but Assad has no intention to step down.
- Protestors demand end to the 48-year-old emergency law. Assad revoked the emergency but Syrian forces continued to open fire on demonstrations and detain people without arrest warrant.
- Protestors demand immediate end to extrajudicial killings and torture. Assad rejected these allegations by the UN that Syrian security forces have committed crimes.
- Protestors demand release of political prisoners and detained protesters. Assad offered amnesties to political prisoners but still there are many prisoners in prisons.
- Protestors demand transition to a democratic, free and pluralistic society. Assad offered a new constitution (through a referendum) and elections but The opposition has dismissed both the constitution and the elections
Who supports Assad ?
- Iran (Assad is a Shia ...nd Iran is Shia majority nation)
- Hezbollah (itz a Shia terrorist org.. based in Lebanon)
- Russia ( they hv a port in Syria , many Russians reside der )
- China ( anti US policy , heavy investments)
Who are in particular against Assad ?
- Syrian citizens (mal administration , religious differences )
- Saudi Arabia ( Sunni Majority )
- US (wanna create hegemony in the region , irritate and iolate Iran )
What were the initiatives taken by International Organisations to bring peace and stability to the region?
Nov 2011: Arab League Peace Plan
· Syria agreed to stop its crackdown on protestors and allow Group of Observers headed by Mohammed al-Dabi to enter the country in December 2011
· Released 2,500 prisoners
· However, the ceasefire soon broke down and the observers returned in January 2012 due to dangerous conditions.
Jan 2012: UN response
· Security Council adopts a resolution asking Assad to step down, vetoed by Russia and China.
· The General Assembly adopted a milder, non-binding resolution asking the Syrian government to continue with political reforms and refrain from the use of lethal weapons.
· Important to note that India voted FOR the resolution (i.e., against Syria).
Feb 2012: Kofi Annan Plan / Six-Point Peace Plan
· Kofi Annan was appointed the Special Envoy to Syria by UN and the Arab League (jointly).
· He worked out a six-point plan, which involved:
1. Process led by Syrian parties working with international envoy
2. End to violence by all sides; army troops to stop using heavy weapons and withdraw to barracks
3. Parties to allow humanitarian aid
4. Authorities to free detainees
5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement for journalists
6. Authorities to allow peaceful demonstrations
· The UNSMIS (United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria), led by Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, was appointed to supervise the ceasefire in Syria.
· However, the mission was suspended in June 2012 due to escalating violence.
· Kofi Annan resigned in August 2012, frustrated with the disaffection of all parties.
· Lakhdar Brahimi has been appointed to replace Annan as Special Envoy.
Feb 2012: Constitutional amendments
The Bashar al Assad regime proposed amendments to the constitution and kickstarted political reforms to bring an end to the civil war. Some important amendments introduced were:
· Political pluralism by bringing in a multi-party system (the earlier constitution proclaimed Ba’ath party as the sole leader of the state and society)
· Presidential elections to be held every 7 years
· A limit of two seven-year terms for future presidents
The amendments were adopted by a public referendum. While Russia and China welcomed the reforms, the Syrian National Congress (principal organ of opposition) had boycotted the referendum.
November 2012: New Coalition
· On 11/11/2012, a new coalition of dissent groups was formed called the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces
· Mouaz al-Khatib, an activist and imam, will lead the coalition
· France, Turkey, USA, Arab League and GCC all announced some degree of recognition of this coalition as the “legitimate representative of the Syrian people”.
· The Coalition even appointed an Ambassador to France.
· Why form a new coalition? To send out a message to the international community that the previously divided rebel factions have all united. This will provide one point of contact for foreign countries willing to provide financial/military assistance.
· It is being said that a surreptitious goal of the coalition is to disenfranchise the Syrian National Council (SNC) which had recently elected George Sabra (ex-Syrian Communist Party) and Mohamad Faruq Tayfur (Muslim Brotherhood) as leaders.
There are three fundamental questions that need to be answered if one is to get to the bottom of the murky developments in Syria:
a) What led to the escalation of violence in Syria?
b) Who constructs the narratives of conflict in the war zone? And,
c) Who benefits from the violence?
- it is now quite clear that events in Syria are not as indigenous as made out by the mainstream Western media.
- The rebel movement is a phenomenon that was nurtured and provided momentum by organized external forces, including many Western governments that, for many years, led a focused campaign to topple the Syrian regime.
- And this is, apparently, all being done to undermine Iran, Syria’s steadfast regional ally and an avowed adversary of the West.
- The conflict underway is not, quite, for the benefit of the people of Syria, even though it is all meant to seem that way.
- In stark contrast to the narrative being propagated by the Western media, there has been some willingness on the part of the regime to settle for a peaceful solution.
- But a non-violent resolution based on consensus, and one which does not result in Assad’s departure, is not the result that the West is seeking.
- To achieve what’s being sought, it is important to make the world believe that the regime is resorting to brutality and butchery, and that without external intervention, there would be a massacre in rebel strongholds.
- The truth, of course, is that “armed groups” are as engaged in the violent killings in Syria as the ruling dispensation (as acknowledged by Kofi Annan himself).
- But now that the regime appears fragile, the opposition is keen to press home the advantage and go for the kill.
- So, regardless of the fact that the onus of ‘restraint’ lies with the military—if only by virtue of it being the more organised force with far greater lethal weaponry—the situation on the ground will not change unless the rebel forces show an equal willingness to scale back violence.
Which is the UN Observor over there ?
· UNSMIS : United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria
UNSMIS was established in April 2012 to monitor a cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties and to monitor and support the full implementation of the Joint Special Envoy’s six-point plan to end the conflict in Syria.
What if President Assad steps down ?
Even if President Assad were to step down, the Alawite military machine and its sectarian allies would most likely fight on, holding large parts of territory, leading to a low-level, protracted civil war.
The end-game has begun, but the end is nowhere in sight.
What is India's stand on Syria ?
· Historically, we’ve had friendly relations with Syria. We hail Syria’s secularism, diversity and independent foreign policy
· We support Syria’s demand that Israel return a disputed territory called “Golan Heights”
· Syria is also a member of NAM.
Current stand !!!!
· From the beginning of the crisis, we have called for cessation of violence in all its forms and by all sides. By principle, India has always had a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of a country.
· We voted in favour of the resolution in the UN General Assembly that authorized the appointment of an Envoy to engage with the Syrian parties and foreign actors for the resolution of the crisis.
· We also supported resolutions 2042 and 2043 in expectation that the establishment of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) will be able to oversee the implementation of Mr Annan’s six-point plan
Somethings India must take care of !!
India has to balance:
1. Economic interests: Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are crucial for our energy security, and they are on opposite sides on this issue.
2. Regional interests: Iran is emerging as a strong partner for us in the region. We are investing up to $100mn in Iran’s Chabahar port, and Iran is our gateway to Afghanistan.
3. Internal security interests: We need to maintain harmony among the millions of Shias and Sunnis living in India, and protect our country from proxy ideological warfare.
4. Article 51 of the Constitution calls on the state to promote world peace
The only way to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy in Syria is through the regime. Destroying the state will lead to a power vacuum and chaos.
Additional Reading !!!
- India announced an assistance of 2.5 million US dollars to Syria on 30 Jan 2013..
What was the Houla Massacre ?
- it is a region in Syria, where 100+ civilians were killed in May 2012.
- Syrian government alleged that Al-Qaeda terrorist groups were responsible for the killings
- while Houla residents and opposition groups allege Syrian military’s hand behind the incident.
Why Russia in particular supports Syria ?
- Syria buys arms and ammunition worth 700$ million per year from Russia.
- In Syria’s Port city of Tartus, Russia has its only military base in Mediterranean Sea.
- There are an estimated 30,000 Russian citizens living in Syria, most women and children. The Russian population in Syria is the result of an experiment begun in 1963, when the socialist Baath Party came to power.
- The Soviets provided education to top students from Asia, Africa and Latin America, throwing them together with Soviet classmates in work brigades and “evenings of friendship.”
- Syrian men felt genuinely transformed by their time in Russia; they also sought to avoid paying a bride-price as is customary in the Middle East and hence married to women of USSR.
- Russian consular official said about 9,000 Russians have officially registered with the embassy, though upward of 30,000 citizens are believed to be in Syria.
- If Russia started actively supporting USA and world community against Syria, then President Assad and his goons might start killing innocent Russian and in such scenario, Russia doesn’t have evacuation plans for its ‘diospora‘. Besides Such an evacuation operation would be daunting because a vast number of the expatriate wives come from Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova and after 50 years of intermarriage, the line between who is Russian and who is not may be difficult to find.