Lessons From Syria: External Armed Intervention Now Defined Civil War
By Farooque Chowdhury
16 July, 2012
Path for “legitimized”, direct, external military intervention in Syria is being paved. The covert external military intervention now being carried out in the strategically positioned country has been defined as civil war.
In a meaningful move the Red Cross has defined external intervention in Syria: “non-international armed conflict”, the effectually, technical term for civil war. Herve Ladsous, the UN’s peacekeeping chief, said in June: Syria is in a state of civil war.
But facts are revealing themselves. It has now come out that most of the dead in the village Tremseh were armed rebels although the interventionists initially decried it as a massacre of civilians. Now, debate is going on as whether heavy arms, artillery and tanks were used or not while a complete uncertain, volatile situation rages on.
The situation has been traced by Ali Haidar, the Syrian national reconciliation minister and head of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP): “Syria is on top of a volcano.” “The army is incapable of cleaning up the ground completely and ending the armed insurgency without a political solution to the crisis. The insurgents cannot do so either”, said Haidar. (Radwan Mortada, “Syria’s Ali Haidar: Both Sides Have Extremists”, MRzine, July 15, 2012, based on the translation by Al-Akhbar English on July 13, 2012)
The volcano top is a perfect landing ground for interventionist forces in Syria. The ground got and has been prepared long ago. Haidar said: “The situation is a continuation of a […] deep and comprehensive structural crisis on all levels of Syrian life. Its final form […] is a situation of continuous violence […] This […] crisis goes back many years. No one was able to solve the problems […and] the bearers of the foreign project were able to interfere in the path of the crisis. They took advantage of the exuberance and fervor of Syrian youth and their rightful demands to impose a violent image onto the political mobilization.”
However, initiatives are being taken to salvage the situation. Building the Syrian State (BSS), one of the Syrian opposition organizations based in Syria, in a statement from Damascus on July 12, 2012 has invited “all political forces, civil groups, youth groups, and public figures at home and abroad who are working on radically changing the system of government by the adoption of all peaceful means” to a conference on ‘Saving the Syrian Homeland’ in Damascus on July 28, 2012. (“Announcing the ‘Saving the Syrian Homeland’ Conference”, MRzine, July 13, 2012, the original statement in Arabic at <www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=437819689591970>. More information available at: <binaa-syria.com>; <twitter.com/TayyarSyria>; <www.facebook.com/Tayyar.Syria>)
Referring to the situation as “threatening the social fabric and national sovereignty […]” the statement called on all “to rescue the Syrian homeland, from the […] possibilities of collapse.”
On the tasks of the conference the statement said: “This conference will have to work out clear, specific programs and road maps addressing […] the risks and challenges facing the […] country;” the safe way to transfer of power “governed by the will of the Syrian people alone, through to a transition phase, satisfactory to all the Syrians, involving all parties […]”
As background to the situation it said: “[T]he authority neglected the social fabric and national sovereignty and placed them in the field of conflict” and the situation is “either the authority or anarchy”.
It said: “The authority is the primary party responsible […] Even if we were to accept the claims of a foreign conspiracy, it has failed utterly to address this alleged conspiracy and proved not to be capable of crisis management or leadership of the country. It became unable to protect the citizens and […] unable at all to promote national reconciliation […A number] of the opposition parties have consented to […] the option of ‘the authority or anarchy’. Chaos has been chosen with the assistance of regional and international countries who are not concerned with the interests of the Syrian people […]”
The statement said Syrians are now facing two catastrophic options: “Assad or We’ll Burn the Country”, “the slogan promoted by the authority”, and “Burn the Country Until Assad Falls”, “the slogan adopted by some opposition parties”.
The statement acknowledged the situation in Syria: “civil strife, the threat of civil war”, displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrians, the needs of about two million Syrians for food, meals, drinking water, the escalation of “armed conflict that has become the master of the situation, where it kills about 150 Syrians a day”, escalating terrorism and sabotage threatening the security and stability of the country, living conditions pushing dozens of families every day below the poverty line, “[t]he economic situation that is about to collapse”, the migration of human resources, private capital, most of the middle class, and the brain drain.
It observed the “continued detention of thousands of protesters, political activists, and peaceful civilians”, […] the disappearance of a large number of them […].”
Citing the internationalization of the Syrian crisis the statement said “several international parties” are “in control over the situation more so than any Syrian party, including the authority.” The reality “threatens an enduring Syrian crisis, subject to and at the mercy of international disputes and consensus.”
It cited imposing of decisions by international actors. “All of these references coexist with each other but do not answer to each other”: the Arab League, the Ministerial Committee emanating from it, the UN, Kofi Annan designated by the Security Council, the contact group set up at the Geneva meeting.
Referring to international competition the statement quoted Kofi Annan: “Syria is the biggest loser in the devastating competition between Russia and Western countries”. It said a number of states that claim to support Kofi Annan’s mission and the decision of the Security Council operate “in violation of it, especially at the level of support for resorting to arms.”
The statement tells:
“[W]e have decided […] to become a loud voice […]”
A tone of sadness sets in in the statement:
“Silence cannot be tolerated from anyone under the circumstances […]; there is no room for silence or confusion.”
A tone of urgency follows:
“Time is running out and options are narrowing.
[…W]e have two choices only: either simply remain silent and accept the status of the victim helpless in the face of ultra-violence by all parties, while they take the country to chaos, destruction, and civil war […]; or rise now and take the lead in moving the country into a just, democratic system able to protect the homeland and its people […]”
It’s a desperate call as the statement said:
“We still have a chance; perhaps it is the last chance to save our homeland Syria. This chance is the mission of Mr. Kofi Annan, which cannot be successful unless we strive for its success. Mr. Annan is not the savior. He needs organizations, political and civil groups within the country, to take shape in these very difficult circumstances and to collaborate in the resurrection of […] the future Syria.”
The contradictory reality comes out: time is fleeting away, silence is intolerable, the chance seems going to be fugitive, organization is needed. There is urgency, and there is void. There is realization, and there is incapacity.
The statement sounds a penance, a confession from the dock of history. It’s a fact that autocratic rule has not allowed opportunity to expand organization that can resist external interference.
But historical responsibility can’t be shed off by simply blaming autocratic rule, and by simply expecting that autocratic rule would allow expand people’s organizations, and by simply telling that organizations could not be built as that benevolence was not shown by autocratic rule.
A possibility may dwell somewhere: the BSS or some other organization/leadership made a lot of efforts in the past. But all those efforts were not taken seriously by other social forces. If the possibility turns out as a fact, not a possibility, then, the fact tells a state of the society.
It’s almost impossible to draw analogies between two countries. Despite the fact of the near-impossible task of analogizing analogies are searched to build up models, to learn from experience, to chart unknown path.
Syria and some other country, O or X, are not the same; neither in terms of history nor in terms of economy and society. The ruling classes in the two countries are far, far different. The other social classes are also broadly different. There are middle classes in both the countries. But the two middle classes in the two countries are different in terms of history, economic activities, socioeconomic and political connections. Historical limitations are there. But limitations are different.
Similarities are there between the two countries. The similarities also carry elements of dissimilarities. The poor in the two counties are broadly the same poor: deprived in all aspects of life. The rich and the privileged in the two countries are broadly the same: have a lot, indulge in luxury and corruption, absolutely indifferent to interests of respective country. Exploitation of the poor by the rich is the same: ruthless.
Political process in the two countries is different. External relations – trade, aid, military ties, strategic interests, etc. – of the two countries are different.
External interference is there in both the countries. But the background, the strategic location, the external players, the quislings are different.
There is opposition to the external interference in both the countries. But the class character of the oppositions, their preparedness, maneuvers and actions are different.
There, in terms of at least one aspect, is a similarity between the two oppositions in the two countries despite the differences.
Quislings are there.
No external interference is possible without quislings. Quislings can’t operate without favorable objective condition. No external interference is possible without unaware, misinformed and disorganized or unorganized masses, without a crowd.
The timing for external interference in Syria was not decided all of a sudden. The condition for external interference was not created overnight. Fabrics were torn slowly covering a long period of time. Mistrust was sown repeatedly. Autocracy unknowingly became party to the job. Accomplices of the quislings slept in the quarter of autocracy and worked silently for long time.
Quislings are created bit by bit. Their accomplices are organized bit by bit. It’s a brick by brick work; it’s meticulous and well orchestrated work. Hollowness is created all around, in different spheres and at different levels. Possible alternate leadership is deactivated, is kept deactivated, is kept busy with some other irrelevant agenda, is kept refrained from carrying out immediate, essential political and organizational work, is kept isolated from prospective constituency, and is kept away from essential theoretical work.
Spade work for the incidents now getting exposed in Syria was initiated long ago within Syria and outside of Syria, within the camp of Assad and outside the camp. Probably, some other country with strategic importance and with a huge market, O or X, is passing through the spade work phase of coming crude interference. Probably, strategic moments of the last chance of the country, O or X, is passing away swiftly.
Some other country with strategic importance, O or X, can learn, if it likes, from Syria.
Whatever is there in whatever the country, in a civil war or civil war like situation, it’s people, the working poor, the toiling masses, pay. They pay with their lives, with their peace, with their prospective democratic struggle. They go hungry, they go starved. Blood of their children drench soil only to be forgotten by history if not the people arise in revolt, if not they define their destiny with their own organization and leadership. And, a failure brings in servitude and distorted life without peace, without prosperity, without happiness.
Farooque Chowdhury is Dhaka-based free lancer.
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