Posts tagged ‘Arab’

March 12, 2012

The Truth of Syria – Is Everyone Lying?

What you know about the bloody conflicts in Syria depends largely on your location. Accounts vary drastically; the truth depends on the messenger. A few reporters brave the dangerous circumstances to piece together grainy You Tube videos and unsubstantiated witness accounts. Then impart whatever narrative their home nation subscribes to. Some governments control the press more than others and reporters arrive with biases shaped by personal experiences.

Nations aligned with Syria including Iran, Russia and China paint a vastly different picture than Western and Arab nations.  Recent headlines from Press TV, Iran’s state-owned media outlet include Syrian President Assad remains powerful with major support and Syrian president: Nation determined to crush terrorists accompanied by a photo of a relaxed Assad and his wife casually speaking with reporters. Death and destruction thanks to NATO and USA is the caption on a photo associated with the Pravda story U.S. / NATO forces have invaded Syria.

Westerners and many in Arab nations understand the situation as something else altogether. The Arab League has dispatched observers to monitor the situation, is united in its condemnation of human rights violations by Assad and has called for the dicatotor to step down.  An Al Arabiya article refers to Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad as “thugs” who “engage in theft and vandalism.” Al Jazeera often uses the word “regime” following Assad’s name, a word almost always interpreted as meaning “brutal dictatorship.”  The Gulf Times plead “arm the resistance groups.” Editorials in Arab publications refer to the opposition as protesters, activists and revolutionaries not terrorists.

The western media portrays Syria as simply the latest domino to fall in the Arab uprisings. Courageous revolutionaries, men women and children, are being tortured and slaughtered daily by their own government.  In addition, Iran and Russia support the brutal dictatorship, typical of these two countries that have a history of oppressing their own people. In time Syrians will establish a democracy, send the terrorist group Hezbollah back to Iran and align with the liberty loving west according the media outlets in the these nations.

Iranian and Russian media would less-than-respectively disagree with the west’s assessments. Syria’s allies report Assad as a strong, virtuous leader attempting to purge his country of “outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups” who are being orchestrated by the U.S. and its allies including Saudi Arabia.  The fall of Assad would weaken Israel’s northern nemesis Syria therefore strengthens U.S. imperialist dominance in the region, a situation western ally Saudi welcomes.

This scenario is not only plausible but obvious to people of a region who have witnessed American boots on the ground and bombs in the air for more than a decade. Hundreds of thousands of innocents have died. Dozens of U.S. military bases dot Muslim holy lands. Additionally, the U.S. has a history of supporting oppressive autocracies throughout the world without a thought to humanitarian concerns.  America has often acted as an imperialist nation so, as Syrian allies contend, why wouldn’t it take advantage of the crisis to gain additional dominance in the area?

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. The revolutionaries/terrorists are diverse in composition and impossible to characterize with one generic term represented by two major but far from all-inclusive umbrella organizations. The Free Syrian Army, composed of Syrian army defectors, joined the Syrian National Council (SNC) to form the opposition’s most powerful resistance force. The authority of the SNC is not to be confused with the Libyan Transitional Council which was the people’s sole representative and enjoyed international support unlike the SNC.

The other major opposition group is the National Coordinating Body. Assembling the various factions in one united front is likely impossible. It’s not just the Sunni majority versus minority Shi’a, the dominant population in Assad’s security organization. The secularists, Islamists, Alawis, Druze, Christians and al-Qaeda, among others, are to be accounted for.  In addition, large numbers of perpetually disaffected, dissatisfied Kurds could join the fray at any time.

Hezbollah is another major force in Syria. This Shi’a group is funded by Iran, a predominantly Shi’a Muslim nation. Syria will be a Sunni country if Assad is overthrown which will end Iran’s influence in the country and shrink its geopolitical scope. Tehran is also worried that Assad’s demise would reinvigorate the anti-government sentiment in its own country. Iran has the most to lose therefore the preeminent motive for shaping the Syrian storyline in its favor.

Russia has contributed to and reaped dividends from its economic ties with Syria including arms sales, developing oil and gas fields, infrastructure, power generation, sea ports and agriculture concerns. Russia doesn’t want to lose this important partner and worse, allow the U.S. to gain it.

Syria’s stockpile of anti-aircraft missile and chemical weapons are troublesome to the U.S. but Syria isn’t an especially oil rich nation. A chivalrous humanitarian mission is the only sellable rationale to launch an attack.  The U.S. wants Iran and Russia’s fears to come true but unlike Libya military intervention war is not feasible because Russia and China are standing firmly in the doorway this time rather than off to the side simply grumbling disapprovingly.

Arab foreign ministers met with Russian representatives last Saturday. They agreed to jointly call to end the fighting in Syria “whatever its source,” an anemic first step toward a resolution. According to the UN at least 7,500 people have died since protests began a year ago. The number of people tortured is open to speculation.  Whatever you think you know about Syria and whatever news source you trust, one thing all of them can agree on is Syrians are dying and wondering why the world only watches.