Syria: the civil war and the regional war




Sotiris Roussos


From 1949 to 1970 Syria was perhaps the most unstable country in the world with approximately one coup d'état every year. The ascent of Baath party and its alliance with Alawi army officers under the leadership of Hafez al-Assad managed to bridge the three main divides of the Syrian state ans society, namely ethno-religious sectarianism, rural-urban fracture and gross wealthy inequalities. By building an autocratic and paternalistic state based on its minority Allawi sect and on vast security services and patron-client networks, Hafez al-Assad managed to safeguard domestic stability and to project Syria's influence on Lebanon. His son, Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded him, in 2000, faced with not only the Baathist old guard distrust but also grave economic problems inside the country and serious challenges abroad, particularly in Lebanon. His choice for opening the country to global economy, privatising large parts of the then state-controlled economy and by elimination social safety-nets unearthed the three main divides. The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt showed to Syrians especially to the Sunni Muslim majority that the security services are not invincible and that even all-mighty rulers such as Mubarak could be dethroned. The Syrian peaceful uprising was met almost immediately with brutal force. Moreover, the killings and torturing perpetrated by regime's Alawi paramilitary gangs against the opposition led to rapid militarisation of the struggle and fostered its sectarianisation.

The involvement of two regional camps in the civil strife altered the character of the conflict transforming it into a regional conflict for the control of Syria. The pro-Assad camp comprises Iran and Hezbollah whereas Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supporting various factions of the rebels. As a result a peaceful solution for Syria needs to be guaranteed by a regional agreement between these two camps along with the USA and Russia.

Last but not least, the sectarianisation of the conflict and the control of certain territories by Sunnis, Alawis or Kurds, the presence of jihadist groups aiming at creating jihadist molecules on the ground and the porous borders with Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey are posing real challenges to the frontiers drawn by the colonial powers in Lausanne in 1922.







  ΧΡΟΝΟΣ 04 (08.2013)