Syrian pro-government forces walking in the ancient Umayyad mosque in Aleppo
Photo via Daily Mail, AFP/ Getty Images
A day after Assad’s Syrian Government declared it had regained full control of the Syrian city of Aleppo, Hezbollah leader and Assad’s partner in the Syrian civil war, Hassan Nasrallah, delivered an interesting speech. He bluntly admitted that the retaking of Aleppo was not a final victory for Assad, but an open door for a political settlement. Importantly, Nasrallah’s speech reflected a conciliatory stance towards Turkey, and roundly condemned ISIS’s brutal murder of Turkish soldiers.
Nasrallah’s words not only summed up the current mindset of the Syrian regime, but it also highlighted the prospect of a new, long-term phase in the tragedy of Syria. The revolution, which started as part of the sweeping Arab awakening against authoritarian dictators, has now been reduced to a bloody de-Arabized power game, in which the Syrian people have been used as a tool to serve the conflicting interests of many opportunistic players. Gone are the days of bold ultimatums and vociferous demands; now Syrians are hoping the current fragile ceasefire will hold at least for a while longer.
Much political and ideological rhetoric has been devoted to blaming the United States, Russia, Iran, and Turkey for their contribution to the Syrian tragedy. However, while these nations must bear part of the blame for the human catastrophe in Syria, it is mainly an Arab production, for many reasons:
Underestimating the enemy
From the early days of the Syrian conflict, Arab patrons of the revolution in that country were happy to support the Syrians with money and arms, wrongly assuming that Iran and Hezbollah would do the same. There was never a Plan B. When it became clear Assad’s supporters were willing to offer their own sons to fight in Syria, the Arab states had no answer but to curse Iran___ as if cursing would stop the bloodshed or bring about a solution. The Arabs cynically assumed Iran would drown in Syria, but they had forgotten how the Mullahs have mastered wars of attrition since the Iraq-Iran war. From day one of the conflict in Syria, Assad and his allies fully understood, that they wouldn’t be able to crush the opposition, so they focused instead on saving the spine of the country by controlling the bigger cities, such as Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo. They did this to prevent a major division in Syria and to prevent the creation of a bigger chunk of the country under opposition control. Patrons of the opposition, however, had no answer to Assad’s plan other than ranting, blaming, and broadcasting photos of civilian misery.
Myriads of Militias
Syria is a glaring example that militias do not solve conflicts; instead, they prolong the misery. Unlike Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon, Syria has witnessed the internationalization of the role of militias by opening the door to a global Jihad and accepting anyone from any nationality to join the infighting. According to the head of the United Nations’ Counter-Terrorism Committee, there are up to 30,000 foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. Those fighters not all come from Arab countries, but the core of Jihad is authentically Arabic, re-invented in its modern form as a tool against Zionism, then modified, twisted, and abused by many.
Pathological obsession with America
Whenever there is a crisis in the region, Arabs look to America as the mother nation that should rush to their rescue. On the other hand, the same Arabs rather audaciously and ruthlessly judge the American performance if it fails to produce an anticipated outcome. When it comes to the Arab world, America is doomed whether it intervenes fully as it did in Iraq, partially as in Libya, or marginally as in Syria. One can only imagine the endless number of conflicting messages from various Arab countries, and their lobbies in Washington. It is perhaps not surprising that the Obama administration has lost faith in all its Arab partners.
The Arabic media
For the past six years, Arabic news channels, particularly Al-Jazeera Al-Arabiya, and al-Mayadeen have topped the Syrian misery with a hefty dose of nostalgia, spin, and a whitewashing of mistakes. Facts have been intertwined with fiction, sliding objectivity to a record low. Knowing the facts on the ground has become an impossible task. Moreover, social media, once dubbed the voices of the Arab Spring have become tools to compound the war of misinformation and spin. Even the most intellectual Arabs have joined the tribal and misinformation war.
In the end, the Syrian revolution failed because Syria’s Arab patrons were never democrats or patrons of democracy. They only brought to Syria what they had mastered for decades____ disingenuous support and cynical manipulation.
2017 may bring many familiar themes to Syria, such as a “long-term lull,” “aid to refugees,” and even the “right of return.” Yes, for anyone who followed the Palestinian conflict, those slogans are eerily familiar. The Arabs’ handling of their regional crises has been unsurprisingly similar. Arabs excel at compounding their own misery and turning their conflicts into Gordian knots, impossible to disentangle. As a result, their journey into the modern era can be summed up as a trail of “Nakbas” or disasters that have presaged an era of insoluble and chronic political chaos and human destruction. Syria is a living example.