The situation in Syria has only grown from bad to worse since March 2011 as anti-government sentiment has been growing in the country. The initial protests started because of the discontent of the citizens towards a dictatorial form of government but the protests for greater democracy resulted in violent oppression by the ruling government of the country. The protests which were initially peaceful soon turned aggressive as the government heavily retaliated against the protesters. This was followed by defections in the army and by July many army defectors organized the Free Syrian Army.
Between 2007- 2010 the crisis caused by the most severe drought ever recorded in Syria compounded the crisis on the militant front. The drought resulted in a hike in food prices, mounting unemployment and governmental corruption. This period gave rise to widespread increase in poverty and mass unemployment and consequently the initial discontent with the government was more in poverty hit districts and much less in the urban areas.
The situation in Syria worsened when the rebels adopted a radical Islamist ideology.
As the unrest grew in the country, the intervention of the US began, largely in form of airstrikes in Syria to control the fundamental Islamic terrorist factions of the ISIS which had become the face of the rebellion against the Syrian government. The protest movement that started as a voice against dictatorship has inevitably triggered the rise of ISIS in the world.
The Balance of Power
With more than 400,000 people dead and approximately 12 million displaced, the Syrian crisis has become the worst humanitarian crisis currently facing the world. With so many people displaced the situation of immigrants has worsened in many countries, especially in Europe, bearing the brunt of this influx. This sudden rise in immigrants has resulted in discontent amongst the citizens of various countries that have now become a haven for these immigrants.
The Assad family, which has ruled over Syria since 1970, has established strong alliances with many countries. Russia continues to provide weaponry to the Assad government and is of the view that external interference is not suitable for Syria and that only its citizens should decide the viability of the Assad government. Russia supports the Syrian regime due to its past history with the country in terms of trade and military interests and most importantly its access to the Tartus port that is a major Russian naval facility in the Mediterranean. Apart from Russia, the Syrian government also has support from Iran and some support from Iraq and China.
For Iran – one of the key players – the main interest in a stable Assad regime lies in the fact that it is a Shia-Alawite government ruling the Sunnis. Therefore, Iran, also being a Shia country, provides subsidized weapons and military advisers to the Assad regime. Syria is also the main transit point for Iranian weapon shipments to the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah, which is also supporting Assad.
While Turkey was initially against the Syrian government, it made an about-turn much after the entry of Russia in the conflict in 2015 and after seeing that the Syrian Kurds on the Turkish border were becoming an ever stronger rebel faction, much like the isolated Iraqi Kurds. Turkey’s interest lies in the defeat of independent Kurds at any cost. That is why in December 2016, Turkey, along with Iraq and Moscow signed a ‘Moscow Declaration’ on Syria. This effectively led to Turkey cutting its ties with its own proxies in Syria and also refusing to allow passage to US-funded proxies from the Gulf to re-arm rebel units in northern Syria. It was this new balance of power which allowed Syria to re-capture Aleppo from the rebels and the terrorists, who were really US-funded Gulf proxies.
This sounded the death knell of the legitimate claims of the US-led Western powers to decide the future of Syria, and propelled Russia into a path of acquiring a great power status, displacing the US (helped in part by the discredit and weakness of the US, exposed during the US Presidential elections of 2016).
Thus arrayed on the other side of the divide, the so-called champions of humanitarianism – America, UK, France and the representative of Western interests, the United Nations – have been left out in the cold. The interference of these external powers has only caused the crisis in Syria to worsen, and had it not been for the timely alliance between Russia, Turkey and Iran, Syria would not have been able to reclaim large parts of its land from the ISIS.
The Double-Speak of US and Obama
Ever since the Syrian government started cracking down on the rebels, USA’s former President, Barack Obama, has been following a strategy of further destabilizing Syria, much like the traditional US policy in Middle-east. Initially, the US targeted the Syrian government for perpetuating atrocities against anti-government rebels and civilians, and started arming the rebel factions. At the same time, the geographic spread of the ISIS also kept on expanding, reaching even beyond Syria. Subsequently, even as rebel factions became indistinguishable from ISIS terrorists, the US continued to arm the rebels, thereby directly arming the ISIS and waging a war against the sovereign regime of Syria – nothing short, in efforts and intention, of what George Bush did in Iraq. Under the Obama administration, Syria’s Assad was commonly referred to as a “war criminal”.1
If one follows the actual reports on ground from the civilians of Syria and not from Left-liberal pro-Obama Western media, it is easy to get a clear picture of how much the civilians in Syria have started detesting the US. Concrete proof of this came in the form of revelations by a secret ‘fact-finding’ mission that was personally undertaken by US Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard, without prior disclosure to the US establishment, resulting in a massive outcry against her from the lawmakers. In her fact-finding details, she clearly submits that the US is, indeed, arming the ISIS terrorists against the Assad government, prompting her to even table the ‘Stop Arming Terrorists’ bill in the US Congress, which would prohibit the US government from arming and funding “Sunni militant groups working to overthrow the Assad regime, such as the Levant Front, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham [Al-Nusra Front], and al Qaeda.”2
She gives proof of what has already been known for long – that CIA is secretly funding ISIS and Al-Qaeda through countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and, formerly, Turkey, enabling these terrorists to establish strongholds in Syria, and pitting the Sunni majority against Assad’s Shia Alawite sect.
Gabbard has given the following report, “The CIA has long been supporting a group called Fursan al Haqq, providing them with salaries, weapons and support, including surface to air missiles. This group is cooperating with and fighting alongside an al-Qaeda affiliated group trying to overthrow the Syrian government. The Levant Front is another so-called moderate umbrella group of Syrian opposition fighters. Over the past year, the United States has been working with Turkey to give this group intelligence support and other forms of military assistance. This group has joined forces with al-Qaeda’s offshoot group in Syria.”3
It is noteworthy that when the Assad regime re-captured Aleppo, the Western governments and media raised the hype of civilian human rights violations, but when ISIS attacked the city of Palmyra, they did not speak out against the terrorists, thus exposing the Obama administration’s convenient approach to terrorism.
The Changing Equations
Syria’s case, as is now evident, has much wider repercussions and the potential to determine the temporary future world order. All the main actors/powers have had a heavy stake in the Syrian conflict, including the biggest terrorist organization, the ISIS.
For now, Russia has hijacked the discourse. It is telling that the next meeting of the Moscow Declaration will be held in Kazakhstan, and not in Geneva, the UN hub of Western world order, completing the exclusion of the West in deciding the fate of Syria. It is unlikely that Trump – an epitome of weakness, commercialism and frivolity and someone wanting to phase out of all international agreements – will show much backbone in the issue, unless the CIA compellingly throws in its ball in the game. With the fading away of America, UK and France and the rest of Europe will be left without an anchor and forced to follow America’s suit, as usual.
Irrespective of international equations, what happens inside Syria is altogether another story. The entire West Asia and North Africa is staring at an endless abyss and a future full of suffering. The Syrian conflict is not just a determining factor of who spins international power equations, but also represents the complete destruction of a sovereign nation-state. Everything inside the country is crumbling. Kidnappings, murder, loot and arson have become the order of the day and violence has become the daily language of common people. If one looks at Syria now, one would never be able to imagine that it ever existed as a civilized country with a social, moral, political and cultural structure in place.
Such destructive results have happened in the past also, but the reasons for the conflicts have been ethnic or something similar. Syria, however, is a case in point of how our so-called liberal machinery has bred monsters. And their existence should be enough for us to question the very machinery and structures and ideas in which we have always reposed our faith.
In this sense, the Syrian conflict is a harbinger of the times to come. It shows that our civilization is fast exhausting the ideas it has glorified, hurtling inevitably towards destruction in all directions. Rising discontent, food, water, livelihood and planetary crises will become the order of the day, leading to both inner rot as well as massive outward destruction of entire countries as is happening in Syria.
The changing international order, as seen through power equations in such crises, has now reached a point where we have exhausted all the immediate possibilities that our material progress can possibly put at our disposal. We are fast transitioning to an age where our collective understanding is being shaped not by facts, but increasingly by the collective intuition arising from the national instinct of the race, which has long been buried under the burden of a mechanical international unity. Our world unity so far – based on systems like United Nations and other international regimes and forms of people-to-people exchange across borders – was built on a fundamental selfishness and a principle of commercialized selfish association rather than true brotherhood, taking Matter as its referral point. It was a system which excluded many and under which an oligarchy of powerful nations still struggle to colonize the economically weaker states, through all kinds of obvious and implicit means, including spawning terrorism. The system was false, the spirit was weak or missing, the only saving grace being the mental idea that unity was necessary, ingrained in the civilization after bearing the brunt of two World Wars.
And so, when we were striving for world unification, we got instead a backlash in the form of global Islamic terrorism and a powerless organization of experts in the form of the United Nations. There is an intense sentiment against cultural and cross-border exchange and an increased anti-globalism sentiment. People are blindly reverting to their national identities.
Under the prevalent conditions of the world and given the selfish mindset which governs us, we can only have ‘concert’ in place of unity and that concert must necessarily be imperfect and will die out unless it constantly enlarges and adapts itself. However, this does not mean that nationalism is the ultimate ideal towards which we are collectively striving. It is, however, a prerequisite to true unity. Unless the true spirit of nationalism is realized, internationalism would remain unfulfilled. Unification, as Sri Aurobindo wrote, is an inevitable necessity. However, this is not the blind, selfish globalization for feeding our vital satisfactions, as is prevalent at present. For, as Sri Aurobindo has written, “an outward basis is not enough; there must grow up an international spirit and outlook, international forms and institutions must appear, perhaps such developments as dual or multilateral citizenship, willed interchange or voluntary fusion of cultures. Nationalism will have fulfilled itself and lost its militancy and would no longer find these things incompatible with self-preservation and the integrality of its outlook. A new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race.”4
To first and foremost realize the true spirit of nationalism is the prerequisite to realize such a unity – something in which we had failed, and the impulse is only now fulfilling itself. Instead of realizing the true collective spirit, we had collectively given too much precedence to material science and innovations that endlessly try to satiate our vital and mental formations. As a result, even though we have progressed on the front of mental development, the overall result was a degeneration, as we ended up creating a monstrous, vital machinery based on nothing more than our ego-selves. Now this entire structure is coming crumbling down, as all our panaceas prove ineffective. We can never find a solution till we rise above matter. Otherwise one form of tyranny and mismanagement will simply replace another.
- BBC, January 27, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38774701 (accessed February 13, 2017)
- RT, January 19, 2017, https://www.rt.com/usa/374263-tulsi-gabbard-syria-trip/ (accessed February 14, 2017)
- Erickson, Alexa, Collective Evolution, January 20, 2017, http://www.collective-evolution.com/2017/01/20/congresswoman-tulsi-gabbard-tells-the-us-to-stop-arming-isis-introduces-bill-to-stop-arming-terrorists/ (accessed February 14, 2017)
- Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol.36, p.480, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry