A Game of Homs

What striking about Syria is how so many people insist on speaking about it in profoundly moralistic, Manichaean terms. This is complete nonsense, given that its civil war isn’t a showdown between democracy and dictatorship, but an ethnic and religious conflict. Here’s a more realistic guide:

The Assad regime

The rhetoric: He kills his own people! He is the Evil Overlord (TM)!

The reality: That’s kind of what happens in a civil war. Abraham Lincoln also “killed his own people,” you know. It is obvious why the “regime” fights on: That is what regimes do – as a general rule of thumb, they’re fond of surviving. The rather more interesting and telling question is: Why do key elements of the population continue to back them?

As far as the Alawites and Christians are concerned, it’s pretty clear: The Sunnis have never been particularly well disposed to them, and the past few years haven’t made them any fonder. The last time the Sunnis revolted in Hama in 1982, one of the slogans of the Muslim Brotherhood was “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the graveyard.”

In the game of Homs, you win or you die – and the “you” is in its plural form. No wonder Assad has a solid support base.

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Alex Mercouris Untangles Syria

He has an excellent article over at his blog discussing the motivations behind the Western smearing of Russia for supporting – well, not opposing – Assad, against the Islamist insurgent freedom fighters. I highly recommend you read the article Russia, Syria, and the West in full; as Mark Chapman correctly notes in the comments, if you only did that then you would “come away better informed than 90% of those who have followed the situation from the outset.”

Basically, the West pretends that Russia is pursuing mercenary objectives in propping up Assad, while its own motives are altruistic and well-meaning. This of course ignores many inconvenient facts:

  • The situation in Syria is in fact a civil war with the insurgents, vast majority of whom are Islamists, not without their own share of atrocities. (And being supported by Western proxies for months now).
  • Western duplicity in supporting regimes like Saudi Arabia which executes people for witchcraft and militarily intervening in Bahrain to put down a Shi’ite revolt. This exposes their protests vs. Russia, China as hypocritical moralistic posturing; the real objective is to undermine Iran.
  • The BRICS as a whole are against the Western moves to intervene militarily in Syria (with Russia taking most of the flak), or create the pretexts for such. This is an eminently reasonable move given the Libyan experience. Libya, by and by, is hardly ever mentioned now in the Western MSM, as that whole democracy and liberal rights thing doesn’t appear to be panning out with daily reprisals, collapse of central authority, and fast-growing influence of radical Islamists.
  • Ignoring Russia’s (and China’s, etc) real arguments and motivations: Not supporting Assad per se (as Putin pointed out, Assad made more visits to Paris than Moscow in the past few years), but preventing the Western powers from usurping the right to make war, regime change, and general hostile interference in the affairs of non-Western aligned states. I.e., holding to the letter of international law.

For a statement of the Russian position on Syria, I recommend Russian FM Sergey Lavrov’s article in the Huffington Post (On the Right Side of History), as well as Mercouris’ earlier posts on the matter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).