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The Syrian War Goes On

Politics / Syria Nov 14, 2014 - 12:19 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


Confused Names – Confused Games
Real world Syria was dimly recognized and not accepted by western leaderships and their security strategists, in just another unfortunate example of the stumble-to-war process that is now heavily analyzed, discussed and reported, retrospectively, as the consensus explanation for World War I. For many non-German politicians and strategists in 1914, Kaiser Wilhelm was a surrogate for Osama bin Laden after 2001 – fanatical and sure to overreach when opposed  Al Assad's overreach by declaring a total war strategy did happen but his regime's resistance to ISIS or ISIL helped force the fanatics and psychopaths to also overreach and look for a softer enemy and easier pickings - over the frontier, in Iraq. To be sure there are huge differences with the 1914-18 war in this case of another war that "could only" be short and would be “all over by Christmas”, but few persons can forecast the possibly massive sequels of the Syrian war across the Middle East, North Africa, western Asia and Europe.

Following the extreme and massive November 11th WWar I armistice ceremonies in the UK, France and Belgium, the UK's BBC on several of its TV channels is broadcasting relatively unbiased special reports from correspondents in Damascus, Amman, Beirut, Ankara and other spillover pressure points in what the BBC calls a conflict, a civil war, and a war. Its websites use mostly use "conflict" as the  definition, but the correspondents use "war" for this bloodbath stretching into its fourth year, driving at least 2 million child refugees among the estimated 3.25 million total of Syrians who have fled the country to date,  The death toll is probably now above 200 000 and one refugee clearing centre in Amman, in early November was handling 3 000 new Syrian refugees every day. Refugees fleeing to Lebanon, firstly and mostly the Bekaa Valley are estimated by the Lebanese government to now number about one-third of Lebanon's total population.

Inside Syria, despite the hopeful news chatter outside the country about truces and peace talks, and the "still possible victory" of western-backed rebels, this is a war to the bitter end. Total victory, for al Assad's forces, may or might be possible but the timescale for that will be years. Estimates for refugee numbers and flows by organizations including the UNHCR suggest a half or more of the 2011 population of Syria could become exiles within a predictable timeframe.

Outright starvation menaces Syrian refugees in several of the large and remote holding camps, some of them designed to hold 150 000 refugees on a long-term basis, but the total lack of revenues for these refugees has already triggered large-scale movement into cities like Amman and Beirut where at least one or two family members – sometimes in their teens – can find a job and use all their wages to rent living space and buy food.  Resentment against these now-economic immigrants is rising, in the Turkish case leading to nearly total exclusion of Syrian refugees from earning anything except when they have special skills and education. The war goes on.

All Over by Christmas
The relatively unbiased BBC treatment of the failed western attempt to overthrow al Assad's regime, possibly in large part due to his links with Putin's Russia, is easily contrasted with the massive coverage and treatment of the causes of WWar I by the BBC and other western media.. On the British side this featured a fond elite belief that even if this war had become inevitable by summer 1914 "it would all be over by Christmas". Featured in several media reports, the British and Commonwealth war graves only in and around Arras and Ypres contain the remains of well over 350 000 war dead of which in the Ypres case, at least 55 000 were of body remains so mangled they could not be separately buried..

Like the official and private-owned media of the other main "western belligerant" countries in the Syrian war – especially France and USA – the UK's BBC has to explain why the western belligerants counted on "a quick war", like Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow in 2011, to unseat and destroy the power of Bashr al Assad. No doubt 'regretfully' the media would have shown him being mobbed and killed, or executed after a show trial by triumphant rebels – before they set about fighting among themselves, Alternately, al Assad could have fled to Mother Russia, further blackening Russia's image.

The endgame of faction fighting among formerly united anti-regime forces took a little time to happen in the Libyan case, but in the Syrian case it happened a long while back – years ago. In both cases, Islamic extremist terror has been the apparent big winner - and real loser

Plenty of differences exist between the near "seamless" quick overthrow of Tunisia's bin Ali, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Libya's Gaddafi and the unsuccessful attempted overthrow Bashr al Assad. Major geopolitical differences were and are the Russian military and diplomatic, and Chinese diplomatic support of al Assad in a now totally internationalized "local war". The extent and role of national identity among a certain number of Syria's communities, which was arguably almost non-existent in Gaddafi's Libya was another factor. In any case, time ran out for what would have been a quick and dirty regime change, but quick all the same. The stalemated civil war which resulted, now tipping in al Assad's favour, further internationalized and mutated  the war that it is. The role of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states was especially decisive, in the negative sense through their deliberate and wilful choice of aiding and funding all and any of the most extreme factions, making Syria the real hearth and springboard of ISIS or ISIL.

Stumbling to War
Western security elite pretense and self-delusion was this "couldn't happen", that Osama bin Laden was now officially dead or "fully disappeared" and with him al Qaeda. The sequel of what I call "Nihilist Youth Jihad" mixed with a psychopathic form of Arab racism was off the radar. These and other wrong way theories of western Middle Eastern war strategists are well analyzed and criticized by Patrick Cockburn in his book "The Jihadis Return". Al Qaeda decanting into ISIS or ISIL was "simply not possible" and the al Assad regime would fold like the cardboard-castle dictatorships of bin Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi. Wrong again.

Drilling down only a little into the differences between the father-and-son al Assad power structure, and those of the other Arab Spring countries, the divide and rule process set up by the al Assads was critically less exclusive than that of most other Arab dictators, either past and fallen or still clinging on. The major ethnic (and religious) diversity of Syria, theoretically a handicap for a rigid power structure, was well exploited and used by the al Assads to muster support for the country – and the regime. In addition, Hafez al Assad not only maintained much of the western-influenced civil political process that was laboriously experimented by France during its mandate-period, and by the 1970s al Assad had identified the Muslim Brotherhood as a deadly enemy.

Today, with nearly four years of a brutal and senseless civil war as proof, al Assad's supporters can chant the slogan "Assad or the Jihad" further distancing public opinion from the arguments used by the now-marginal "western oriented moderate opposition" and its weak armed factions. The war is stalemated, but its spillover effects are strong – and complicated.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2014 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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