Tag Archive for ‘Assad’
From 1920 to 1936, Syria’s Alawites enjoyed their own separate autonomous state in French-ruled Syria. First, it was known explicitly as the Alawite State and from 1930 to 1936, as Latakia Governorate. In response to pressure from the Sunni majority, France dissolved the Alawites’ state and forcibly incorporated it into the Sunni-dominated areas.
Needless to say, the Alawites (as well as the Christians and Druze) were appalled by France’s surrender to the Muslims and pleaded with the mandate authorities to protect them. In an eerie echo of today’s situation in Syria, 450,000 Alawites, Druze, and Christians signed a letter to the French authorities, part of which stated:
“The ‘Alawis believe that they are humans, not beasts ready for slaughter. No power in the world can force them to accept the yoke of their traditional and hereditary enemies to be slaves forever….”
Israel’s liberal Haaretz newspaper recently quoted part of another letter, sent by Alawite leaders to French Prime Minister Leon Blum in 1936. The French surrender to Arab Muslim demands was influenced by the bloody uprising of Muslims in British-ruled Palestine, led by the future ally of Hitler Haj Amin Al-Husseini. The Alawites alluded to the bloody revolt in their plea to the Jewish Blum:
“The condition of the Jews in Palestine is the strongest and most explicit evidence of the militancy of the Islamic issue vis-à-vis those who do not belong to Islam. These good Jews contributed to the Arabs with civilization and peace, scattered gold, and established prosperity in Palestine without harming anyone or taking anything by force, yet the Muslims declare holy war against them and never hesitated in slaughtering their women and children, despite the presence of England in Palestine and France in Syria.”
“Therefore we ask you to consider the dreadful and terrible fate that awaits the Alawites if they are forced to be annexed to Syria, when it will be free from the oversight of the Mandate, and it will be in their power to implement the laws that stem from its religion.”
One of the six signatories of that letter was Sulayman Assad, the father of Hafez and the grandfather of Bashar.
Of course, the Alawites’ desperate pleas fell on deaf years. And from then on, their leaders realized that they can no longer rely on the West, but have to use their tight-knit community’s influence and wealth to seize power in Syria, which finally came about in the 1960s. The unflinchingly brutal response of the Alawite-dominated regime to the violent Sunni Hama uprising in 1982 stems from the Alawites’ understanding that they could never expect any quarter from their “traditional and hereditary enemies”.
How ironic that France, by preparing to attack Syria on behalf of the Islamist rebels is repeating exactly the same betrayal of the Alawites – the most pro-French group in the Middle East, except the Maronites- as in the 1930s.
At a time of domestic financial weakness and cultural decline, the American interest requires prudence, restraint, and a rational link between ends and means. Abroad, it demands disengagement from distant countries of which we know little; at home, a sane immigration policy. Making Syria safe for jihad is as idiotic—and almost as ruinous to America’s future—as granting amnesty to twenty-odd million mostly unassimilable illegal aliens.
U.S. interventions abroad are bad in principle if no vital American security and economic interests are involved. In Syria no American interest is at stake, and therefore no American involvement is justified.
Just yesterday, according to the Russian ITAR-TASS news agency, a court in central Israel sentenced an Israeli Arab to 30 months in prison for joining the anti-Assad rebels in Syria. The defendant crossed over to Syria from Turkey and spent six days training with the Islamist rebels, who asked him to carry out a suicide bombing in either Syria or Israel.
Compare this with the situation in Russia, Assad’s closest ally after Hezbollah. As the hard right, pro-Russian Israeli political commentator Avigdor Eskin pointed out, not a single Russian Muslim who went to fight with the Islamists in Syria (and there were dozens, if not hundreds of them) has been held accountable. The Israeli court’s sentence speaks volumes about where Israel’s sympathies lie, Shimon Peres’ past mumblings of sympathy for the rebels notwithstanding.
In other recent news, the Christian Science Monitor reported that almost 100 Syrians have been treated at Israeli hospitals since the start of the conflict, some of the wounded being delivered across the border by Syrian army ambulances. According to Russian sources, Israeli medics have treated not only civilians, but members of Assad’s armed forces.
Finally, ex-Mossad chief Efraim Halevy called Assad “Israel’s Man in Damascus” in his Foreign Affairs article and explained that Bashar, like his father Hafez, for all their support for Hezbollah and Hamas and anti-Israel rhetoric, allowed Israel to have a stable and quiet border with Syria. Halevy voices the fears of Israel’s military/security establishment about the destabilization of the region that would result from the fall of the Assad regime.
All this shows that Netanyahu’s government seems to be fairly pragmatic in its approach towards the civil war in Syria. If only it would be as pragmatic toward the Iranian nuclear program, instead of goading the United States into armed conflict with the Khamenei regime.
Most areas of Syria appeared calm on Tuesday, the first day of the UN-brokered peace plan. Opposition activists are predictably accusing the government of violations following a firefight in Homs and an incident on the Turkish border which left five people wounded, but on the whole the ceasefire is holding.
The regime of Bashar al-Assad is in some trouble, but it is not in any immediate danger of collapsing; if there is no foreign intervention it may survive.
“Unrest in Syria has discomforted rather than shaken the regime of Bashir Al-Assad,” I wrote in the May issue of Chronicles (Cultural Revolutions, p. 6). “On current form it is an even bet that he will survive, which is preferable to any likely alternative.” The violence has become far worse since the editorial was written in mid-March and the regime looks somewhat shaken by now, but the overall conclusion still stands.