Getting into action in Syria-A A +A
Saturday, September 7, 2013
I HEARD the G-20 summit in St. Petersburgh, Russia is fraught with tension. The meeting of the world’s 20 richest economies is divided over countries that want to intervene militarily in the civil war that has raged in Syria since March 15, 2011 and those that do not.
The US is pushing for a military strike against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus after reports came out that the government used chemical weapons on the rebels. It has the support of France and the UK, among others. Russia, the summit’s host and the US’s former Cold War nemesis, wants “convincing” evidence that the Assad regime, which happens to be its ally, used chemical weapons on its population.
US President Obama may have the support of France and the UK but back home the American people are not so keen to go to war. The US still has unfinished business in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In the case of Iraq, the US intervened and attacked Saddam Hussein’s regime over reports that the former dictator had stashed away “weapons of mass destruction.” After US troops toppled Hussein and occupied the country, they didn’t find any “weapons of mass destruction.”
It gives new meaning to the words American intelligence.
In Syria’s case, both camps are hurling accusations of atrocities. Last Friday, a video footage of Syrian rebels executing unarmed prisoners came out. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time. This prompted one foreign news anchor to question how the international community would react to the carnage.
So, if the US does push through with a military strike against Syria, how will it justify it to its public and to the rest of the world?
And please, spare me the spiel about democracy. The situation in Syria is not about a clash of political ideologies. It’s a battle of religious dogma.
The majority Sunni population of Syria wants to overthrow the minority Alawites that have dominated the military and government since the Assads took power in 1970. The Alawites belong to a branch of Shia Islam.
To the uninitiated, there are many kinds of Muslims just as there are many kinds of Christians. To say that the difference between Sunnis and Shiites is the same difference between Catholics and the Protestants is oversimplifying things and actually wrong.
But for this column, let’s pretend it is.
The ongoing civil war in Syria is not the first Islamic uprising against the Assad regime. There were similar uprisings in the 1970s and the 1980s that the current president’s father Hafez brutally crushed.
Back then, there were no cellphone cameras to capture the slaughter and destruction of whole towns like what happened in Hama in 1982 where several thousand people died. Estimates vary, but the number of dead was placed between 10,000 and 40,000, excluding the more than 1,000 soldiers who were killed during the bombardment.
Several news sources have placed the number of dead in the current uprising at more than 100,000, with more than one million forced to flee their homes.
The political and religious schism in the Middle East is now even more pronounced and polarized with petrodollars from the Sunni Gulf States most probably funding the fractious Islamic extremist rebellion in Syria and with Shiite Hizbullahs in Lebanon and Iran sending arms and men to help Assad’s army.
And the Americans and the British and the French want in on this?
I agree with Russia’s president. Best be prudent before talking about military strikes. Once these defenders of the world’s oppressed plunge into the action, they might find themselves drowning.
Meanwhile, here on our lovely shores, Janet Lim-Napoles and the P10-billion pork barrel scam continue to appall us while we count the days to Christmas.
We should be thankful.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 08, 2013.