Saturday, April 8, 2017
The More Things Change, The More Things Stay the Same for Syria
Does that mean I am signing up to the Bashar al-Assad fan club? Not by a long shot and, frankly, I'm amazed at the likes of some of those gushing over the guy. Mr. "I invented the Alt-Right" Richard Spencer has nothing but nice things to say about Assad. For anyone on the "right" end of the political spectrum at all, this seems quite odd. Assad is the leader of the Ba'athist Party, officially described as an Arab *socialist* party and part of a coalition called the National *Progressive* Front. This is the same party that denounced Saddam Hussein (also a Ba'athist dictator) as a "fascist" when he went to war against their beloved co-religionists in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Socialist progressives who consider the word "fascist" an insult would seem rather out of step with the "Alt-Right" crowd from what I've seen. However, a little confusion is probably to be expected. People seem to be trying to fit this entire region into a western frame of mind when that just does not work and has never work as the Ba'athist regime itself and its problems illustrate. It is also why the most stable countries in the region are absolute monarchies that tend to offend liberal sensibilities.
The aforementioned bad blood between the socialist Ba'ath party of Syria and the socialist Ba'ath party of Iraq is another example. Why was there not ironclad solidarity between the socialist Arabs of Syria and the socialist Arabs of Iraq against the totally alien Persian theocrats? Because, once again, despite the effort at secular Arab nationalism, the older divisions remained more important. Many Syrians, particularly the Alawites (from whence the al-Assad family hails) are Shia Muslims just like the Iranians. Most Iraqis are Shia Muslims too but Saddam Hussein was not and he was in charge. Such is why Syria and Iran have been such good friends since the Sunni Muslims were removed from power and replaced by Shia Muslims. This is also why the Arab monarchies all want to see the end of Bashar al-Assad. They are Sunni Muslims and this is part of the Sunni-Shia feud that has been going on almost since Mohammed kicked off. They can get rid of their monarchies and replace them with republics, they can try to ignore past tribalism and promote Arab nationalism but the old tribal and religious divisions still persist. They are not going to change and the United States cannot force them to. The British, to their credit, had the good sense not to try.
The Attempt at a Royalist Syria