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Sun Jan 22, 2012, 12:52 PM

UN and US being drawn into decades-old Saudi-Iran religious struggle for control of Syria

We've heard a great deal in recent months about violence is Syria, particularly about the killing of members of anti-regime opposition groups and demonstrators. Outrage at this has predictably roused world opinion, so that there is now a push for military intervention in the style of last year's regime change in Libya. But, the origins of violence in Syria are very different and much older and widespread than the short, sharp shock that dislodged the Khaddafi regime. A few NATO airstrikes and special forces on the ground, and boom, over. Not.

Few Americans appear to realize that political violence between the Ba'athist regime and opponents is actually a new round in what is essentially a decades-old religious war between a minority Shi'a Baathist regime and a Sunni Salaafist opposition primarily funded by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

For those who want to deny that the US is preparing for military intervention in Syria, please read this:

Obama administration secretly preparing options for aiding the Syrian opposition
Josh Rogin
Foreign Policy
December 29, 2011

As the violence in Syria spirals out of control, top officials in President Barack Obama’s administration are quietly preparing options for how to assist the Syrian opposition, including gaming out the unlikely option of setting up a no-fly zone in Syria and preparing for another major diplomatic initiative.

<. . .>

But the administration does see the status quo in Syria as unsustainable. The Bashar al Assad regime is a “dead man walking,” State Department official Fred Hof said this month. So the administration is now ramping up its policymaking machinery on the issue. After several weeks of having no top-level administration meetings to discuss the Syria crisis, the National Security Council (NSC) has begun an informal, quiet interagency process to create and collect options for aiding the Syrian opposition, two administration officials confirmed to The Cable.

Unfortunately, some in the US and UN appear to now be willing to be pulled into the middle of this one. This is a war that the US cannot win by picking sides, and the consequences of intervention and escalation could be disastrous.

Syrian opposition presses for UN intervention
Foreign affairs editor Peter Cave, wires

Posted January 23, 2012 00:25:04
Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby Photo: Arab League secretary general Nabil Elaraby meets the observer committee in Cairo. (Reuters: Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)
Related Story: Arab League debates future of Syrian mission
Related Story: Syria rejects calls for Arab force
Related Story: UN chief renews attack on Assad, amid amnesty
Related Story: Qatar calls for military intervention in Syria
Map: Syrian Arab Republic

The Syrian National Council is planning to send a delegation to the United Nations to press the Security Council to intervene in the country. A spokesman for the Syrian National Council said its members did not believe the Arab League observers report would be objective.

<. . .>

The Arab League could expand the mission to more than 300 observers from more than 160 now deployed across Syria, according to a source in the mission. But the opposition Syrian National Council has been lobbying for UN intervention and said it will reveal "a counter-report" later on Sunday to try to discredit General Dabi's account.


The operation is now past the Arab League intervention stage, and has now moved to the UN. It's as if there's a timetable, with mid-March as some kind of target date, the one-year anniversary of the start of the sniping that killed 7 Syrian policemen and 4 civilians at the border city, Daraa, home of Salaafist separatists. It's important to get back to basics, though. Not surprisingly, credible reporting on the external origins and support of the intervention are scarce. The propaganda focus is on internal violence, not outside planning and mobilization of support for regime change.

There's a religious dimension to this that's been largely ignored by the western media. The Assad family is part of Shi'a minority that dominates the Ba'athist regime. There's little or no reference to the fact that the Sunni-Shi'a conflict is at the heart of political violence in Syria today. Wiki:

From 1976 to 1982, Sunni Islamists fought the Ba'ath Party-controlled government of Syria in what has been called "long campaign of terror". Islamist Mujafadin attacked both civilians and off-duty military personnel, and civilians were also killed in retaliatory strike by security forces.

The Muslim Brotherhood was blamed for the terror by the government, although the insurgents used names such as Kata'ib Muhammad (Phalanxes of Muhammad, begun in Hama in 1965 Marwan Hadid) to refer to their organization.

There are also undertones of a renewed "rollback" operations against Russian interests in the region. With the involvement of Muslim Brotherhood and Sunni Islamist terrorists backed by the Saudis against a regime armed by Russia, this resembles Kosovo and the regime change operations against Iran, as much as it also follows the Libyan "Arab Spring" model. Remember the Kosovo snipers? They're back.

The repercussions of intervention would also be far less containable and could spark a full-fledged regional war in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. What we're seeing in Syria is actually a continuation of a religious-based sectarian struggle between Saudi-backed Sunnis and the Shi'a Ba'ath Party minority regime of the Assad family with ties to Iran and Lebanon.

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Reply UN and US being drawn into decades-old Saudi-Iran religious struggle for control of Syria (Original post)
leveymg Jan 2012 OP
riderinthestorm Jan 2012 #1
tabatha Jan 2012 #3
riderinthestorm Jan 2012 #4
tabatha Jan 2012 #2
Leopolds Ghost Jan 2012 #6
Leopolds Ghost Jan 2012 #5

Response to leveymg (Original post)

Sun Jan 22, 2012, 01:03 PM

1. Russian military posturing with Chinese backup adds that last layer of crazy to the Syrian civil war


The Russian Navy ships docking in Syria just ramps up the tension. I believe the UN is completely useless in this situation since the civil war is really another proxy war between the big powers. Unfortunately Israel's proximity makes this so much more toxic and flammable.


(although I don't harbor any hope that this thread will last any longer than any of the other Syria threads which have dropped like a stone. No breathless daily reporting for THIS conflict even though it's ever so much more serious and perilous than any other in the "Arab Spring"

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Response to riderinthestorm (Reply #1)

Sun Jan 22, 2012, 01:57 PM

3. "civil war is really another proxy war between the big powers"

China in recent days has called for Assad to stop the killing. It is well-known that Syria is supported by Russia, Iran and China. Syria is Russia's last outpost in the area. However, the docking of the Russian ships in Syria is meaningless as these vessels amount to nothing more than rusty buckets. Russia has stated in the last few days, that if intervention was spear-headed by the Arab League, it could do nothing to stop it. Hence this is far from a proxy war between the big powers.

The US is well aware of the dangers of what is happening in Syria, and had hoped that the Arab League could bring about a resolution. Possibly, the Syrians can resolve this conflict themselves, because the defectors from the Syrian army are highly trained and competent. There are some differences between the factions in the Syrian opposition. See video below, which further underscores the unlikelihood of this being a big powers proxy war.

Finally, those who posted here in the Libyan conflict did not do so in a "breathless" fashion, but merely shared information about the conflict, inspired in most part by Mo Nabbous. There is no desire to do a repeat because of some of the crap that was directed at the posters. Although I post informational articles on the Syrian issue, I converse with others about ME issues on AJE.

"The AJE blogs have attracted the most amazing, educated, diverse and caring audience mass media ever gathered. After all, who would read Al Jazeera in English? The English speakers who cannot get their Middle Eastern news from other sources are a pretty sophisticated bunch of primarily American, Canadian, British, Australian and New Zealander readers. There are even more refined groups from among the non-English native speakers: French, Swiss, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and yes, Arabic. The list goes on to South America, Africa – pretty much everywhere else. The only continent not yet represented is Antarctica. But that’s only a matter of time. "

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Response to tabatha (Reply #3)

Sun Jan 22, 2012, 02:21 PM

4. I believe the participants on the street understand the dynamics of their struggle


and that it's tied to the Arab Spring movement and sentiments. I don't doubt that for a moment. I just also believe that there's no way this region is immune from meddling by the big powers at every level. I think it's naive to think that Russia, China and the US aren't in this. You can discount the Russian Navy docking there all you like (and other Russian ships bearing arms) but that's real and overt aid. Israel has taken action on far less than that before....

The Arab League is a wild card no doubt. They've never flexed their muscles before but their initial efforts in Syria so far have been incredibly inept. I reserve my judgement for now.

My cynicism about DUers and their level of enthusiasm about this "revolution" or that one is entirely my own. The level of enthusiasm, involvement and yes "breathless" reporting on every action in Libya by DUers was astounding in my opinion, the only country that drew in NATO and the US involvement and oddly enough the only country with the significant oil reserves..... So I've drawn a less than flattering opinion (shrug)....I'm a cynic. I'd also stipulate that any pushback on the coverage of events here on DU is typical when one storyline is pushed over and over - there's always those who are skeptics. Furthermore, I welcome that and would hope it stays as one of the hallmarks of this discussion board. That's a good thing imho, "crap" or not, that many perspectives and pieces of information are laid out for everyone to see.

Regardless a kick to the thread for more exposure.

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Response to leveymg (Original post)

Sun Jan 22, 2012, 01:43 PM

2. Disagreement on a number of issues.

The US considers the Arab League to have responsibility for this issue, and has not done anything to instigate war. It has taken steps in case there is a war.

There will be no war unless the UN passes a resolution as it did for Libya, where Russia and China abstained, because the Arab League wanted intervention.

Russia has said in the past few days that if intervention is spear-headed by the Arab League, there is nothing it can do to stop that.

The Arab League has tried to resolve the Syrian issue with monitors, and this may be extended for another month. There have been multiple calls for Assad to stop the killing and to negotiate. In fact, there is a proposal, which has been found unacceptable by the opposition because it leaves Assad with too much power.

This uprising is an extension of the Arab Spring and there are Shia Alawites who support it, one of whom is one of the Syria's most well known actresses.

It is easy to to cherry pick a couple articles while ignoring others that may say differently, to come to a desired conclusion about the Syrian conflict,

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Response to tabatha (Reply #2)

Sun Jan 22, 2012, 02:31 PM

6. Of course. But the last thing we need is for the West to use it to attack Syria

As in Iraq and Libya (the only African country with significant oil reserves).

Syria needs to be able to defeat Assad with help from the global 99% Tahrir Square movement.

Which does not have the same interests as the US foreign policy agencies at the present time...

The surest way to destroy the Arab Spring would be to further militarize it and turn Syria into
another Iraq.

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Response to leveymg (Original post)

Sun Jan 22, 2012, 02:27 PM

5. Decades-old? Try centuries-old. You may be aware that Syria was supposed to be the capital of Arabia

Under the T.H. Lawrence plan --

which was designed to forestall essentially the following century of Middle East conflict that we have seen.

The T.H. Lawrence plan also involved peace treaty between Israel and Prince Feisal, giving them the
lands east of the Jordan as a joint Israeli-Palestinian state.

As Lawrence noted, the Arab countries especially Iraq would be unsustainable legal fictions without
access to the Mediterranean.

"and preparing for another major diplomatic initiative."

Like the one in Libya? Or Bahrain?

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