Syria Lexicon of the 21st Century

By | December 17, 2021

Yesria. – The Syrian revolt, which began in March 2011 in the wake of the victorious revolutions in Tunisia (January) and Egypt (February), underwent a progressive militarization in the following months. Censored and harshly repressed since its first steps, the protest has never known the peaceful and impressive popular participation of the Tunisian and Egyptian squares in revolt and has already turned into an armed insurrection in the autumn of 2011. To square around Syrian President Asad (see al-Asad, Bashshār), the army, the powerful secret services, Mukhabārāt, and the Alawite community, the minority religious sect of Shiite origin to which the al-Asad dynasty belongs and which occupies all key posts in government, public administration, army and in the Ba‛th party, the real backbone of the regime (see Baathism, crisis of the). On the insurgent front, alongside the Sunni majority bloc, the non-confessional and pacifist components of the opposition try not to be overwhelmed by the radicalization of the confrontation which naturally favors the most extremist and violent voices. The brutality of the regime’s repression, responsible on several occasions for the massacre of defenseless people in Hama, Homs, Aleppo and other cities, has not affected the substantial immobility of the international community which, having rushed into arms in Libya alongside the insurgents against Gaddafi, has chosen in Syria to stand by and watch. Yet there are not a few countries that, indifferent to the plight of the Syrian people, are fighting their diplomatic war to gain supremacy in the region or to assert their weight on the world stage. On a regional level, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the two giants fighting each other at a distance on Syrian territory: the Iranian Shiite regime, ally of al-Asad, must defend itself from the traditional hostility of the Saudi kingdom, champion of Sunni Islam and willing to curb any an attempt at Iranian expansionism, supported by the United States in this undertaking. Iran, for its part, supports al-Asad in order not to lose a precious ally, the only one it has in the Arab world, and to see in its place a Sunni camp that is certainly an enemy. Nonetheless, one cannot fail to underline the considerable distance between the two regimes: the first confessional, the second secular. Turkey also took the field with great determination, supporting the internal opposition to the regime and hoping for the fall of al-Asad. On the world level, Russia and China, as opposed to the European Union and the United States (which very reluctantly support the insurgents), are preventing the United Nations from taking a too decisive stance against the Syria, by vetoing the Security Council. However, the attempts at a diplomatic solution to the conflict put in place earlier by the League have not met with luck between late 2011 and early 2012 and then in October 2012 by the new UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (al-Akhḍar al-Ibrāhīmī), who replaced Kofi Annan in his post with an unsuccessful round of talks in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Turkey and a meeting with al-Asad himself. For Syria 2014, please check thesciencetutor.org.

A regime in the balance. – In the summer of 2012, the regime’s impenetrable line of defense showed signs of a flaw: while there were significant defections at the top of the army, almost compact until then in loyalty to the dictatorship of al-Asad, in the month of July a suicide bombing at the security headquarters in Damascus killed the defense minister and his deputy, al-Asad’s brother-in-law. The attack was the signal of the military progress made on the ground, even in the capital itself, by the Free Syrian Army (ESL), which coordinates the action of armed groups fighting against the regime. Founded in the summer of 2011, with an organizational base in Turkey, the FSA is mostly made up of defector soldiers and young volunteers. After the attack, between summer and autumn, the situation in Aleppo, the most populous city in the Syria While international humanitarian organizations denounced the regime’s responsibilities in mass crimes against civilians (arbitrary arrests, violence, disappearances of people, summary killings), al-Asad tried to confuse the situation by leveraging the concerns of Western countries and denouncing collusion of the rebels with the most radical Islamic formations and terrorism linked to al-Qa’ida. This danger, also highlighted by the secular opponents of the regime, Ğabhat al-nuṣra li-Ahl al-Shām «Front of support for the Syrian people»), which proved to be a more effective weapon to fight al-Asad than the aid promised and never arrived from outside. In the early months of 2013, the conflict was further barbaric with the attack on the University of Aleppo: over eighty victims added to the figure estimated by the United Nations of about 60,000 dead since the beginning of the revolt. Faced with the escalation of tension in the region, Israel also took the field at the end of January with an air raid on the Syrian-Lebanese border, a faint glimmer of hope is represented by the opening to dialogue by the Syrian National Coalition of Forces of the opposition and of the revolution, a platform born in November 2012 that gathers the main rebel groups including formations military.

Syria Lexicon of the 21st Century