1 Understanding a Revolutionary Syria: Rebellions, Uprisings, and the Persistence of Tyranny.

Introduction: “I want to thank my mother who taught me that freedom is mightier than our prisons.” Ahmad Faraj Birqdar It is 2014 and the public is fearing that this may be the beginning of the end for the Sykes-Picot agreement. Less than a century after they were drawn the durability of those imposed borders are being tested as never before. Syrian blood and firepower are spilling into Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. These are regions that, for centuries, belonged to one single people whose history, culture, politics, and faith, transcend these artificial nations-states. By savagely repressing demonstrations two years ago Bashar al Assad helped turn mass protests into an insurrection which has torn Syria apart. After WWI the modern state of Syria was cobbled together from the remains of the Ottoman Empire. After WWII Syria won its independence from French control. After the fighting that is raging within it today it could cease to function as a state. Today, the Syrian uprising encompasses several different conflicts and issues that have deep regional import. It engages the dispossession of the Palestinians, the question of resistance to imperialism, and the question of Hezbullah. It engages the power balancing struggle between Iran and Syria on one hand and Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the other. It also engages the seemingly infinite tension between Sunnis and Shias. However, regime-instigated social and religious contestation was not born of the current conflict. A battle of narratives about past, present, and future long predated the resort to arms. This is about class, regional, and sectarian divisions that run deep into Syrian soil. Through an analysis of state and regime policy can the persistence of authoritarianism be explained? Is sectarianism in Syria, although a complex intersection of class, regional, and religious distinction, deliberated manifested by decades of Ba„ath Party rule or is it primordial? I believe that an in depth exploration of the role of the regime, the state apparatus, and its policy making will explain vernacular politics in Syria. Through my research it became obvious that most of the scholars who conduct research on Syria have a longstanding antipathy towards the Assad dynasty. They are shocked, but not surprised at the Syrian forces‟ unflinching brutality over the past few years. Those who work primarily amongst Sunni Muslim religious leaders are less concerned by the alleged Islamization of the resistance than those who work elsewhere. Those who primarily research Syrian minorities are fearful with the possibility of a Sunni dominated Syria even if it is fully democratic. Those who spend most of their time documenting the work of the young, social media-savvy activists see them as the soul of a revolution against a monstrous, sectarian, outdated tyranny whose shelf life has come to an end. All of these observations are legitimate within the Syrian mosaic. This research assignment argues that it's still a popular uprising being crushed by a military dictatorship. It‟s 2014 and in Syria there is a whole host of strange bedfellows engaged in a seemingly endless bloodletting that is mainly conducted by the Bashar al Assad regime in a response to the Arab Spring in his own backyard. From the Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Sham to thousands of Hezbollah militants and Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Russian fascist mercenaries, everyone wants a piece of this wounded country. In Syria there is now a second uprising by the armed resistance not only against the dictatorship but also against the Islamic terrorist organizations the regime has helped to empower.

2 However, it cannot be denied that this dynamic is still very fragile and the risk of backsliding remains all too real. A divided Syria is shredding Lebanon because the Assad regime is stirring up their Lebanese supporters while hundreds of thousands of traumatized Syrian refugees are flooding into the country. Jordan is still standing but many predict it will be destabilized by a combination of Syrian refugees and rising Islamist power. Oil-rich Iraq with a US-backed Shia-dominated government allied with the Assad regime in Syria can barely hold itself together as Iraqi Sunnis are executed en masse in the name of the “war on terror.” Any talk of a “game over” that includes clear binaries already reflects a deep misunderstanding of the conflict. Syrians have family members in the regime‟s military just as much as they have family members in the regime‟s prisons. They are chain-smoking atheists and they are pious Muslim Brotherhood members. Do not try to simplify what is going on in Syria. You will fail. Chapter one is a summary of the origins of revolutionary thought in Syria; the exploitation, and occupation of Syrian lands by the Ottoman Turks and then the Christian colonialists of France. Syria is historically seen as the heartbeat of Arab nationalism and resistance to foreign military occupation. This was born out of the disastrous effects of not only French colonialism, but also the betrayal by the British powers during the first Arab rebellions, and the hunger for domination exuded by the Damascene bourgeoisie. At first, Damascus was untouchable by European foreigners. What with it being the former seat of the Umayyad Caliphate, it was a center of Islamic power. What were the nationalistic effects of Ottoman Turkish control and French colonial brutality on the Syrian people? How much were Syrian minorities manipulated and exploited by French Christian supremacists? Is this colonial meddling directly responsible for the reactionary forces that birthed Syrian armed resistance and the cause for national independence? The Sykes-Picot agreement was finalized before the Arab Revolt of 1916 had even begun, and later on, Palestine was cut in half by similar European colonialist forces. What rebellions and other acts of self-defense did these imposed traumas lead to for the average Syrian? Was sectarianism as much of an issue back then as it is currently? What are the narratives of the Sunni majority and the Alawite minority, respectively? At one point in history the minorities of Syria all had their own autonomy. Why did it end? Who are the non-Syrian Arabs who desired unification with Syria at this time even more so than many Syrian minorities? As a result of colonialist endeavors Arab lands ended up in Turkish hands. How did this effect Syria‟s first baby steps towards national sovereignty and independence? Although such revolutionary thought and action came to an abrupt end as a result of WWII, it was only temporary. France‟s horrific defeat at the hands of Nazi Germany proved to be a golden opportunity for the inhabitants of Greater Syria. The Syrian people have successfully overthrown both their Turkish and French occupiers. Does any foreign occupier, even with native government puppets, stand much of a chance in the face of such unrelenting indigenous campaigns for democracy? Chapter Two will delve into both the rise and fall of genuine Syrian Ba‟athism as it devolved into political corruption and hunger for power. The movement for Syrian independence created a new universe of Arab political thought, from the religious Muslim Brotherhood to the more secular nationalist PanArabism. What did these ideologies mean to the average Syrian and what are their Western misconceptions? What did the original proponents of Ba‟athism believe in? Has this movement for Arab solidarity created the opposite affect? Ba‟athist regimes rose beside one another in both Syria and Iraq, yet they were at each other‟s throats, and so were the politically radical military officers who led Syria‟s multiple military coups. How did the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and Zionist threats of expansionism affect Syrian government policy and behavior? The leaders of a newly independent Syria worked diplomatically alongside the proponents for a partition of Palestine. They were betrayed by their

3 European counterparts yet again. Did the humiliation in 1948 set the stage for the first Syrian military coups of 1949? How did Syrian revolutionary thought react to the Palestinian trauma? Why did Syrian minority representatives in the parliament vanish during the early 1950‟s? It is here that the internal struggle of Ba‟athism began to form; is this Arab solidarity in the name of resistance or is it Arab imperialism in the name of power and control? While the bourgeoisie conservative Sunni‟s leaned towards Iraq and the West, the younger more radical segments of Syrian society leaned towards Egypt and the Soviet Union. Why did movements for solidarity within Syria end up breaking communities apart? Syria‟s union with Egypt was a short-lived disaster. Did it set the stage for the first Ba‟athist military coup of 1963? Only three years later there was yet another Ba‟athist military coup that truly put the nail in the coffin for any serious Arab solidarity. Did this led to Syria‟s second major military defeat and humiliation at the hands of Zionism in 1967? What could have been done differently? The Syrian regime under Hafez al Assad became notorious for its multiple bloodlettings and betrayals of the Palestinian cause, yet the label of “resistance regime” remained encased in stone to many. How can this be? Ba‟athism in Syria proved to be a detriment to Arab solidarity, rather than a benefit. Was it corrupted or was this decline inevitable? Chapter Three will chronicle the tyranny of Hafez al Assad following his military coup of 1970. His oppression of the Sunni Syrian majority directly lead to the early beginnings of Islamist armed resistance in the 1980‟s. The devastation his regime left behind remains an open and infected wound in the Syrian revolutionary mindset of today. The end of the neo-Ba‟athist era birthed a ruthlessness that was previously unseen in its quest for power. Everyone who stood in its way was steamrolled. Whether they were Syrian, Lebanese, or Palestinian did not matter. Moderate voices were silenced as Ba‟athism cannibalized itself. The social contract between the people and the state began to break down. The double edged sword of modernization cut many down to size. What made Syria turn into such a militaristic Sparta? How severe was Hafez al Assad‟s cult of personality? How much of the bloodshed during Lebanon‟s civil war was a direct result of this Syrian tyranny? How could any of these atrocities be justified in the name of resistance to Zionism? What were the effects of the Soviet Union‟s collapse and the Iran-Iraq War on what remained of Pan-Arabism in Syria? The class warfare of the Syrian regime proved to be deeply connected to the rise of what would become the most fearsome police state in the Arab world. Chapter Four will document the collapse of Syria‟s Soviet style economy, the massive amount of socioeconomic injustice this manifested, Hafez al Assad‟s legacy, and the rise of Bashar al Assad. How much of an agent of Russian imperialism did the Assad dynasty evolve into? How does the long arm of Iranian imperialism use Syria to keep its grip on Lebanon? How could Bashar simultaneously support the Iraqi resistance to the US invasion while assisting George W. Bush‟s “war on terror”? Who and what is Hezbollah? I believe that what we are seeing today is a repeat of the 1963 Ba‟athist coup; a group of highly sectarian minorities with all the military might are stepping in to fill a vacuum, in this case, a resistance vacuum. Is Israeli aggression an excuse for pushing people towards the Assad regime in spite of its fearsome reputation of repression? How has unreconstructed Arab nationalism of the Cold War era led directly to moral blindness? What were the government policies of development that worked to deliberately fragment the Syrian people and prevent an opposition from growing? Did Pan-Arabism ever really stand a chance? Slogans are one thing and reality is another. Syria‟s Ba‟ath Party constituted a political platform only to perpetuate tribal and ethnic oppression in the name of power and control.

4 Chapter Five will chronicle the uprising of 2011 and its continuation up until today. Was the current revolution inevitable? Who are the pillars of this next stage in the Syrian revolutionary mindset? Where did the uprisings of 2011 begin and why? What was the government‟s reaction? How was the population intimidated and manipulated by the regime? The Syrian people are the silent majority of the region, and they were silenced through imprisonment and torture for decades. What were the sparks that set off the first demonstrations of the Arab Spring? Who is the Free Syrian Army? Are there similarities between the French occupation of the 1920‟s and the Alawite-dominated security state of today? Is this truly a secular regime or is it far more sectarian than previously imagined? What have been the international community‟s reactions to the savage violence inflicted upon the Syrian people by their own government? At what point does a revolution become a civil war, does a civil war become an ethnic cleansing? The Syrian state has become extremely tribalized by its government, and that tribalism is based on the force exercised by the security branches ruled by the warlords and their interested allies.

5 Chapter 1: “When you cherish someone you should cherish him moderately for he may be your enemy someday, and when you hate someone you should hate him moderately for he may be your friend someday.”- Imam Ali. Syria is what the Greeks originally named the land that was conquered by the native Arab population in 7th century. They referred to it as Bilad al Sham up until the 19th century when the Arab population began to use the originally Greek name again.1 In Islam the Righteous Caliphs, al rashidun, encompass only the first four caliphs beginning with Abu Bakr in the mid-6th century. He was elected to be Prophet Mohammed‟s successor and it was he who decided to conquer the surrounding lands, thus bringing Islam out of Arabia and into modern-day Iraq and Syria. Within two decades of Prophet Mohammed‟s death the region we today call The Middle East was almost entirely Muslim. The age of the Righteous Caliphs came to an end with the rise of the second of the four caliphates after Prophet Mohammed‟s death; the Umayyad Dynasty. It was founded by Mu‟awiya ibn Ali Sufyan, a Syrian governor. He ruled the Umayyad Caliphate from Damascus. The Umayyad clan came from one of the leading families of Mecca that had originally chased out Prophet Mohammed in 622 and fought against his mission to force the city to submit to Islam in 629. As the head of the Umayyad dynasty Mu‟awiya passed his crown down onto his son Yazid. Much like today‟s rulers in Damascus, the Umayyads were viewed by the majority as being illegitimate rulers because they had not won their power by popular opinion.2 The Umayyads were seen by the people has behaving too much like Romans; materialistic, lazy, and anti-religious. This is how Shi‟ism, the majority religion of modern-day Iraq and Iran, came into being; a group dissented from orthodox Sunni Islam, which was the Islam of the Umayyads. The dissenters identified with Ali and the rest of Prophet Mohammed‟s family. The Shia believe that Ali should have been the first caliph and that power should descend through Mohammed‟s daughter, Fatima. Ali‟s second son, Hussein, attempted a revolt against the Umayyads but he and his followrs were massacred at the Battle of Karbala in modern-day Iraq for refusing to submit to Yazid‟s tyranny. This is Ashura; the martyrdom made by Prophet Mohammed‟s grandson, Hussein ibn Ali.3 The Alawite religion is an off-shoot of Shia Islam, it deifies Ali even more than Hussein is by mainstream Shia, and it is the faith held by the current ruling dynasty in Damascus. Today, it‟s a minority closely related to the Shia that is responsible for turning the Sunni-dominated cities of Homs, Hama, and Aleppo into the new Karbalas. The history of French colonialism in Syria dates back to the era of the Crusades.4 The first Crusade begin in 1096 exactly 500 years after the first Muslim conquests of the Levant had begun. The Christian invaders from Europe failed to occupy the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Damascus.5 In the early 1700‟s the Greek Orthodox Patriarchs in Istanbul, Jerusalem, and Ankara decided to prohibit contact between French missionaries and subjects of the Ottoman Empire. They threatened those praying in these churches with fines and jail time. This led Christian Syrians, particularly in Damascus, to support the
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Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 1. 2 Benson Bobrick, The Caliph's Splendor: Islam and the West in the Golden Age of Baghdad (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012), 11-14. 3 Michael Axworthy, A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 123-125. 4 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 139. 5 Benson Bobrick, The Caliph's Splendor: Islam and the West in the Golden Age of Baghdad (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012), 233.

6 European Catholic missionaries and thus Arabism had come up against its first rival; the Greek Priesthood. The missionaries did not work among the Muslims, and were not aggressive or even assertive. They needed consent from the local population to be there in the first place. This changed in 1807 when a wave of Wahhabist ideas took hold of the Muslims in Damascus.6 Once the colonial powers had decided amongst themselves who would exploit what, Britain set its sights on Egypt while France looked towards Syria.7 This followed France‟s over-the-top colonialist ambitions that were a result of the devastation it endured because of the War of 1870.8 The Syrian city of Aleppo already had a French community. They established the first European trading station there in the mid-1500‟s. French and English traders started coming into Damascus only at the beginning of the 19th century.9 Damascus had a reputation for being very Islamic and intolerant to non-Muslim foreigners while Aleppo was more welcoming. Both of these Syrian cities were capitals in the Ottoman Empire and both were home to a large non-Muslim population, but Damascus was seen as being more sacred. It was a gathering point for those on the Hajj to Mecca. Meanwhile, Aleppo was more cosmopolitan and involved with trade in Europe. There were no European traders at all in Damascus while a large number of them were in Aleppo up until 1791.10 Following the previously mentioned wave of Wahhabism came the eventual economic decline of Aleppo in the 18th century as a result of the European traders being forced out by the local population.11 European foreigners were not trusted in the slightest. Damascene intolerance was based on legitimate fears of European colonizers along with the religiosity of the locals. Damascus was the location of the Umayyad Mosque, the local elite was ruled by a mufti, and many of the religious conservatives saw foreigners as impure.12 Trade in Damascus revolved around the Hajj and other Muslim interests.13 In the 19th century France and England were in competition for who could accumulate the most colonial outposts. France decided to reach out to Syria‟s Christians for influence.14The French authority designated itself as the protector of the Catholics of the Ottoman Empire. Later on they would eventually extend this protection to other minorities in the region who they could influence. It‟s a classic, textbook, colonialist move; divide and conquer the native people by giving privileges to the minorities, thus taking advantage of the persecuted elements within the community.15 It was at the end of the 1800‟s that European Christian colonialist intellectuals began to accept the concept of an Arab-Syrian nationhood.16For Europe, Islam was a bit of a trauma; fears of an “Ottoman peril” were constantly stoked by the more nationalist mouth-pieces for colonial endeavors. It was seen as a danger to Christian civilization.17 With Constantinople as its capital the Ottoman Empire was once the center of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for 600 years. In the aftermath of World War I it fell to pieces. The ongoing Russian expansion had been a threat to Ottoman stability since the late 1700‟s, their military
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Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 162. 7 Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 194. 8 Said, Orientalism, 217-218. 9 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 153-154. 10 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 150. 11 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 163. 12 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 157-158. 13 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 165. 14 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 139. 15 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 19. 16 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 2. 17 Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 59-60.

7 could not be modernized quickly enough, and the Russo-Turkish Wars of the late 1800‟s were crucial victories for Russia.18 Turkish territory continued to shrink, and following the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire had officially begun. By 1914 the Ottoman Empire had been driven out of Europe and North Africa. It controlled about 28 million people and 15.5 million of them were in modern-day Turkey. About 4.5 million people were still under Ottoman jurisdiction in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan, along with 2.5 million in Iraq.19 In 1916 the Arab Revolt, also known as the Sherifian revolt, began. Spear-headed by Sherif Hussein bin Ali, who was both the Emir of Mecca and the internationally recognized King of Hejaz, this was an indigenous Arab pushback against Ottoman nationalism and the anti-religious sentiment of the Young Turks.20 In 1914 Lebanon's Ottoman rulers imposed compulsory military service and Jamal Pasha, an Ottoman envoy nicknamed “The Butcher” publicly executed Lebanese nationalists who refused to serve the Turks in WWI.21 The Ottoman rulers had also been pressuring Sharif Hussein bin Ali to supply them with soldiers from Mecca that would fight in WWI .They were holding his son Faisal hostage in exchange for more military support. In June of 1916 he escaped with the help of his brother, Ali, while in Medina. Now that his son was free, there was nothing to hold Sherif back.22 The goal of the Arab Revolt was to create one single Arab state stretching from Syria to Yemen. It began with 5,000 soldiers and by 1918 there were 30,000.23 The troops were consolidated by the Allies through the release of Ottoman Arab POW‟s.24 Sharif‟s men were aided by the British, supported by the Egyptian Expeditionary Forces, and soon they took Damascus during the Battle of Aleppo in October 1918. Here a monarchy was established and ruled by Faisal. Sherif felt he was the best son and the best man for the job. Faisal‟s military maneuvers were the most successful because he had access to the most British intelligence through one of his close confidants TE Lawrence.25 Meanwhile, Lebanon had been wrecked by the Ottoman Turks. By the end of the war a terror-famine that was deliberately caused by Ottoman commandeering of food supplies killed 10,000 people in Beirut and Mount Lebanon.26 Unfortunately for the Arab world their blood, sweat, tears, and land had already been sold. They were promised through TE Lawrence that a national Arab homeland, with all its national sovereignty, could be established in Bab al Shams in exchange for their support of the British against the Ottoman Turks. They did not get control over the land that had already been theirs for centuries. What they got was the Sykes-Picot Agreement. It was finalized in the spring of 1916 before the Arab Revolt was underway. What remained of the Ottoman Empire was exactly where French and British colonialist interests overlapped. The British were already in Egypt and Iraq and were collaborating on a railroad project that crossed the Syrian-Mesopotamian border. France already saw itself as the ruler of the Christian minorities in the Levant. Britain and France had already engaged in secret meetings about what do to exactly with

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Patrick Balfour Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire (New York: W. Morrow, 1977), 405. 19 Sevket Pamuk, The Ottoman Economy in World War I (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), 112. 20 David Murphy, The Arab Revolt: 1916-1918 (Oxford: Osprey, 2008), 20-21. 21 Abdul Ilah Saadi, Dreaming of Greater Syria (Al Jazeera, February 15, 2008), http://www.aljazeera.com/focus/arabunity/2008/02/2008525183842614205.html 22 David Murphy, The Arab Revolt: 1916-1918 (Oxford: Osprey, 2008), 20-21. 23 Murphy, The Arab Revolt: 1916-1918, 34. 24 Murphy, The Arab Revolt: 1916-1918, 17. 25 Jeremy Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia: The Unauthorized Biography of TE Lawrence (New York: Atheneum, 1990), 548. 26 Abdul Ilah Saadi, Dreaming of Greater Syria (Al Jazeera, February 15, 2008), http://www.aljazeera.com/focus/arabunity/2008/02/2008525183842614205.html

8 the upcoming partition of Turkish territory. From this came the joint Anglo-French teams headed by Mark Sykes and Georges Picot. Sykes stated the following in a memorandum; “It was clear… that an Arab rising sooner or later to take place, and that the French and ourselves ought to be on better terms if the rising was not to be a curse instead of a blessing.”27 Greater Syria was to become different zones of influence for the French and British colonial authorities. As early as 1915 Sykes had proclaimed, "I should like to draw a line from the e in Acre to the last k in Kirkuk."28 The result of the secret accord in 1916 was the creation of nation-states where none had existed before. These random borders cut across family and community ties, thus laying the foundations for much of the instability that plagues the region to this day. Palestine was almost wiped off the map completely. It was imperial Britain‟s Lord Balfour, the Foreign Secretary, who put together a colonialist piece of documentation that opened the door for the European Jewish colonization of Palestine; the Balfour Declaration of 1917.29 The Jewish population of Palestine was 80,000 at this time, compared to over 700,000 Arab Palestinians, but the British wanted a permanent outpost in Palestine because of how close it is to Egypt. They wanted control of the Suez Canal. Sir Ronald Storrs, the British Military Governor of Jerusalem, referred to Egypt as “the jugular vein of the British Empire.” Palestine was officially open for colonial business. In the words of the Arab delegation to Winston Churchill in 1922, Jewish colonialism is “a ruthless doctrine, calling for monastic self-discipline and cold detachment from the environment… They believed in equality, but only for themselves.”30 The French Mandate over Syria began in 1918.31 The French worked with the Sunni upper classes because they owned most of the land. This was only a few hundred wealthy families.32 In the early 1920s French control was formalized by the League of Nations and French occupation forces were moved from the Mediterranean coast to the cities of Damascus and Aleppo. The Syrian people were not planning to go along with this quietly. The French colonial powers suppressed a series of popular armed rebellions against its occupation of Syria. An Alawite leader by the name of Sheikh Salih al Ali and his militia resisted the French military occupation from 1919 to 1921.33 This was one of the first acts of resistance against the French occupation forces. The Alawite sheikh called a meeting, prepared his town for a revolt, the men were placed into military ranks, and women worked the fields. Salih and his men had several initial victories, which prompted the French to relentlessly shell the villages of al Sheikh Badr and al Rastan. However, they did not know the land and they were outnumbered. In the summer of 1919 Sheikh Salih and the French occupation forces agreed to a truce, which the French quickly broke.34 Salih al Ali worked alongside other uprisings within Syria, including the rebellion led by Ibrahim Hananu in Aleppo and Antioch. Ibrahim Hananu was an Aleppian who led rebel militias between northern Syria and southern Anatolia. Ibrahim came from a Kurdish background, was educated in Constantinople, and had
27 28

Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 220-221. James Barr, A Line in the Sand (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2012), 12. 29 Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1983), 90. 30 Edward Said, The Edward Said Reader (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), 140. 31 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 3. 32 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 2. 33 Daniel Neep, Syria: The Analogies of History (Royal United Service Institute, January 17, 2013). http://www.rusi.org/publications/newsbrief/ref:A50F81E304A2FF/#.UvnXHmKSzwL 34 Matti Moosa, The Extremist Shiites: The Ghulat Sects (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1987), 282-283.

9 briefly taught at the military academy before joining Faisal‟s Arab Army. They entered Aleppo with the Allies in 1918. Unfortunately his revolt collapsed and he was captured in 1922.35Both Salih al Ali and Ibrahim Hananu had worked with Yusuf al Azmeh, the Minister of War and Chief of Staff under Faisal. Before joining the Arab Revolt in 1918 he graduated from the Ottoman Military Academy in Istanbul. Faisal had reluctantly given into French demands in Damascus, but Yusuf refused to submit. He immediately raised a small militia and prepared himself for martyrdom. He and his men left Damascus for the mountainous region of Mayasulun where they met their fate. The next day the French occupation forces under General Gouraud took Damascus.36 A Druze leader named Sultan al Atrash led a rebel militia made from Syria‟s Druze community until they were put down in 1922.37 In the fall of 1923 the French took control of the territory that would officially become the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon. General Gouraud reportedly went to the tomb of Saladdin, kicked it, and said: "Awake, Saladin. We have returned. My presence here consecrates victory of the Cross over the Crescent." More revolts broke out in northern Syria, especially Damascus.38 The native resistance to the French occupation culminated in the Great Syrian Revolt that lasted from 1925 to 1927. It lasted over two years and united Syrians from across class, ideological and sectarian divisions. The Syrian armed resistance formed a decentralized organization made up of para-military units from various individual neighborhoods. The revolt began in the Druze region of southern Syria in the summer of 1925 as a reaction to the brutality of the local French colonial governor, Gabriel Carbillet.39 Upon his returned from his ten month exile in Jordan Sultan al Atrash sent a delegation to Beirut warning the French High Commissioner about the possible consequences of Carbillet‟s atrocious behavior. The delegates were imprisoned by the French and the Druze of Syria decided it was time for a rebellion lead by Sultan al Atrash.40 It started as an exclusively Druze rebellion, but it spread north to the mostly Sunni populations of rural Damascus, Hama and Homs. At first the Sunni nationalist elite within Damascus were not supportive. This popular uprising against the French occupation was viewed as a threat to their political power. Regardless, the Damascene bourgeoisie found themselves outnumbered by the wave of public anger against the colonialist power. France responded to the nationwide revolt with savage violence that included the tactic of collective punishment. Syrian villages suspected of complicity with the resistance were targeted by bombardments from the land and the sky. French occupation forces were instructed to shoot first and ask questions later. The villages that became the backbone of the uprising suffered from a kidnapping campaign by the French. Political leaders and rebel commanders were placed under house arrest. Many had their properties razed to the ground, were imprisoned, tortured, and eventually publically executed to terrorize the civilian population. Bodies upon bodies of Syrian people were piled in the public squares by the French. Much to the chagrin of the French occupation forces many of the Syrian rebels were skilled in the art of modern warfare. They had fought in the Ottoman army, in the army of King Faisal, and they had
35

Daniel Neep, Syria: The Analogies of History (Royal United Service Institute, January 17, 2013). http://www.rusi.org/publications/newsbrief/ref:A50F81E304A2FF/#.UvnXHmKSzwL 36 Karl Ernest Meyer, Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008), 359. 37 Daniel Neep, Syria: The Analogies of History (Royal United Service Institute, January 17, 2013). http://www.rusi.org/publications/newsbrief/ref:A50F81E304A2FF/#.UvnXHmKSzwL 38 Karl Ernest Meyer, Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008), 359. 39 Daniel Neep, Syria: The Analogies of History (Royal United Service Institute, January 17, 2013). http://www.rusi.org/publications/newsbrief/ref:A50F81E304A2FF/#.UvnXHmKSzwL 40 Joyce Laverty Miller, The Syrian Revolt of 1925 (London: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 550-553.

10 been formally schooled at Ottoman military academies in guerrilla warfare tactics. Rebel leaders wrote manuals comprising of what they knew and then sent these manuals out to the local population. One of these, written by Said al As, detailed how best to take down French aircraft with the use of targeted riflefire. The use of airplanes was adored by colonial authorities at this time because of how easily they could subdue an unruly indigenous population. Said al As referred to them in his manual as “no more than weapons of fear, terror and delusion.” The Syrian resistance militias grew the more peasants‟ lives were brutalized by the French occupiers. The rebellion temporarily brought all Syrian people together, from Druze radicals to the bourgeoisie of Damascus. The Great Revolt was a nationalist uprising, but the rebel leaders knew that it could be portrayed as a sectarian revolt by French colonialist authorities. They argued that the Syrian mosaic needed an iron first to rule it otherwise these allegedly unruly savages would just kill each other. It cannot be denied that there were rebel attacks on Christian villages who were accused of complicity with their French Catholic protectors. Said al As acknowledged the danger of hostility towards Syrian Christian communities, writing that these attacks would “alienate the hearts of the Christ ian sons of the one nation, our brothers in nationalism and the homeland.” Sunni resistance fighters did refer to themselves as mujahideen, but it was used as a synonym for “rebels,” rather than in its religious connotation. Unfortunately, sufficient numbers could not be mobilized to allow for a lengthy, sustained rebellion. This is what led to the failure of the Great Revolt.41 6,000 Syrian people were killed and 100,000 were left homeless by the French after two years of resistance. Most of the internally displaced people made their way to the devastated cities of Damascus and Hama even though both were not prepared in the slightest to care for this many dispossessed people. One year after the uprising had been put down the French sent the rebellion‟s leadership, including Sultan al Atrash, into exile. France‟s goal within the Sykes-Picot agreement was to include as many minority groups as possible under their jurisdiction. Plans for an independent Arab homeland were thrown away and the British assumed full control over the territory corresponding to Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine. Meanwhile, the French took Syria and carved out Lebanon from it to create a Christian state that would be cooperative towards French colonial ambitions. Needless to say, this was a radical change for the Syrian people. The Turkish Ottoman Empire was overflowing with Sunni orthodox Islam. The Sunni majority in the cities of Hama and Aleppo could see their religion perfectly linked with their Ottoman rulers, but when the French began to impose their rule over them this was something completely different; European Christian imperialism. The French colonialist agenda was to be very pro-minority because it was these marginalized communities who were to be recruited into the military set up by the colonial authorities. The French assumed that these minorities would be less loyal to their country because of how much they have been oppressed. The French assumption was correct and the military was soon dominated by Syrian minorities seeking employment. One minority in particular took over the army; the Alawites.42 They began taking up positions in the military in 1946 while the Sunnis saw military service as collaboration with the French colonialist occupiers.43 The Alawite community was a tool in the old divide-and-rule strategy of colonial government, and thus were given privileged treatment. Their narrative includes themes of oppression and impoverishment. They originated as a peasant, mountain community that has suffered religious persecution. They are an off-shoot of Shia Islam and this break from traditional orthodoxy is a thousand years old. There are many in the global Sunni community who, to this day, do
41

Daniel Neep. Syria: The Analogies of History (Royal United Service Institute, January 17, 2013). http://www.rusi.org/publications/newsbrief/ref:A50F81E304A2FF/#.UvnXHmKSzwL 42 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 19. 43 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 3.

11 not see the Alawites as being legitimate Muslims. The Alawite leader, Abdullah al Khasibi, claimed that Ali was the most divine and the most perfect example of how followers of Islam should be. Many who practice orthodox Sunni Islam see Alawites as heretical extremists for worshipping Ali too much, sometimes even placing him in a superior position to Prophet Mohammed. Because the Alawites see Ali as being the only perfect human manifestation of God they tend to venerate him more. They believe he guided Prophet Mohammed towards his destiny and that he wrote the Quran. Alawites thoroughly deify Ali and this is similar to how Christians view Jesus; he is man and God simultaneously. When the Ottomans conquered Syria in 16th century they referred to the Alawite community as “the lost nation” because the Sunni jurists and theologians labeled them as apostates, which means in the most extreme terms that they should be punished for their blasphemy and it‟s permissible to exterminate them based on their perceived religious inferiority.44 Greater Syria was carved up into four different areas; the Lebanese republic, the Syrian republic, an Alawite state with Latakia as its capital, and a Druze state within Jebel Druze. The proposed autonomous Alawite state included the historical mountain homeland of their community, Jebel Ansariyah. The original French plan of giving autonomy to both the Alawite and Druze communities came to an abrupt end in 1936 with the Franco-Syrian Treaty. The more urban, aristocratic, elitist Sunnis running Damascus forced the French to cave in to their demands and the French ended up breaking their promises to extend protection and power to the Syrian minorities. Some Syrian individuals were okay with this and some weren‟t. In both the Alawite community of Jebel Druze and the Kurdish community of Jazirah many people liked this change because they wanted to get away from the French and fully believed in Syrian independence. However, many disagreed with this and wanted the French to stay due to their anxiety over possible future oppression at the hands of the Sunni majority. Many felt that these elitist urban Sunnis were using the cause of national independence to sugar-coat their desire for complete domination. Lattakia had been the seat of an Ottoman governor and many Alawites were at the mercy of their oppressive, sectarian Sunni landlords. Subordination of the Alawite people had been even more extreme in other Sunni-majority cities.45 In the 19th century many Alawites were forced to leave their protective mountain community and go work in Hama in order to make ends meet. Here they remained the poor, working, lower class.46 The Alawites were faced with the eternal dilemma of the minority; do we assimilate and risk persecution or do we separate out of a need for protection and risk further isolation? A petition advocating for a continued Alawite autonomy was signed by several prominent Alawite notables and was sent to the French government. It asked for Alawite independence under a mandate of continued French protection. One of the points made in this petition was the ongoing violence in Palestine. The Alawite signatories used this as evidence of the possible dangers they could face if forced to live under the subordination of a Sunni Muslim majority. As a direct result of the ongoing, relentless colonization the Jewish immigrants in Palestine who had done nothing wrong to their Arab neighbors were being equating with the Zionists. There were riots and anti-Jewish pogroms.47 The Alawites who signed this petition identified not with the Arab natives of Palestine who were being brutalized and dispossessed of their country, but rather with the Jewish European settlers who were
44 45

Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 15-17. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 19-21. 46 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 18. 47 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 21.

12 planning the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. One of the signatories of this petition was an Alawite man named Sulayman al Assad who came from a village called al Qardaha. His son, Hafez el Assad, would come to rule Syria with an iron-fist several decades later. Nothing came of the Alawite cry for assistance and the Syrian nation-state that emerged from under French control included the Alawite, Druze, and Kurdish territories that once had a very precious autonomy. Sunni governors were placed in charge of the Druze and Alawite areas of the new Syrian state and the marginalization of the minorities was instant. The rural, religious Sunnis saw the Alawites as heretics while the more urban, aristocratic Sunnis saw the Alawites as the poor, inferior mountain people who did not deserve to run the country, much less their own state.48Although the Sunni Syrian nationalists had gained the Alawite, Druze, and Kurdish territories they were still not satisfied with the result of negotiations with the French because Lebanese independence from Syria was seen by them as a great loss. The newly independent state of Lebanon included the Bekaa Valley with its Shia Muslim majority and the coastal cities of Tripoli, Beirut, and Sidon with their Sunni Muslim majorities.49 After 1918 the Bekaa Valley was ruled by King Faisal form Damascus before it was annexed to Lebanon. The region is economically important to both the Syrians and the French. Modern Lebanon was established in 1920 and Syrian nationalists have been wanting a reunion ever since. Both Syrian moderates and nationalists agreed that the return of Tripoli was essential because they felt that Syria was too dependent on Beirut for a link to the sea. Tripoli‟s inhabitants were mostly Muslims who wanted unification with Syria anyway. In the summer of 1936 Syrian nationalists demanded the return of regions within Lebanon that were annexed in 1920. The Lebanese Maronite community saw this as nationalist meddling and attempted land thievery.50 Syrian nationalist threats to the existence of a Maronite state increased Lebanese Christian desires to seek French protection. In turn, France exploited Lebanese Christian fears of Muslim-domination in order to keep their influence. Some Syrian nationalists were against the concept of regaining Tripoli. As a Muslim majority city, if removed, it could strengthen Christian sectarianism in Lebanon. Most Syrian nationalists could not put aside these territorial disputes and first work to regain the trust of the Maronite community in order to undermine French influence.51 In the fall of 1936 France gave Syria its national sovereignty, including the Jabal Druze and Alawite regions. Two months later in Beirut the French colonial authorities signed a treaty with Lebanon also guaranteeing its national sovereignty. Syrian nationalists were adamantly against this. They campaigned in Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, Tyre, and Baalbek thus creating tension and fighting between the Christians and Muslims. The Syrian nationalists did not want Lebanon to be allied with France, no matter what the cost.52They believed that after the French Mandate came to an end in Syria it would turn Lebanon into a strategic base in the Middle East and become a permanent threat. French socialists and Communists strongly disliked how the French colonial authorities were favoring Maronites and Syrian minorities; the Druze and Alawites. They could see that this was only enraging the Muslim majority in the process, thus exacerbating the Syrian nationalist movement. Syrian delegates in Paris and Syrian nationalists in Damascus urged the pro-Syrian Muslims in Tripoli, Beirut, and Sidon, along with Shia leaders in Tyre, Jabal Amil, and Bekaa to petition the French authorities and to organize pro-Syrian demonstrations. There
48

Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 22-25. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 23. 50 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 191. 51 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 193. 52 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 191.
49

13 were general strikes and large scale demonstrations occur. Syrian newspapers were accusing the Lebanese Maronites of being isolationist while Lebanese newspapers were accusing Syrian nationalists of wanting to destroy Lebanese independence. While the French maintained a tight grip on Tripoli the British were discussing the possible partition of Palestine. Now the Syrians, both moderate and nationalist, were truly outraged. They began to campaign for the transformation of Sidon into a Syrian port that would link the Shias in southern Lebanon to Damascus, thus putting a wedge between Christian Lebanon and the proposed Jewish Palestine. Even after signing the Franco-Syrian Treaty of 1936 the Syrians were unwilling to recognize Lebanese independence. The European threat to colonize Palestine exacerbated this.53 Lebanese Muslims began to call on the ruling Lebanese Christians to prevent the treaty with France from becoming a military alliance. They wanted Lebanon to be either linked with Syria or to get an autonomous status similar to what the Alawites, Druze, and Turks already had in Syria. Nationalists in Beirut and Tripoli held strikes and demonstrations in support of a union with Syria and this lead to unrestrained violence at the hands of the French army. Hundreds of Lebanese people were wounded, killed, and arrested. In the end France got what it wanted; complete freedom in Lebanon. Damascus was outraged, thousands of Lebanese Muslims demonstrated in Beirut, and government offices were destroyed. The appearance of reactionary Christian forces was a result of this Muslim-dominated violence, and the Phalange was born. It was originally a youth movement that was organized to defend Christian owned property during these riots. The French army was rushed to Beirut to prevent any Muslim-on-Christian violence, the street battle lasted for 24 hours, and hundreds of Muslims were wounded by French occupation forces. The cycle of violence in Lebanon had begun, and under these circumstances France could not annex the Jebel Druze and Alawite region to Syria.54 Now Syria‟s own treaty with France was at stake. The Lebanese Muslim demonstrators began to reconsider their options; should they protect themselves from French colonialism within an independent Lebanon instead of unify with Syria? The Syrian delegates in Paris were still demanding Tripoli as a port, but to no avail. This is because the French already felt that they had given the Syrians a port; Alexandretta. However, the Sanjak province of Alexandretta had a large Turkish population that had retained some autonomy since 1921. The Syrians knew that Turkey wanted to keep Alexandretta and they used this as leverage against the French when demanding control over Tripoli. The Franco-Syrian Treaty came to an end almost as soon as it was born and by 1937 the Syrian nationalists had renewed their campaign for unification with Tripoli. The French then decided to give control of the Alawite villages near Tripoli to Lebanon; massive outrage, riots, and protests ensued. The French colonialists disliked the treaty with Syria since the beginning. They deliberately prevented its ratification in 1937 and again in 1938. However, the French were very satisfied with the Lebanese treaty. It allowed them to gain a military alliance that they could use to protect their economic interests and the pro-French Maronites at the same time. Syrian-Lebanese relations were left without a just solution.55 Another trauma to the Syrians, both nationalists and moderates, was the loss of Alexandretta to Turkey in 1939 after it gained independence in 1938. The province of Alexandretta, known as Iskenderun in Turkish, was given to Turkey by France and it became part of the province of Hatay. Due to European

53 54

Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 195-197. Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 199-200. 55 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 201-203.

14 meddling the Turks were left in control of Arab lands and Syria has never forgotten this.56The province had a mixed population of minorities including Alawites, Christians, Armenians and Turks. What was left of the Ottoman Turkish establishment in the capital city of Ankara wanted it no matter what. It was a nonnegotiable, so France eventually caved in and gave it away.57A French-Turkish treaty signed in 1921 rendered the Sanjak of Alexandretta autonomous, and it stayed this way until 1923. In that year a peace treaty was signed in Switzerland, known as the Treaty of Lausanne, which officially ended war between Turkey and the other major players of World War I and this is when the province of Hatay was attached to the State of Aleppo. In 1925 it was re-attached to the French mandate over Syria. The Turkish elections of 1936 brought into power politicians who favored not only Syrian independence from France, but also the independence of territories from Syria that the Turks saw as belonging to them. World War II was on the horizon and the Hatay province had military importance for both France and Turkey. The same year Hitler began his annihilation of Poland is when Turkey was handed the Hatay Province by France.58 Syria‟s first president, Hashim al Atassi, resigned in protest over the loss of Hatay and demanded that France refuse to annex the territory especially because the Franco-Syrian Treaty of 1936 stipulated as such. In 1920 al Atassi was elected the chairman of the Syrian National Congress and it declared its independence as a constitutional monarchy with al Atassi as it‟s Prime Minister in that short period before the betrayal of the Sykes-Picot Agreement. His cabinet was dissolved following Yusuf‟s martyrdom at Mayasalun. Hashim al Atassi founded the National Bloc in 1927 and it would lead the Syrian movement for national independence over the next twenty years. He had seen armed resistance fail and decided that diplomacy and rule of law were the way to secure his country‟s future. The French High Commissioner forcibly shut down the National Bloc‟s activities and imprisoned Hashim al Atassi for several months. In 1934 Hashim al Atassi helped to organize general strikes and demonstrations that would breathe new life into the National Bloc. Riots raged, the economy came to a standstill, and the French agreed to recognize the National Bloc leaders as the sole representatives of the Syrian people. Hashim al Atassi was summoned to Paris for diplomatic talks and by 1936 he formulated the Franco-Syrian Treaty of Independence. It guaranteed 25 years of freedom from French control and the incorporation of all previously autonomous territories, including Alexandretta, into Syrian hands. He was hailed as a national hero and was elected President of the Republic in the fall of 1936. This is how he earned the title of the first head of state of modern Syria. Only a few years later the dark cloud of World War II came over the horizon. France had still not fully withdrawn all their occupation forces from Syrian lands, people began to lose faith in the power of the National Bloc, the French went back on their word by handing over Alexandretta to the Turks, and Hashim al Atassi threw in the towel. He spent a whole year hiding away in a deep depression in his native city of Homs. In his absence the atmosphere of WWII had taken over the politics of his country.59 In 1940 came the fall of France to Nazi Germany after only six weeks of fighting and Syria came under the domination of Vichy France. The British and the French began the Syria-Lebanon Campaign the following year and Syria proclaimed its independence from France. While the French were occupied by Nazi Germany the people of both Syria and Lebanon found that some of their colonial shackles had loosened. In the fall of 1943 the Lebanese Maronite community severed their ties with France and wanted
56 57

Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 288. Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 23. 58 Robert Fisk, The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East (London: Fourth Estate, 2007), 335. 59 Daniel Pipes, Greater Syria: The History of an Ambition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 26-30.

15 complete independence. Lebanon became a founding member of the Arab League and only then did the Syrian nationalists of Damascus accept Lebanese sovereignty within its 1920 borders.60The following year, in 1944, France was liberated by the Allies and Syria was officially recognized as an independent republic, but even this was not enough to fend off France‟s colonial ambitions. In the spring of 1945 they bombed Damascus and arrested as many of Syria‟s democratically elected leaders as they could get their hands on. As French warplanes were attacking Damascus, the Syrian Prime Minster was at the founding conference of the United Nations and presenting his county‟s claim for independence from the unrelenting French colonizers. Faris al Khoury was a Christian minister and a speaker of Parliament was born in what today is Lebanese territory. He was elected to be the Prime Minister of Syria in the fall of 1944 and to this day it is still the highest political position a Syrian Christian has achieved. It was the Muslim bloc in the Syrian Parliament that fully supported Faris‟ appointment. Faris al Khoury was the first Syrian statesman to visit the US as he was representing his country at the 1945 inauguration of the UN. Syria was one of the original 53 founding members. Faris al Khoury‟s charisma and impassioned speech quickly won over many American diplomats and the process of Syria's independence had begun.61 Continuing pressure from both Syrian nationalists and the British authorities forced the French occupation troops to fully withdraw from Syrian territory in the spring of 1946. Syria gained its independence and was left in the hands of its own republican government. Until the mid-nineteenth century Syria had a self-sufficient economy that was agricultural and trade based. The Suez Canal opened in 1869 but the Ottoman Empire had economic difficulties during the 1870‟s. The Syrian economy suffered and it did not fully overcome the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after WWI. The Syrians were not in charge of their own economy until after WWII because of the French Mandate. The Syrian aristocrats of Aleppo and Damascus were powerful under both the Ottomans and the French, so the younger generation that followed WWII severely disliked them. They saw them as nothing more than corrupt elders who were French puppets.62Twenty years after Syria‟s independence the previously mentioned Alawite-dominated militia created by the French colonial authorities would claw their way to the top of the social ladder and take over the Sunni bureaucratic class. They would become ruthless military officers and take over the state. The Sunnis would come to feel what the Alawites had known for decades; the betrayal of Arab nationalist solidarity. The Alawites were denied their own state by the Sunni majority, but they ended up conquering the whole country from the inside. Rather than being used as a vehicle for reconciling the minority with the majority, nationalism was instead used by the majority to marginalize the minority, and within two decades the minority would flip the tables using the state apparatus that was born of European colonialism. Syria‟s history, between 1920 and 1946 respectively, reveals that a “political Syria” is determined by the Aleppo-Mediterranean-Damascus triangle.63 Syria has historically been the heart of the Arab nationalist struggle against Zionism, and all other forms of European subjugation of the Arab peoples. Modern Arab nationalism emerged in Syria in early

60

Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 203. 61 Sami Moubayed, Good Christians and Orientalists to the Bone (The Washington Post, December 24, 2007). http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/sami_moubayed/2007/12/good_christians_and_orientalis.html 62 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 60-61. 63 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 25.

16 20th century.64 It was during the 1950‟s that the Pan-Arab socialist Ba‟ath Party began to win more and more seats in the Syrian parliament and it allied itself with the military in order to improve its political power.65 Both the Ba‟ath Party in Syria and the Free Officers Movement in Egypt were based on rejecting anything Western and European. This was exacerbated by the Nakba in 1948; the ethnic cleansing of Palestine at the hands of Jewish European colonizers, the establishment of Israel, and the Arab armies‟ humiliating defeat at the hands of the Jewish State. A tidal wave of anti-imperialist, anti-Israel, and proPan-Arab socialist dogma overcame the entire region.66 Now the Syrians were threatened by an alliance between the Jewish state, Jordan, Turkey, and Britain.67 The Syrian nationalists wanted to keep their republic sovereign at first, but this changed in the 1930‟s as the wave of Pan-Arabism hit the region and the Syrians sought Iraqi support against the French colonial authorities during this decade. Syrian nationalism, and a desire to unify with Iraq, was a reaction to French exploitation and brutality. When the Syrians shook off their pro-Iraqi sentiments they saw themselves as victims of Arab imperialism, a plot that had been spearheaded by the Fertile Crescent campaign devised by Iraqi leaders.68This is the eternal struggle of Syrian Ba‟athist thought; what is Arab solidarity and what is Arab imperialism? Michel Aflaq, a Syrian Christian from Damascus and the chief ideologue of Ba‟athism, was a student in France during the 1920‟s and 1930‟s. Michel Aflaq and his close friend Salah al Bitar, a wealthy Sunni Muslim from Damascus and the future co-founder of the Ba‟ath Party, were captivated by Marxism. It was the French Communists whom both Aflaq and Bitar developed an interest in because they were outspoken advocates for the cause of Syrian independence. Aflaq expressed a staunch dislike for Nazism while working on the editorial committee of a Communist daily paper known as Al Talia. This paper published such editorials as “The Nazi Brutes Murder Their Adversaries” in 1935 and “Everyday Racism Under Hitler” in 1936.69 In 1941 he became a writer for Al Tariq, the daily paper that was published by the League to Combat Fascism and Nazism. Both Syrian and Lebanese Communists created this organization. It was through Aflaq‟s writing for this particular Communist paper that two future Ba‟athist politicians, Sami al Jundi and Jalal al Sayyid, came to know him. In 1941 Michel Aflaq published an essay that offered a warning about the “nationalism that comes to us from Europe.” His writing laid out the differences between Ba‟athist socialism and Germany‟s National Socialism. Aflaq rejected both Germany and Italy‟s fascism on a theoretical level because they were “based on the ideal of racial supremacy and discrimination between nations.” The alleged right of one specific race of people to dominate the world went complete against his values. So did the concept of legalized discrimination between different individuals belonging to the same nation. Aflaq described European fascism as being “bent on expansionism and colonialism,” thus he rejected it on practical grounds as well.70 Article 11 of the 1947 Ba‟ath Constitution states, “Anyone who advocates creating an anti-Arab racist bloc or joins one, as well as anyone who has immigrated to the Arab fatherland with colonialist aims, shall be

64

Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 257. 65 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 3. 66 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 62. 67 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 214. 68 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 257. 69 Gilbert Achcar, The Arabs and The Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010), 66-68. 70 Achcar, The Arabs and The Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, 70-72.

17 expelled.” This was added to the constitution with Palestine in mind. The disastrous Partition Plan was to be manifested by the United Nations that same year. Zaki al Arsuzi, an Alawite from Lattakia, created his own Communist group separate from and independent of Aflaq‟s organization; the Arab Ba‟ath. It was Arsuzi, not Aflaq, who first used the term ba‟ath and although he believed in a doctrine of racial superiority it was a complete opposite of what Nazism stood for. Arsuzi believed that the Semitic peoples, including non-Arab Jews, were biologically superior to the Germans. In an essay written in 1938, Arsuzi declared, “As for the Jews, my opinion is that Arabs and Jews should come to an understanding in this world and cooperate in order to re-establish the Arabs‟ glory and realize the Semitic genius, which is the Judeo-Arab genius.” He took nationalistic, not antisemitic, inspiration from the doctrines of racial superiority within the Nazi movement. Sami al Jundi was not comfortable with this in the slightest and neither was Jalal al Sayyid who took a strong disliking to Arsuzi‟s “categorizing people as slaves or masters.” Arsuzi was to be excluded from the beginnings of the Ba‟ath Party in 1939. Jalal al Sayyid worked with Aflaq and Bitar to found the nucleus of what was to become the Ba‟ath Party and by 1944 Arsuzi‟s group had broken up. Most of his followers joined Aflaq and Bitar the following year. Sami al Jundi stuck with Arsuzi until 1946. He too succumbed to the call of the Ba‟ath Party following Syria‟s independence.71 Those who are looking for an Arab reincarnation of German Nazism need look no further than Antun Saadeh. A Lebanese Christian, he founded the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP) in 1932. He was an unabashed Germanophile and made no secret of his admiration for Hitler while teaching German at the American University of Beirut. The expansionist polices of Nazi Germany touched him the most. The “Syrian” in SSNP refers to the idea of a Greater Syria on steroids; it would encapsulate the lands of Palestine, the Sinai, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and the island of Cyprus along with modern-day Syria. Saadeh‟s organization is a literal copy of the German NSAP, including doctrines of racist pseudoscience, a personality cult, and a Swastika-like flag. Saadeh‟s ideology was made up of a very severe Christian sectarian fanaticism going so far off the rails as to separate Syrians from Arabs. It was Saadeh who came up with the racist notion that the Mediterranean Syrian civilization and culture was superior to not just African Arabs but to all Muslim Arabs. This far-right political party is what German government officials in Berlin circa 1935 proudly proclaimed to be the Syrische Volkspartei; the Syrian People‟s Party. Being an ultra-nationalist Christian, Saadeh believed antisemitism to be an intractable aspect of Christian identity. Not only did he fully believe the myth that the Jews killed Jesus, but he also believed that Islam and Judaism were inferior to Christianity on an equal level.72In the fall of 1935, three years after secretly founding the SSNP, he was arrested and sentenced to six years in jail. It would not be the first time his extremist, sectarian politics sent him behind prison walls. In 1943, while living in Argentina, the French colonial authorities sentenced him in absentia to two decades imprisonment.73 Simultaneously, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria paralleled the rise of Ba‟athist thought and they both have had a place in Syria since the 1930‟s.74 The ideas of Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, made their way to Syria through the young Syrian graduates of Cairo University. Mustafa al Siba‟i, the dean of the Faculty of Islamic Jurisprudence and the
71 72

Achcar, The Arabs and The Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, 68-69. Achcar, The Arabs and The Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, 74-75. 73 Michael Johnson, All Honorable Men: The Social Origins of War in Lebanon (New York; Oxford, Center for Lebanese Studies; 2001), 150. 74 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 78.

18 School of Law at the University of Damascus, became the leader of the Syrian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1945. In 1941 he established a religious paramilitary group based on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood; Shabab Mohammad. It was part of the National Bloc and worked to resist the French occupation.75 Women‟s involvement in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood goes back to the 1950‟s. A young activist named Amina Sheikha met Mustapha al Sibai and then organized a Syrian Sisterhood that worked to recruit women. The Syrian Sisters had a leading role in the organization the Muslim Brotherhood‟s decision-making circles. It was the brutal state repression that would come later in the 1970‟s and early 1980‟s that delayed their rise to power.76 The newly independent Syria, dominated by big, Sunni, land owning families and its successive governments were to be deposed through several military coups. As a result of the subsequent instability political life was dominated by Arab nationalism, the Syrian Communist Party, and Islamic fundamentalism. In the 1930‟s the Palestinian struggle for liberation was radicalized alongside the Syrian campaign for independence. Sheikh Izz ul Din al Qassam, a Sunni Syrian Imam from Jableh village who had studied Islamic theology in Cairo, organized and lead an armed resistance in Palestine 1935. He had previously lead military exploits against both the French occupiers and their Alawite collaborators before being exiled to the Palestinian coastal city of Haifa in 1921. His militia carried out attacks on the European colonizers for several years before choosing death rather than surrender in the fall of 1935. Qassam and thirteen of his followers met their fate in a similar fashion to Yusuf al Azmah at Mayasalun in 1920.77 In 1936 a representative from the Jewish Agency for Palestine met with one of the leaders of the National Bloc in Syria; Fakhri al Barudi. The National Bloc had solidified itself as a liberal, Westernizing body working towards Syria‟s independence while simultaneously stopping others from crossing the border and joining Qassam‟s resistance.78 One year after Syria‟s independence came the UN Partition Plan for Palestine and Syria was one of the members of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Syria and the other Arab states proposed a resolution to the conflict in the fall of 1947 and the Arab states pointed out that almost 300,000 European Jewish immigrants had already been admitted to Palestine between 1933 and 1946 compared to only 65,000 to the United Kingdom and about 200,000 to the United States. Rather than legalize the theft of Palestinian land and turn someone else‟s tiny country into one large Jewish refugee camp, the Arabs states made recommendations through UNSCOP and they were submitted to the General Assembly in November of 1947. Their recommendations were not adopted.79 UN General Assembly Resolution 181 allowed 52% of Palestine to be given to the Jewish nonArab minority, and 45% of Palestine was given to the indigenous Arab Palestinian majority, even though there were 1.3 million Palestinian Arabs living in this country at the time. Both the Palestinian capital, Jerusalem, and the Palestinian city of Bethlehem were placed under international control. Before the Partition Plan of 1947 European Jewish settlers in Palestine owned only 6% of the land. This institutionalized racism on behalf of the colonialist British powers turned 50% of the indigenous Arab

75

Sami Moubayed, Steel & Silk: Men and Women Who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Seattle: Cune; 2006), 340-341. Raphael Lefevre, The Rise of the Syrian Sisterhood (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 25, 2013). http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/2013/04/25/rise-of-syrian-sisterhood/g173 77 Gilbert Achcar, The Arabs and The Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010), 134-136. 78 Achcar, The Arabs and The Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, 39. 79 Achcar, The Arabs and The Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, 48-50.
76

19 majority into a subjugated minority overnight.80 Menachem Begin led a terrorist group called the Irgun, and Yitzhak Shamir, the head of another Zionist terrorist organization known as the Stern Group, were wanted a little more.81 In March of 1948 Jewish Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion oversaw a plan to ethnically cleanse the Jewish half of Palestine with a campaign of terror that would drive out as many Palestinians as possible; Plan Dalet. Villages were incinerated, blown up, encircled and shot to pieces. Every Palestinian village that was reachable was to be either militarily occupied or burnt to the ground. The Palestinian civilians were to be either massacred or chased out. The Palestinians did not have any major weaponry or military personnel, but the European Jewish terrorist groups certainly did.82 According to multiple Haganah historians all Palestinian villages within the 1947 Partition line that that resisted Jewish demands were to “be destroyed ... and their inhabitants expelled beyond the borders of the Jewish state,” and "Palestinian residents of urban quarters which dominate access to or egress from the towns should be expelled beyond the borders of the Jewish state in the event of their resistance.” The Palestinian people literally had to create something out of nothing in terms of self-defense. The Arab Liberation Army was set up by the Arab League comprised of 6,000 Syrian volunteers and was led by Fawzi al Qawuqji. The Arab League Military Committee‟s headquarters were in Damascus.83 Fawzi al Qawuqji was a Turkoman from a Syrian-Lebanese family residing in Tripoli and he became the leading military figure of Arab nationalism in the interwar period. He served in the Ottoman military during World War I, supported Sherif‟s short-lived monarchy in Damascus in 1920, fought in and survived the suicidal Battle of Mayasulun, and then joined the Great Syrian Revolt in 1925.84 He lead the uprising in Hama against the French occupation forces and the heavy French aerial bombardment of Hama the day after Fawzi helped to liberated the city killed 344 Syrian people, 355 were arrested, 144 homes were destroyed, and Fawzi was sentenced to death in absentia by the French colonial authorities.85 Fawzi al Qawuqji evaded capture and made his way to Palestine where he helped to led militias against the Jewish European colonizers during the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939.86 Syria had 12,000 soldiers at the beginning of the 1948 war and the Syrian Air Force had fifty planes, but it was a drop in the bucket compared to the weaponry and scorched earth tactics unleashed by the Jewish Zionist militias.87 The colonizers wanted see their Jewish state be grounded in European, rather than Arab, culture. This is not a Zionism that says Jews belong to the Near East. Rather, it proclaims that the Near East belongs to the Jews.88 The Arab armies of the Middle East, including Syria, were worthless compared to the Jewish colonialist paramilitary organizations. 6,000 Jewish combatants and 15,000 Arab combatants died in the first Arab-Israeli War. No official Palestinian state was created on the 22% of the land that the Zionists had not gotten their hands on.89 By 1949 roughly 500 Palestinian villages and towns were ethnically cleansed and/or destroyed and roughly 750,000-800,000 Palestinian people were
80 81

Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 (New York: Knopf; 1999), 186. Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1983), 94-95. 82 Tom Segev, One Palestine Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate (London: Brown Little; 1999), 496. 83 Efraim Karsh, The Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Palestine War 1948 (New York; Rosen Publishing, 2009), 22. 84 Gilbert Achcar, The Arabs and The Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010), 92. 85 Sami Moubayed, Steel & Silk: Men and Women Who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Seattle: Cune; 2006), 79. 86 Michael Provence, The Great Syrian Revolt and Rise of Arab Nationalism (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005), 3-5. 87 Joshua Landis, Syria and the 1948 War in Palestine (Blog, 2001). http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/Joshua.M.Landis1/Syria_1948.htm 88 Gilbert Achcar, The Arabs and The Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010), 62. 89 Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: One World, 2006), 83.

20 dispossessed of their homes.90 Immediately after the premeditated ethnic cleansing and the announcement of Israel‟s statehood in 1948 the Palestinians who had fled in terror were labeled as “absentee landlords” by the Israeli government and their properties were confiscated.91Al Nakba (the catastrophe) refers to both the terror campaign of ethnic cleansing and the refusal of the Jewish state to allow the Palestinian refugees to return home.92 They were expulsed from 78% of their country.93 The Syrian government‟s policy in Palestine was disastrous. Arab leaders wished they could defeat the Zionists and preserve Palestine, but they did not believe it was possible. From 1946 onwards every Syrian newspaper warned that the country would have to go to war to protect the Palestinians and the Syrian people demanded that their government arm the country. Shukri al Quwwatli, the first president of an independent Syria, as early as 1946 felt that Syria could not save Palestine. Quwwatli‟s main concern for his newly independent country was to keep the Hashemites at bay, especially his Jordanian rival for power King Abdullah I of Jordan.94 Abdullah and his forces moved to Jordan following the fall of Damascus and the defeat at Mayasalun in 1920. It was Winston Churchill who struck a deal with Abdullah, asking him for his continued support of British policy. Abdullah agreed and was rewarded handsomely; the British created a protectorate for him and this was to become the state of Jordan. In the spring of 1946 his powerful British friends made sure he was crowned King. Abdullah was of an imperialist mindset; he dreamed of ruling a Greater Syria that encompassed not only Syrian territory, but also Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine. The newly independent people of Syria and Lebanon weren‟t too comfortable with this expansionist monarchy who was allied to the British and wanted to impose himself upon them.95 Quwwatli lived in constant anxiety that King Abdullah would invade Syria and kill Syrian independence just as soon as it had been born. Syrian lands had been divided by the European powers at the end of WWI and King Abdullah wanted them all back and all under his thumb. President Quwwatli‟s biggest concern was to stop this expansionist Hashemite plan before even considering offering any major military support to Palestine. The war against Zionism was placed on the back burner. Shukri al Quwwatli‟s own army was very small and certainly not capable of defending Palestine and warding off the British-backed Jordanian military at the same time. After the heartbreaking defeat in Palestine the Syrian press and Parliament immediately blamed the government and its failure to adequately prepare the Syrian military. The Syrian commanders of the Arab Liberation Army returned to their positions in the Syrian army in 1949 and they were all nourishing their resentment towards the corrupt political order that had sent them on a mission that was doomed from the start and had lost Palestine in the process.96 Constantin Zureiq, a prominent Damascene Syrian Christian academic and pioneer of Arab nationalist thought, was the first use the term Nakba, writing;

90 91

Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 90. Edward Said, The Edward Said Reader (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), 154. 92 Gilbert Achcar, The Arabs and The Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010), 22. 93 Achcar, The Arabs and the Holocaust: the Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, 184. 94 Joshua Landis, Syria and the 1948 War in Palestine (2001). http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/Joshua.M.Landis-1/Syria_1948.htm 95 Avi Shlaim, Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace (New York: Knopf, 2007), 10-12. 96 Joshua Landis, Syria and the 1948 War in Palestine (2001). http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/Joshua.M.Landis-1/Syria_1948.htm

21 “The defeat of the Arabs in Palestine is no simple catastrophe nor an insignificant, fleeting evil, but a catastrophe in the full sense of the word, an ordeal more severe than any suffered by the Arabs in their long history of ordeals and tragedies.”97 He strongly felt that rationalist intellectualism is what could save the Arab people from their ongoing humiliation and defeat at the hands of European imperialists. Constantin believed in the power of a secular democracy while simultaneously sanctifying the importance of the Prophet‟s message to humanity. To him the connection was obvious; when Islam flourished and prospered so did Arab civilization. This was his “revolution of reason.”98 As for the inability of the Arab peoples to prevent the immense trauma that was the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, Constantin wrote the following; “Seven Arab states declare war on Zionism in Palestine, stop impotent before it, and turn on their heels. The representatives of the Arabs deliver fiery speeches in the highest international forums, warning what the Arab state and peoples will do if this or that decision be enacted. Declarations fall like bombs from the mouths of officials at the meetings of the Arab League, but when action becomes necessary, the fire is still and quiet and steel and iron are rusted and twisted, quick to bend and disintegrate.”99 The shame and despair brought on by the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and subsequent defeat in 1948 opened the door to future instability and trauma in Syrian life. All confidence in the very young parliamentary democracy had been shattered and the first in a long line of military coups took place in the spring of 1949. Husni al Zaim was a Kurdish-Syrian politician who had been an officer in the Ottoman army, he was made Chief of Staff following Syria‟s independence in 1946, and he had led the Syrian army into Palestine in the hopes of saving it from the hands of the European colonizers. The military coup he led in 1949 was bloodless and it was given the green light by the CIA.100 He was supported by the West not out of some deeper empathy towards Arab self-determination, but because the US wanted someone more friendly towards them in this newly independent country. Shukri al Quwatli was an ally to Egypt and Saudi Arabia while Zaim wanted to renew the idea of unification with a pro-Western Iraq.101 Quwwatli had been democratically elected, but his failure to save Palestine had caused the public to turn on him, and so the time was right for America to seek some influence. By 1949 he found himself exiled in Egypt following his brief imprisonment at the hands of Husni al Zaim. Zaim promised his American supporters that he would not only democratically reform the country, but that he would also recognize the new state of Israel.102 Colonel Adib Shishakli, one of the commanders of the Arab Liberation Army, was more than happy to assist in the overthrow of Quwwatli and engage in some vigilantism against the incompetent government who had sent him on a failed mission into Palestine.103 Like Za‟im he was a Syrian of Kurdish ancestry, but he was also an early member of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP); the previously mentioned Nazi Party clone nourished by German government officials in the name of Arab
97

Elizabeth Suzzane Kassab, Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 73. 98 Kassab, Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective, 65-67. 99 Kassab, Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective, 70. 100 David Little, Cold War and Covert Action: The United States and Syria, 1945-1958 (Middle East Journal #44, 1990), 1. 101 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 214. 102 David Little, Cold War and Covert Action: The United States and Syria, 1945-1958 (Middle East Journal #44, 1990), 1. 103 Joshua Landis, Syria and the 1948 War in Palestine (2001). http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/Joshua.M.Landis-1/Syria_1948.htm

22 nationalism.104 Later that summer came the second military coup, this time at the hands of Colonel Sami al Hinnawi. This too was assisted by Shishakli and the SSNP. Both Za‟im and Prime Minister Muhsin al Barazi were brought to the Mezze Prison in Damascus and quickly executed.105 Barazi came from a prominent Sunni land-owning family in Hama and he had worked alongside both Constantin Zureiq and Zaki al Arsuzi in politically challenging France‟s occupation of Syria. Upon Za‟im‟s rise to power al Barazi was given the task of peace talks with Israel and he successfully extradited Antun Saadeh, the previously mentioned founder of the SSNP, to Lebanon where he was executed. In return for this the Lebanese government vocally supported Zaim. The extradition and execution of Antun Saadeh had helped to set the stage for Zaim‟s downfall at the hands of the SSNP.106 Hashem al Atasi became the new Prime Minister and suddenly all talk of a unification with Iraq came to an end. The Hashemite monarchy in Iraq decided that, clearly, Syria was still too unstable, what with its constant military coups.107 Still, the pro-Hashemite sentiment was too much for Shishakli‟s comfort level, and he too performed his own military coup in December of 1949. Everyone would suffer under Shishakli‟s pro-SSNP military rule. Newspapers were banned and all political parties were dissolved, including the National Party of Damascus, the People's Party of Aleppo, the Communist Party, the Baath Party, and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. America had supported the more fascistic, secular, power-hungry elements within Syrian society and this was the end result; Shishakli‟s Nazi-inspired tyranny.108 Adib al Shishakli, who sought support from the West, maintained the armistice agreements with Israel, and kept all Iraqi influence at bay. He was courted by Britain and took financial support from the US in exchange for settling Palestinian refugees in Syria and bestowing Syrian citizenship upon them, thus openly engaging in the Zionist plot to erase the Palestinian people from history all while being fully supported by his SSNP backers. In the 1952 the US and Syria spoke about possibly engaging in a $400,000,000 deal that involved settling 500,000 Palestinians in the Jazira plains between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.109 By 1953 there were no more Syrian minority representatives in the assembly and this was a result of political persecution by Shishakli. No one was safe from him in this environment and the secular fascists of the SSNP had been empowered and their goal was to “Arabize” public life the way they saw fit. During this decade is when Syrian minorities began to flood the Ba‟ath Party and replace the traditional positions of the Sunni upper class. While the Sunni land-owners were passing on their political power through their family ties the Ba‟ath Party specifically recruited the poor, the marginalized, and the Communist. The pre-1958 history of Syria saw an urban Sunni establishment subjugate the countryside and its minorities, especially Alawites. It was a continuation of decades of sectarian oppression. A Druze revolt against Shishakli‟s tyranny was crushed by the Sunni-dominated government in 1954.110 A process of national integration was carried out by force as Shishakli campaigned for dominance and the destruction of the Druze‟s semi-autonomy. He made no effort to conceal his plans for democide of the Druze leadership, often proclaiming, “My enemies are like a serpent: the head is the Jebel Druze, the
104 105

Sami Moubayed, Steel & Silk: Men and Women Who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Seattle: Cune; 2006), 308. Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 215. 106 Sami Moubayed, Steel & Silk: Men and Women Who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Seattle: Cune; 2006), 204-205. 107 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 215. 108 Sami Moubayed, Steel & Silk: Men and Women Who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Seattle: Cune; 2006), 208. 109 Joshua Landis, Early U.S. Policy toward Palestinian Refugees: The Syria Option- The Palestinian Refugees: Old Problems – New Solutions (PDF, 2001), 77. 110 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 3.

23 stomach Homs, and the tail Aleppo. If I crush the head the serpent will die."111 A new school of revolutionary thought amongst the Druze community of Syria began to take shape as a direct result of Shishakli‟s persecution and their marginalization at the hands of the Sunni merchant class. The smear campaign committed against the Druze was particularly vile. Shishakli launched a brutal campaign to defame the Druze for their religion and politics. Shishakli and his SSNP affiliated supporters accused the entire community of treason; one day the Druze were agents of the British, one day they were agents of Israel, and so on and so on. The Syrian Druze had played an enormous role in the resistance against the French occupation, and now a pro-Western tyrant who collaborated with the Zionist project for money was demonizing them to within an inch of lives. This is the resentment that Druze military officers nourished as they planned the military revolt that wrote the last chapter in Shishakli‟s dictatorship.112

111 112

Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria (Royal Institute of International Affairs: Oxford University Press, 1965), 132. Joshua Landis, Shishakli and the Druzes: Integration and Intransigence (Blog, 1998). http://facultystaff.ou.edu/L/Joshua.M.Landis-1/Joshua_Landis_Druze_and_Shishakli.htm#_ftn8

24 Chapter 2: "I was only a child when the Great War broke out in 1914, but I had already begun to perceive and comprehend. The first thing that suddenly occurred to me, having witnessed, felt and actually experienced the affliction of my people, was this questions: What was it that brought all this woe to my people?"- Antoun Saadeh, from prison in 1935. In February of 1954 the Communists and Ba‟athists of Syria worked alongside the Druze chieftans to overthrow Adib al Shishakli. The movement was led by former Syrian president Hashim al Atassi and Druze leader Sultan al Atrash; two living examples of the personification of Syrian revolutionary thought and resistance to tyranny. The rebellion exploded and an armed uprising escalated. A civil war that could tear the country apart was on the horizon. Shishakli knew it and he did the right thing; he stepped down. He fled the country and the parliamentary system was restored.113 The Syrian politicians who wanted to unify with Iraq were the Sunni conservative elites, but the leftist nationalists from Egypt had much more influence on the younger generation. Although the tyrant had been overthrown by the people, Syrian society was splitting in half. On one hand there were the conservative elites who were pro-Iraq and pro-Western and on the other hand there were the young nationalist radicals who were pro-Egypt and pro-Soviet Union.114 Between 1954 and 1955 the People‟s Party in Syria wanted a pro-Western alliance with Turkey and Iraq, but these sentiments were extremely short lived because more hostile relations with the Turks were also a reaction to the rise of anti-Western politics among Syrians. From the mid-1950‟s onward relations with Turkey were practically non-existent.115 The antiAmerican sentiment in Syria reached an all-time high as a direct result of the CIA‟s meddling and the West‟s massive support for the Jewish state. This was what made many Syrians look east towards the Soviet Union for economic aid and support on the world stage. Nasserism was on the rise; the radical leftist Pan-Arab school of thought encompassing socialism and nationalism born of Gamal Abdel Nasser‟s rise to power in Egypt 1952.116 The Suez Crisis exploded four years later and Syria signed a pact with the Soviet Union and thus the Syrian government was flooded with Russian military equipment for the first time. The Hashemite monarchy of Iraq took their pro-interventionist, Pan-Arab sentiment to a new extreme by unsuccessfully trying to overthrow the regime in Damascus in an attempt to stop the rise of these pro-Soviet, leftist radical Ba‟athist types.117 One of these radicals was a young Alawite man who was the first to leave his poor rural mountain village and attend a Sunni-dominated school in Lattakia.118 He excelled in school and joined the Ba‟ath Party in 1946 while his friends adhered to the SSNP. As a teenager he worked to organize Ba‟athist student groups made up of poor, anti-establishment Sunnis. He and his radical leftist comrades were constantly getting into altercations on campus with proponents of the Muslim Brotherhood. They still represented the wealthier, land-owning, Sunni bourgeoisie at this time. This young, Ba‟athist, politically driven, Alawite man was named Hafez al Assad. He graduated from the
113 114

Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria (Royal Institute of International Affairs: Oxford University Press, 1965), 134. Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 216. 115 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 229. 116 Naveed Sheik, The New Politics of Islam: Pan-Islamic Foreign Policy in a World of States (London: Routledge Curzon, 2003), 34. 117 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 216. 118 Sonia Alianak, Middle Eastern Leaders and Islam: A Precarious Equilibrium (New York: Peter Lang, 2007), 7.

25 Air Force Academy in Aleppo 1955 and was sent to Egypt for further training that same year.119 The “crisis” of the Suez Canal in 1956 was that Gamal Abdel Nasser had nationalized it, thus threatening the economic interests of America, Israel, Iraq, and Turkey. Both the West and its allies in the region were breathing down Nasser‟s neck for such a bold move. Egypt feared military retaliation from all of them. An air-defense mission was in order. Hafez al Assad was one of the Syrian pilot who flew to Cairo in 1956 to show Syria‟s support for Egypt.120 By 1958 a pro-Egypt tidal wave swept across the Arab world.121 In 1958 the short-lived United Arab Republic was born. Syria and Egypt merged as countries and they were both lead by President Nasser. Michel Aflaq believed that this was the beginning of his dream becoming a reality; a truly united Arab world. He even agreed to dissolve the Ba‟ath Party once Nasser was placed at the helm. Communist control was tossed aside in favor of Egyptian influence. Many outspoken Communists within the Syrian Air Force were even dismissed from their positions.122 That summer there was also a military coup in Iraq and the Hashemite monarchy was overthrown completely.123 The Pan-Arab Free Officers of Iraq were a direct copy of their Egyptian counterparts. The movement was led by Abd al Karim Qasim; an Iraqi military officer of Kurdish descent. King Faisal II, the Crown Prince, and the Prime Minister were all executed.124 One would think that, finally, the radical leftists of Syria could rest more easily knowing that the British servants within the Iraqi Hashemite dynasty had met their end during the same year that a unification with the radical leftists of Egypt had been finalized. Unfortunately, this was not the case. By the fall of 1958 a new rivalry for power, rather than a movement for Arab solidarity, had been manifested. The UAR was under Nasser‟s rule and Iraq‟s new authority, Qassim, targeted Syria for Iraqi influence in order to check Nasser‟s power.125 Once again, like with Iraq‟s expansionist endeavors in the 1930‟s, this attempt at unity with another Arab state was also partially seen as an Egyptian plan to control and exploit Syria‟s economy. Damascus became defensive when dealing with Cairo as a result.126 Even between staunch ideologues such as Nasser, Aflaq, and Qassim, a genuine Pan-Arabism still could not manifest itself. When Syria gained its independence in the spring of 1946 its national flag was green, white, and black with three red stars. It had been flown as early as 1932 and it was an important rallying symbol for Syrians opposed France‟s broken promises of troop withdrawal following the outbreak of WWII. It remains, in the eyes of many, Syria‟s most revolutionary flag because it‟s represents a time of armed resistance and self-defense against the savage violence of foreign occupiers. Upon the birth of the United Arab Republic and Gamal abd al Nasser‟s rise to power in both Egypt and Syria, the flag was altered; it became red, white, and black with two green stars. Because of its socialist and pro-Soviet leanings Syria‟s Ba‟ath Party should‟ve been seen as an ally by Nasser, but this is not what transpired. His single party, the National Union, not only replaced the Ba‟ath Party but he also completely rigged the elections. The
119 120

Alianak, Middle Eastern Leaders and Islam: A Precarious Equilibrium, 128. Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria (Royal Institute of International Affairs: Oxford University Press, 1965), 50-51. 121 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 217. 122 Kathy A. Zahler, The Assads' Syria. (Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2009), 32-34. 123 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 217. 124 Charles Tripp, A History of Iraq (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 7. 125 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 217. 126 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 257-258.

26 Ba‟athists won only a small percentage of the seats in parliament while the elitist urbanized Sunni bourgeoisie was handed the majority.127 Meanwhile, Lebanese President Camille Chamoun opposed Nasser and saw the UAR, as well as the growing personality cult, as threat to the fragile stability in the region, and he was absolutely right. By the spring of 1958 a civil war broke out in Lebanon between Chamoun‟s Maronite supporters and those within the Muslim and Druze communities who politically aligned themselves with Nasser. Many were still pining for a possible unification with Syria. As far as Nasser was concerned the military coup in Iraq had removed all obstacles to complete Arab unification.128 However, what he saw as solidarity, many Syrians saw as imperialism. The military was festering and growing restless; an election had been rigged, Ba‟athist agency had been checked, and the minorities were still too marginalized. A group of Syrian Ba'athist officers who were alarmed by the party‟s poor position and the increasing fragility of the union with Egypt formed a secret military committee to address these issues. It was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Muhammad Umran, Major Salah Jadid and the previously mentioned Alawite air force captain who had flown over Cairo in support of Nasser‟s nationalization policies, Hafez al Assad. Colonel Umran, also an Alawite, had served in the 1948 war for Palestine and took part in the uprising against Shishakli‟s tyranny.129 Salah Jadid, another Alawite, graduated from the Homs Military Academy and was a member of the SSNP before joining the Ba‟ath Party in the 1950‟s. This military committee was originally formed in an effort to preserve the Ba‟ath Party and the UAR at the same time.130 The Ba‟ath Party's Third National Congress in 1959 had supported Michel Aflaq's decision to dismantle it, but only one year later at the next National Congress, in which Jadid was a delegate, the decision was reversed. They wanted to democratize the union from within. It was the faction led by al Hawrani, not Salah Jadid, who demanded that Syria secede from the UAR. By 1961 that‟s exactly what happened.131 Syria‟s union with Egypt and falling for the seduction of Nasserism, although temporary, had proven to be one of the biggest mistakes in the country‟s history. When Syria seceded from the United Arab Republic the backlash against Nasserism was led by Nazim al Qudsi. As the leader of the post-UAR government he relentlessly persecuted Salah Jadid and his colleagues for their pro-Nasserist sentiment. All of them were forced to retire from the Syrian Army. Qudsi had many axes that he was waiting to grind; he had clashed with the National Bloc in the 1930‟s over the loss of Alexndretta to the Turks, he lobbied against Shukri al Quwwatli, and in 1947 he founded the People‟s Party in his native Aleppo, which was funded by the Hashemites of Iraq. Za‟im had shut this down, and thus Qudsi was fully supportive of al Hinnawi‟s coup. Qudsi was dead set on a mission to unite Syria with the Hashemites of Iraq and he became Syria‟s head of state through democratic elections in the winter of 1961 following the breakup of the UAR. While repressing the Ba‟athists and Nasserists he moved Syria closer towards the anti-Nasser governments of Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, along with engaging the West. Qudsi courted both the American and British governments and US President John F. Kennedy looked upon him with favor as he put together a new constitution for Syria, allowed all the formerly prohibited political parties to come back into the public life, and got his hands on a few loans from the World Bank.132 Even though he despised Qassim for overthrowing the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq they both had the same enemy; Egypt‟s Nasser. In 1962 Qassim and President Qudsi had their first
127 128

Robert Henry Stephens, Nasser: A Political Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971) 337. Said K. Aburish, Nasser: The Last Arab (New York: St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books, 2004), 164-166. 129 Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria (Royal Institute of International Affairs: Oxford University Press, 1965), 62. 130 Sami Moubayed, Steel & Silk: Men and Women Who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Seattle: Cune; 2006), 260. 131 Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria (Royal Institute of International Affairs: Oxford University Press, 1965), 60. 132 Sami Moubayed, Steel & Silk: Men and Women Who Shaped Syria 1900-2000 (Seattle: Cune; 2006), 260.

27 conference and decided to create an alliance of their own against the leftist threat coming from Egypt. As previously mentioned, the Syrian conservative elites of Damascus had been very threatened by this Egyptian wave of radicalism.133 It became obvious to the militant Alawite Ba‟athists of Syria that the system was rigged against them. The Sunni oligarchy continued to use patronage to keep the minorities in their place.134 In 1963 the Ba‟athist officers began to concentrate their power and they would only get more extreme over the next two decades. All of their rhetoric focused on taking down the establishment and it was the rural minorities, including the Ismailis, Druze, and Alawites, who would soon unite to pull off yet another military coup.135 Both the establishment and the dissolution of the United Arab Republic were huge errors for the Ba'ath Party in Syria because it created more division and fragmentation between the traditionalists and the more radically minded. The Ba‟athists who held tight to their politics during the years of the UAR became more rigid in their beliefs and it is true that the Alawite leaders of the coup of 1963 were very young, but it cannot be denied how much the traditional elite had lost their political power. The officer corps alone was very anti-regime and consisted of mostly Nasserist and Ba‟athist factions. While the Ba‟athist military officers planned the overthrow of the Qudsi regime the Ba‟athist civilians looked upon their actions with fear and anxiety because the reason for the alliance between the military and the Ba‟athist Party in the first place was to prevent any repression. Michel Aflaq was at the head of this civilian political leadership, but he wanted Jadid, Hafez, and the rest to seize power. There‟s no denying that. It was Mohammad Umran who informed Aflaq of their plans to overthrow the government a whole year before the military coup took place. Aflaq gave him his blessing, and thus a fatal error in judgment was made; there had not been any negotiations or agreements between the military leadership and the civilian leadership within the Ba‟ath Party on how to share power.136 In the coup of 1963 the Ba‟athists beat out the pro-Egyptian Nasserists, the Communists, and the urbanized elitist Sunni nationalists who believed in a Greater Syria. Michel Aflaq and Salah al Din al Bitar took over the officer corps and ruthlessly pushed aside all other rival political parties.137 The Ba‟ath Party became just as important as weaponry. At first, it did a decent job at covering up any and all personal and sectarian impulses about power hunger and racism, but this honeymoon was to be very short-lived. Michel Aflaq hated religion because of the abuses that occurred under this Sunni domination. He connected religious, orthodox, Sunni Islam to the old social order that he wanted to dismantle. Aflaq wanted to see Ba‟athism become the next step in the evolution of Syrian nationhood, perhaps replacing religious dogmas altogether.138 Ba‟athists rose to power in Iraq alongside Syria in 1963. Qassim was overthrown and the opposition was given a hand by the CIA. The Ba‟athists of Syria and Iraq both experienced numerous internal struggles and they both wanted to be the one true Ba‟ath regime, so even with a Ba‟athist regime in each country unification was not possible.139

133

Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 217. 134 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 4. 135 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 27. 136 Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria (Royal Institute of International Affairs: Oxford University Press, 1965), 72-75. 137 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 27. 138 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 18-19. 139 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 217-218.

28 A new power struggle had begun between the Ba‟athists and what remained of the Nasserists within the officer corps. A new union with Egypt was desired by many and they worked to organize large demonstrations in support of Nasser‟s rule. Most Syrian nationalists felt the same way. The Ba‟athists within the government and the military had finally gotten the power they felt they deserved and now someone wanted to take it away from them. However, that “someone” was the majority of the Syrian public. The authoritarian route, rather than the democratic route, was taken. They consolidated their control over the military by purging several hundred Nasserists and traditional Sunni conservatives. Sunni control over the state-security apparatus was shattered. The poor minorities from the countryside were plucked up out of obscurity and placed in the shoes of the officer corp. Amin al Hafiz, an Aleppian who was part of the Syrian army delegation that visited Gamal Abdel Nasser 1958, emerged as Syria‟s first militant Ba‟athist tyrant. The legitimacy of Ba‟athist rule was lost in the streets as a result of the crackdown on the Nasserists, it was lost amongst upper classes because of the harshness of their socialist policies, and it was lost in mosques due to its fascistic secularism. Even the Communists were outraged because of the single-party system the Ba‟athists wanted to implant within the government. The Sunni Muslims, the majority of Syria‟s population, were Arab nationalists, but they were not card carrying members of the Ba'athist establishment. The domination of the government by the minority groups from the countryside birthed a fatalistic urban–rural conflict combined with enhanced sectarianism.140 So here was Ba‟athism, the allegedly ultimate form of Pan-Arab unity, and it had finally become large and in charge in Syria, but everyone was unhappy. The stage was set for another military coup. The year of 1964 saw the first violent clash between the militant, secular, minority-based Ba‟athists and the pious, Sunni-dominated Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. A popular, democratic, Muslim uprising against repression took place in the city of Hama. The Ba‟athists had taken out the Nasserists, the Communists, and now came the next segment of the Syrian population that they needed to crush in order to maintain their power; the Islamists. General strikes and massive demonstrations were met with Ba‟athist-controlled police brutality. Those who lead the resistance were encouraged by their imams and they were financed by the Sunni merchant class. A riot exploded in the streets of Hama and Amin al Hafiz ordered tanks to heavily bombard city. Heavy artillery rained down for two days, the minaret of the mosque collapsed, and over one hundred Syrian people were murdered by their own army. The combatants who survived were imprisoned and tortured under the watch of a senior military officer named Mustafa Tlass. The destruction of the Sultan Mosque of Hama, and the murder of the armed resistance fighters within it, outraged Syrian Muslims across class lines and numerous strikes and demonstrations erupted throughout the country. From the poor Sunni Muslims of the countryside to the elite traditionalists of the cities the opposition to Ba'athist government policy was widespread. However, Amin al Hafiz did the right thing in the end; he resigned. Salah al Bitar, took his place. He publicly promised reforms, measures for justice, and even a new constitution, but the people of Syria would be severely disappointed. Salah al Bitar was not a part of the officer corp. Like Michel Aflaq he was a civilian, and they held very little control over governmental decisions. The bloodletting in Hama 1964 was so traumatic that it even splintered the Military Committee. Muhammad Umran was horrified by the crackdown while Salah Jadid and Hafez al Assad nodded their heads approvingly of Amin al Hafiz and

140

Raymond A. Hinnebusch, Syria: Revolution from Above (London: Routledge, 2001), 44-46.

29 Mustafa Tlass‟ atrocities. Hafez referred to the victims as "class enemies.”141 In the mind of Hafez al Assad, as early as 1964, the vast majority of the Syrian people were labeled as “class enemies.” By 1965 all internal unity had collapsed within Syrian political life. Sensing a threat to his political power Salah Jadid launched a military coup in February of 1966 and ousted the founders of Ba‟athism; Michel Aflaq and Salah al Bitar.142 Hafez al Assad become both the defense minister and the commander of the air force. Following his consolation of power the Alawite community‟s political strength continuously increased within the military-security apparatus of the state.143 The coup of 1966 was a result of paranoid fears of conspiracy along with ongoing rivalries within the Ba‟athist circle. Michel Aflaq was forced to leave the country and he practically disowned Syrian Ba‟athism.144 It was the most radical socialist faction of the Ba‟ath Party, the Syrian Regional Command, that came to power in Damascus in 1966 and it was done without Michel Aflaq‟s blessing. He sided with the Pan-Arab National Command; the Iraqi faction of the Ba‟ath Party who came to power in Baghdad in 1968. Sami al Jundi was part of the radical socialist takeover in Damascus and was the Syrian ambassador to France at the same time. He insisted on not burning bridges entirely with the former colonialist entity. This, he believes, was one of the reasons his fellow Ba‟athists imprisoned him on trumped up charges of traitorous behavior following Israel‟s devastating war of aggression in 1967. Jundi wrote a memoir in 1969 in which he revealed himself to be a very harsh critic of his successors.145 In his memoir Sami al Jundi waxed poetically about the early days of Ba‟athism in Syria. In 1952 there were only 500 members and no village was too far away for them to assist. Ba‟athist physicians were sent out to these remote villages to take care of the poor for free. However, it would be political prisons, rather than charity and Arab solidarity, which would become the trademark of Ba‟athism. The Mezze prison would come to personify how “yesterday‟s heroes became today‟s villains.” According to Jundi all his colleagues were obsessed with wanting to outdo Nasser and raging against the Sunni elders they felt were corrupted by Westernization. “We fulfilled the desires of imperialism as we shouted against it,” he wrote. The Ba‟ath Party de-evolved into nothing more than a mafia with numerous rivalries, each one killing the other for power and control.146 Unlike their predecessors, Salah and Hafez were not educated in France, nor were they cosmopolitan in the slightest. They were very anti-modernization and anti-Westernization. They were not open to any private enterprise on their soil. They had a hair-trigger with their military might and many blamed their recklessness for the epic failure of the 1967 war against Israel.147 Even Yasir Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization had tried to throw off Ba‟athist Syrian control. He wanted nothing to do with such corruption of Pan-Arabism. In 1966 Hafez al Assad had him locked up in Mezze prison for 55 days.148 In 1967 came the Six Day War. Israel invaded Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and it militarily occupied the remaining 22% of Palestinian land. Menachem Begin openly admitted that it was a preemptive strike, saying “…we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai
141 142

Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria (Royal Institute of International Affairs: Oxford University Press, 1965), 94-95. Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 218. 143 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 3. 144 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 28. 145 Gilbert Achcar, The Arabs and The Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010), 69. 146 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 30-32. 147 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 28. 148 Alan Hart, Arafat: A Political Biography (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 205.

30 approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”149 320,000 Palestinian people were ethnically cleansed from their land.150 Israel began to construct illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Israel also invaded and ethnically cleansed Syria‟s Golan Heights. One thousand Syrian people were expulsed and illegal Jewish-only settlements were built.151 The Syrian regime had, in an effort to force the UN to demand Israel abide by a cease-fire, announced the fall of the Quinetra Governate in the Golan Heights three hours before the Israeli military actually took it over. The Golan Heights were given up in an effort to avoid any more confrontation between Syria and the overwhelming Zionist threat. Hafez al Assad's rise to power was bound up with a right-wing reaction to Ba'athism in the aftermath of the disastrous defeat of the Arab armies in 1967 war. Like in 1948, the Syrian armed forces again were no match for the military power of the Israelis. They gave up the Golan Heights and this voluntary defeat strengthened the more conservative forces within the Ba'ath Party and the military. Hafez al Assad would become their spokesman. In his memoir Sami al Jundi described neo-Ba‟athism as being nothing more than “the latest version of backwardness,” and he fully believed that its proponents were responsible for the massive failure and absolute humiliation of the 1967 June War.152 This has led to, according to the late great Edward Said, “a policy of repression and a kind of thought control” in the surrounding Arab states. “Also included was the absence of the freedom of expression, and a whole set of human rights abuses, all supposedly justified in the name of „fighting Zionist aggression.‟” The long-standing tradition of Arab despots and dictators using Zionism as a legitimate reason to clamp down on dissent had begun.153 This very clearly reflects, in the words of Said, “a psychological mood of failure and terror.”154 Both Hafez al Assad and Salah Jadid proved themselves to be very sectarian. The officers in their ranks that were Druze and Ismaili were kicked out and replaced with other Alawites. They did leave some room open for the more urban elitist Sunnis to come in and serve the government but only if they accepted being ruled by Alawites and this is how they consolidated their power. They decided that they were not going to take over the establishment by sticking with only other minorities because they knew that they had to influence and control the Sunni upper class. At the same time Hafez and Salah were deeply competitive and at each other‟s throats. Salah decided that he wanted to be more of a politician than a military man and Hafez decided to stay within the officer corps.155 Following the Ba‟athist coup in Iraq 1968 Michel Aflaq attained asylum in the country and an intense rivalry for regional and ideological dominance between Iraq and Syria became even more exacerbated.156 The rivalry between Hafez al Assad and Salah Jadid paralleled this. By 1969 there was not one policy they could agree on Hafez felt threatened and he made his old friend, Mustafa Tlass, the new Chief of Staff.157 Jadid was protected by the Bureau of National Security and Abd al Karim al Jundi was its chairman. Hafez‟s brother, Rifaat, was tasked with making al Jundi‟s life miserable through a smear campaign alleging that he wanted to kill
149

Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1983), 100-102. 150 Edward Said, The Edward Said Reader (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), 22. 151 Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1983), 103. 152 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 30. 153 Edward Said, The Edward Said Reader (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), 144. 154 Said, The Edward Said Reader, 157. 155 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 28. 156 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 218. 157 Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria (Royal Institute of International Affairs: Oxford University Press, 1965), 146-148.

31 Hafez. As a result of these rumors fighting erupted in the Alawite-dominated cities of Latakia and Tartous. Jundi‟s loyalists in both the officer corps and the civilian leadership began to be overthrown and he committed suicide. He phoned an ally of Hafez who was at the helm of military intelligence and then he shot himself in the head so his death could be heard on the other end. The only time Hafez al Assad was ever caught crying was when he received the news of Jundi‟s death.158 Hafez al Assad became notorious for driving Jundi to suicide and for the events of Black September in 1970. Syria‟s Ba‟ath Party made the decision to send tanks into Jordan to support the Palestinians, who formed the majority of Jordan's population, against Hashemite King Hussein. The Palestine Liberation Organization won popular support amongst the Arab masses after the regimes were thoroughly discredited in the 1967 humiliation at the hands of Israel. King Hussein ordered his Jordanian military to attack the PLO forces in Jordan because of their declared policy to overthrow him. The Syrian and Iraqi Ba‟athist regimes both backed the Palestinians. It was the one thing they could agree on, and thus Syria sent a tank brigade into Jordan. However, Hafez al Assad refused to send any major Syrian military support because he feared another war with Israel would erupt. He refused to provide air cover to the Syrian tanks and they were forced to withdraw following the bombardment by the Jordanians. This left the Palestinians isolated, abandoned, and several thousand of them were massacred by Hussein's Jordanian military. Only a few weeks after Black September is when Hafez al Assad led his military coup in Damascus.159 By 1970 it had become painfully obvious that the resistance to Zionist aggression and the cause for justice in Palestine would have to wait until Hafez felt that he had attained enough power. The Syrian people were not on board with Hafez. The Sunni Muslim majority began to reject both Alawite power and Ba‟athist ideas. A widespread Islamist opposition began in 1963 and continued passed the military coup of 1970, culminating in a mass killing of demonstrators and dissidents.160 Hafez ushered in a state of emergency that involved assassinations and kidnappings mostly of religious leaders. He raided mosques and gave weapons to Ba‟ath party loyalists in an effort to fuel a civil war that attempted to wipe out the Muslim Brotherhood from the civilian population. The Syrian Ba‟ath Party was now literally up against the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people. The Muslim Brotherhood was aided by trade unions in the cites of Aleppo and Hama. Hafez was so corrupt and fascistic that he marginalized the entire working class regardless of whether or not they were hard lined members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The destruction of civil liberties certainly preceded Hafez‟s economic mismanagement of the country. What followed the Ba‟athist coup of 1970 was not a war on militant Islamists. It was a war on the Syrian people; a popular uprising crushed by a military coup.161 It did not take long for the more moderate voices within the political-military Ba‟athist circle to become disappointed, betrayed, and eventually they were silenced. They blamed Hafez for making Michel Aflaq want to disown them.162 Salah Jadid ended up in the now infamous Mezze prison where he died in 1993.163 Hafez had offered him a position and Jadid said, point blank, “If I ever take power, you will be dragged through the streets until you die.”164

158 159

Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria (Royal Institute of International Affairs: Oxford University Press, 1965), 151. Seale, The Struggle for Syria, 162-163. 160 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 8. 161 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 78. 162 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 29. 163 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 32. 164 Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria (Royal Institute of International Affairs: Oxford University Press, 1965), 164.

32 The country of modern Syria was completely changed with each different Ba‟athist military coup starting in 1963, again in 1966, and once more in 1970.165 From 1920 to 1958 the urbanized elites held power in the four most important Syrian cities; Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo. Between 1958 and 1963 things began to change. These Sunni elites wanted union with Egypt‟s Nasser. They formed the United Arab Republic and it was doomed from the beginning. It resulted in militaristic Ba‟athists, made up of minorities from the countryside, taking over. They wanted socialism with an edge of sectarian revenge. It was Hafez who brought forth the republican dynasticism that has become the traditional rule of law for Syria.166 Alawites like Hafez who lived in the isolated mountain villages of northern Syria and Lebanon made up only 10% of a population of twelve million Syrian people. This 10% has dominated the military since the 1960‟s all the way up until today in a land that is 70% Sunni Muslim.167 Hafez al Assad believed that a powerful elite was necessary to control the vast majority of the Syrian people, thus placing them under his thumb for decades. Mass incarceration and other police state tactics became normal for the Syrian people and the sectarian divisions the French colonizers had exploited back in the 1900‟s were further entrenched by the Assad dynasty. The country was destined to become a ticking time bomb for another uprising against tyranny. National defense became the biggest concern for the Syrian regime in the early 1970‟s as a direct result of the destabilizing military coup, the Israeli threat, and the Ba‟athist rivalry with Iraq. The rapid economic development through the public ownership of means of production delayed any social justice measures.168 Wealth was funneled to those tied to the state security apparatus only. The military became a bureaucracy. It was socialism in name only because both capitalism and colonialism had been internalized.169 Hafez al Assad worked to prevent the autonomy of various state agencies, the development of pillars of alternative power, the accumulation of power by any social force, and the transformation of economic wealth into political power by these social forces. The majority of the Syrian people were still his main enemy. Sami al Jundi saw the ongoing corruption as being a result of too much power. All of his idealism was destroyed because the Ba‟ath Party was no longer on the side of the people. It was at this point in Syrian Ba‟athist history that everyone, according to Jundi, began to call Ba‟athists “killers, opportunists, and traitors who struck fear into the hearts of the people.”170 In 1971 Hafez al Assad literally changed government. He became the sole authority.171 The Syrian courts were no longer independent of regime.172 The new normal for Syria included having thousands of political prisoners at any given moment and everyone was at risk for arrest. It could‟ve been a rumor of an individual‟s dissent, or it could‟ve been an individual expressing that dissenting voice in public. If one spoke ill of Hafez‟s Alawite background they would never be seen again. All political opposition was silenced completely. Widespread human rights abuses and torture has been reported from the Mezze prison throughout its history but most notably during the rule of Hafez al Assad beginning in 1970.173

165 166

Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 27. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 42. 167 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 78. 168 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 79. 169 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 62-63. 170 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 29. 171 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 5. 172 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 36. 173 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 33.

33 The Permanent Constitution of 1973 allowed Hafez to consolidate all of the state institutions in an effort to place his boot on the neck of every aspect of the government. These institutions were all run by Alawites that were loyal to Hafez and they were peppered with some of his trusted Sunni bourgeoisie to add an air of legitimacy to his dictatorship.174 It cannot be denied that Hafez‟s rule began with an advantage: the regime he overthrew was detested by so many people that any alternative brought them some cautious optimism.175 By 1973 this quickly faded away. The Ba‟ath Party had become second to Hafez and this was the birth of his personality cult. This North Korea-esque system of propaganda helped construct 3,000 statues of Hafez throughout the country.176 A dissident Syrian writer by the name of Ahmad Faraj Birqdar spent 15 years imprisoned as a result of this totalitarian atmosphere. The three most notorious torture chambers in Syria include the previously mentioned Mezze prison, the desert prison in Palmyra, and the Saydnaya military prison. Ahmad Firaj Birqdar survived all three and he was held without charges in all three. His wife, a Communist activist, was also imprisoned and tortured at these facilities. In 1993, twenty five years after Sami al Jundi‟s scathing memoir was published, Birqdar would find himself before a state military court asking, “Do we lie now when we say that the life of the slaves of Rome reenacts itself in Syria, but only in a 20th century form?”177 From worker‟s unions to women‟s rights groups, nothing operated without Hafez‟s stamp of approval.178 This is how a highly sectarian Alawite government came to run a Sunni majority country for so long. Arab regimes in the era of post-independence relentlessly misused the threat of Western imperialism to get away with their totalitarian activities. They assumed power after defeating colonialism, so this is what they clung to in an effort to justify their consolidation of power and the abandonment of democratic mechanisms. They sunk to the lowest, most horrific oppressive practices. As a national security state with a military ruler everyone informed on everyone else and there were tens of thousands of Syrian people jailed and tortured in prison at any given time.179 Because the Syrian government had an iron grip on the media it was very easy for them to paint the Syrian opposition in exile as nothing more than agents of imperialism who worked for the CIA.180 Life for Syrian people became a living embodiment of George Orwell‟s 1984. In spite of all of this effort on Hafez‟s part to control every aspect of Syrian society the most sacred aspect that remained out of his reach; the mosques. Hafez could censor and supervise the activities within the mosques throughout the countryside to only a very minimal degree. He knew that if he were to pass that line and become too controlling it would result in a Sunni Islamist eruption.181 Following their domination of the Ba‟ath Party it was a relatively smooth transition for the Alawites to go from ruling a political party to ruling a dynastic autocracy. Their control of the party created a domino effect. The pillars of the Alawites‟ domination came from their community, the army, the security services, and of course, the Ba‟ath Party, first and foremost.182 Hafez el Assad is an outsider in his own country and is not seen as a fellow Muslim by many Syrians. Because Alawites are historically
174

Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 5-6. 175 Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria (Royal Institute of International Affairs: Oxford University Press, 1965), 160-179. 176 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 41-43. 177 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 33-35. 178 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 7. 179 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 35. 180 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 53. 181 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 21. 182 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 7-8.

34 viewed as irreligious heretics by the Sunni population for them to be dominated by the Alawites is an insult to injury. In 1973 Hafez recruited someone from the Lebanese Shia Supreme Council for support; Imam Musa al Sadr. He tried to place Lebanese Alawites into the council that same year.183 Musa al Sadr had immigrated to Lebanon from his native Shia-dominated Iran in 1959.184 Hafez also sought cooperation from religious leaders within Syria who could “prove” that he is a “real” Muslim. The Mufti of Damascus, Sheikh Ahmad Kaftaru, was more than accommodating. In orthodox Sunni Islam the law stresses obedience to the country‟s ruler and the Sunni jurists appointed by Hafez lived by that code. Whenever Hafez visited a mosque it was a spectacle to be used by state propaganda. Even this had to be extremely particular and specific. Hafez prayed but did not prostrate for the cameras. It would‟ve been too much. The more religious Sunnis would‟ve seen it as superficial and the more secular Ba‟athists would‟ve seen it as being too submissive and pious.185 Everything he did had to hit a perfect balance between the religious and the secular, between the socialist and the bourgeoisie, and even amongst his own Alawite community things were not simple. The Alawite perspective includes simultaneous feelings of persecution and superiority.186 Hafez proudly called himself “a peasant” in 1980 at the Peasants General Union. Agrarian reform itself is a pillar of socialist ideology and the un-modernized, non-Westernized peasantry would become the shield of his regime. 187 It‟s Hafez‟s fellow Alawites who make up the security forces and the army units all with the goal of ensuring the existence of regime.188 The Alawite community does not have a large diaspora to connect to.189 However, now they finally had true cohesion, power, and a new label they could gather around; the rulers of Syria. The similarity between this world view and the world view of Jewish Zionists is uncanny for anyone familiar with the ongoing colonization of Palestine. It was in the 1960‟s that jihadism, the adherence to an armed resistance against oppression in the name of God, first began to make waves in Syria. In the beginning it did not emerge from those with proSalafist sentiments, so distinguishing Salafism from jihadism is essential to understanding its framework. Marwan Hadid is seen as the founding father of jihadist groups in Syria beginning in 1965, but he was the son of a Sufi Sheikh rather than a Salafi Sheikh. The more sectarian style of anti-Shia sentiment is very much a Saudi jihadi trait rather than a Syrian jihadi trait, so the Syrian style of the merge between Salafism and jihadism can be very appealing to a non-sectarian audience. There is a very strong Salafi wing within Syria‟s Muslim Brotherhood, which historically champions political Islam, so a politization and combination of jihadism and Salafism in Syria against Hafez al Assad‟s state-violence was only natural.190 The Salafi movement in Syria has a long history of anti-authoritarian struggle against both religious elites and the French occupiers. The Ottoman Turks banned the Salafist writings of Ibn Taymiyya, a Turkish Muslim theologian who spent the last years of his life in Damascus, and once the
183

Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 19-21. 184 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 37. 185 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 23-24. 186 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 13. 187 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 39. 188 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 44. 189 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 24. 190 Dr. Thomas Pierret,“One has to distinguish between Salafism and Jihadism” – an Interview with Thomas Pierret, Part II (Al Sharq Blog, October 7, 2013), http://www.alsharq.de/2013/mashreq/syrien/one-has-to-distinguish-between-salafism-andjihadism-an-interview-with-thomas-pierret-part-ii/

35 Ottoman Empire collapsed a Salafi revival of sorts came about in the late 19th century. Today this is labeled as “Islamic modernism;” a pious, anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian jihad that seeks to modernize society in an effort to combat despotism. However, the Syrian Salafi leaders of the middle 20th century came from the wealthier Sunni merchant class. In the 1930‟s their main goal was to end the French occupation rather than bicker about secularism versus Islamism all day. Syrian Salafism is not Saudi Wahhabism and it never has been. The Saudi style certainly became an influence in the latter half of the 20th century, but it never overpowered Syrian authenticity.191 1970 was the first time Syria had a powerful leader, a strong centralized regime, and a lot of military might to throw around. Nasser died that year and Hafez was looking to take the mantle as the next great pan-Arab leader. Hafez did not seek out Arab solidarity; he demanded it. The threat of heavy reprisal against his dissenters, along with the state co-optation of a very corrupt business class, is what today‟s opposition of the current uprising define as the allegedly previous stability. Hafez wanted his Greater Syria to encompass Jordan, Lebanon, and the PLO. However, the military might he received from Iran and Russia was nowhere near enough to defeat the Sparta that the Jewish state had evolved into and Hafez would come to find that he could only dominate Lebanon.192 Syria attempted to regain control of the Golan Heights in 1973 and it was another failure. Even worse, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat began to make moves towards both the US and Israel. Following the October War of 1973 Hafez al Assad found himself forced to practically become the security guard for Israel‟s northern border.193 Colonel Rafik Halawi, the Druze commander of the infantry brigade that was destroyed by the Israelis in the Golan was executed under the orders of Hafez before the war even came to an official close. The Syrian regime claimed he was killed in battle with Israel and anyone who was caught saying anything otherwise was threatened with torture and imprisonment.194 The war from within Syria began to fester. Beneath the streets of Damascus lay, and still lie, thousands of political prisoners at any given moment. Muslims and atheists, liberals and communists, and everyone in between these political labels could be found within Hafez‟s dungeons. There are names, thousands of names, the English speaking world will never know. The imprisonment and torture of so many Syrians following Hafez al Assad‟s grasp on power reveals an inconvenient truth; anti-Zionism has never been a priority for the Syrian government. The combination of Hafez al Assad‟s statism, repression, and sectarianism gave Syria‟s Muslim Brotherhood all the legitimacy it needed to be seen as “the vanguard of the anti-Ba‟athist forces.”195 In Lebanon during 1930‟s and 1940‟s it was the Sunni Muslims who were second largest community. Next to the Maronite Christians they were the wealthiest, most urbanized, the best educated. The Shias, like their Alawite Syrian neighbors, were poor, marginalized, and inhabited the countryside.196 In 1975 civil war broke out in Lebanon between fascist Christian Phalangists supported by Israel, and the impoverished Shiite and Druze communities and Palestinian refugees, who together made up a majority of the population. The resentment of Christian dominance triggered this 15 –year civil war that killed

191

Dr. Thomas Pierret,“Syrian Salafis got much more conservative” – Interview with Thomas Pierret, Part I (Al Sharq Blog, August 7, 2013), http://www.alsharq.de/2013/mashreq/syrien/one-has-to-distinguish-between-salafism-and-jihadism-aninterview-with-thomas-pierret-part-ii/ 192 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 258-259. 193 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 261. 194 Zeev Schiff, October Earthquake, Yom Kippur 1973 (Tel Aviv: University Pub. Project, 1974), 194-195. 195 Raymond A. Hinnebusch, Syria: Revolution from Above (London: Routledge, 2001), 89-90. 196 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 12.

36 more than 100,000 people. 17,000 Lebanese people are still missing as a result. Campaigns have been lobbying the Lebanese government and international powers to provide information on Lebanon‟s “disappeared” for decades, but to no avail. During the civil war and up to as recently as 2005 there was significant cooperation between the Lebanese and Syrian security apparatuses. Many Lebanese people who were arrested by their own government were transferred to the Syrian government. The Syrian government, to this day, still denies that its prisons contain any Lebanese individuals, but advocacy groups and human rights organizations know better.197 From the late 1970‟s to the early 1980‟s the Syrian agents in Lebanon were the biggest threat to journalists. With the help of their Palestinian proxy militias Syrian agents in Beirut shot and killed numerous Arab and Western journalists. The entire press corps of West Beirut came to be intimidated by the Syrians who were openly shooting reporters left and right.198 Hafez al Assad supported the Lebanese Christian fascist Phalangists against the Lebanese CommunistPLO alliance that had formed in opposition to both Phalangist and Ba‟athist tyranny. The Syrian military‟s invasion of Lebanon in 1976 was approved by the US. However, the Lebanese CommunistPLO alliance wiped the floor with the Syrian occupation forces in June of that year. Two months later Hafez al Assad made an example out of such resistance. The Phalangists, backed by Hafez al Assad, committed a massacre of Palestinian people at the Tal al Zaatar refugee camp.199 Once again, like his capitulation of the Golan Heights in 1967 and his surrender to Zionist expansionism in 1973, Hafez al Assad believed that another war against Israel had to be prevented no matter what. With the blessing of the Arab League the Syrian government decided to ally itself with Israel to prevent the defeat of the Phalangists. They besieged the Palestinian camps of both Karantina and Tel al Zaatar with Syrian weaponry and 2,000 Palestinian people were slaughtered. An open letter from the Palestinian resistance within the camps was released that summer; “Syrian weapons are being used – most unfortunately – against our camp, while the rulers of Damascus continue to repeat that they are here in Lebanon in order to defend our camp. This is a murderous lie, a lie which pains us more than anyone else… But we wish to inform you that we will fight in defense of this camp with our bare hands if all our ammunition is spent and all our weapons are gone, and that we will tighten our belts so that hunger will not kill us. For we have taken a decision not to surrender and we shall not surrender…” Hafez al Assad abandoned the Palestinians in Jordan in 1970, and here he had done it again in Lebanon in 1976.200 The Syrian military occupation of Lebanon would come to last for thirty years. The power of the Lebanese Communists and their Palestinian allies was decimated while the Syrian military received subsidies from the Arab League. A prominent Lebanese Druze politician named Kamal Jumblatt was an ally of the PLO and the main leader of the Lebanese Communist resistance to Hafez al Assad‟s expansionist policies during this time. Kamal founded the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon in the late 1940‟s and by the 1960‟s he had gathered enough people together to form a national opposition movement based on a platform of anti-sectarianism. By 1976 they had gained control over 70% of Lebanon, and Hafez al Assad could not allow his fascist Christian allies to lose power. 40,000 Syrian soldiers invaded Lebanon and in 1977 Kamal Jumblatt was gunned down in his car by Lebanese members
197 198

RCPL Human Rights Division, Lebanese Detainees in Syria (RCPL, PDF, 2003), 4. Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 70-73. 199 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 263. 200 Max Blumenthal, The right to resist is universal: A farewell to Al Akhbar and Assad‟s apologists (Blog, June 20, 2012), http://maxblumenthal.com/2012/06/the-right-to-resist-is-universal-a-farewell-to-al-akhbar-and-assads-apologists/

37 of the SSNP in collaboration with the Syrian Ba‟ath Party. Hafez al Assad‟s brother, Rifaat, oversaw the operation.201 The northern port area of Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley came under Syrian control after Syrian army occupied Lebanon.202 It‟s no coincidence that these are the areas that the French colonial authorities robbed the Syrian nationalists of in the 1920‟s. Hafez al Assad knew that Lebanon would not be enough and that he would need to create a better relationship with Iraq for regional support. By 1978 Hafez was in Baghdad and discussing the possibility of unification.203 The Zionist threat was still there and still festering. Menachem Begin was honored as the Israeli premier at an American university in the spring of 1978 even though, only one month earlier, Begin‟s military had forced hundreds of thousands of Lebanese people into refugee camps with their Palestinian neighbors as a result of the violently depraved military occupation of southern Lebanon.204 As a result of the Israeli 1978 invasion of Lebanon over 2,000 Arab civilians, both Palestinian and Lebanese, were killed and 250,000 were made into refugees.205 By 1979 a soon to be infamous tyrant by the name of Saddam Hussein took over Iraq, and thus it‟s Ba‟ath Party. All talk of unification with Syria came to an abrupt end.206Now Syria was left alone in its confrontation with Zionist aggression after 1979. In the aftermath of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel the total amount of Syrian arms imports came in at over $21 billion. Over 50% of civilian imports into Syria were weaponry.207 This also was a reaction to the horrors that followed the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The heavy militarization of the Arab states has always historically been a reaction to their powerlessness in the face of Zionist aggression. In June of 1982 is when Israel invaded Lebanon because the South Lebanon Army (SLA) did not succeed in annihilating the Palestinian resistance. Both Yasir Arafat and Hafez al Assad agreed to consolidate their forces to meet the oncoming Israeli onslaught. However, the Israeli air force decimated the Syrian regime‟s missile systems and forty of their jet fighters within twenty-four hours. Hafez al Assad agreed to a truce with the Israeli military without consulting Arafat whatsoever. This truce has been in effect ever since and it paved the way for Israel to lay siege to Beirut. 18,000 Lebanese people were killed and 30,000 were injured by the Israeli military. The Israeli government demanded the expulsion of the PLO from southern Lebanon in return for lifting the siege of Beirut. They literally held the city hostage. The Lebanese Muslim leaders of West Beirut felt they had no choice but to push Arafat out by August of 1982. Not one Syrian military finger was lifted to preserve the Palestinian resistance in Lebanon.208 Iraq was no longer seen as a partner by Syria in combating Zionist aggression. The tension between Hafez al Assad and Saddam Hussein was tremendous. War erupted between Iraq and Iran in 1980 and the Syrian government unequivocally supported Iran.209 Saddam Hussein‟s Iraq was characterized by his extreme cruelty against both the Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south. These
201

Farid Khazen, The Breakdown of the State in Lebanon, 1967-1976 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000), 1516. 202 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 18. 203 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 218. 204 Edward Said, The Edward Said Reader (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), 116. 205 Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1983), 99. 206 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 218. 207 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 89. 208 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 146-153. 209 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 109.

38 are the areas he lost control over following his horrific, and very irrational, invasion of Kuwait. Both ethnic and tribal emphasis increased throughout the region as a result of his bloodletting.210 The money that had been flowing into Syria from the oil-rich Gulf States declined because Syria supported Iran against Iraq. It went from $1.8 billion in 1981 to only $500 million in late 80‟s.211 Hafez al Assad was losing friends and power in the region very quickly. The Syrian air force and anti-aircraft weaponry had been torn to pieces by the Israelis and it would take several years to rebuild all of this. Even if Hafez had wanted to defend Beirut and the PLO from Zionist aggression he probably could not have done much. A combination of 14,000 PLO and pro- Syrian Palestinian militias had been forced out of West Beirut. Lebanese Muslims were left exposed to Israeli and Phalangist intimidation. The one Phalangist in particular that Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon were counting on in particular to do their bidding was Bachir Gemayel; a senior member of the Phalange party and the supreme commander of the Lebanese Forces. In December 1975, at the beginning of the Lebanese civil war, several of Bachir‟s Phalangist Christian colleagues were gunned down and left in an abandoned car in Christian-dominated East Beirut. Leftist Lebanese Muslims and Palestinians were blamed and the Phalange enacted revenge upon every Muslim that they saw; they fired indiscriminately into crowds of defenseless civilians and they held many for ransom. The Phalange set up checkpoints on the major roads and any Palestinians or Lebanese Muslims who were caught trying to enter or exit East Beirut were killed, sometimes tortured beforehand. About 600 civilians were murdered within a few hours. This was Black Saturday and Bachir Gemayal was one of the senior members of the Phalange Party at the time. Israel became their primary backer by 1978. It was during this year that Bachir led his militia in successfully resisting the Syrian bombardment of East Beirut for three months. They were under siege as Syrian soldiers took over the high buildings and used snipers and heavy artillery against the civilians down below. This was the Lebanese civil war in a nutshell; one month the Syrians and the Lebanese Maronites would fight against, or sometimes massacre, the Palestinians, and then the next month the Syrians and Palestinians would fight against, or sometimes massacre, the Lebanese Maronites. Bashir Gemayel had been very close to and a willing partner of Israel‟s Ariel Sharon because they wanted to use each other. Sharon was counting on Bachir to rebuild the Lebanese army so it could take over the job of the Israeli occupiers, which was to annihilate the Palestinian resistance. Bashir was counting on Sharon to help him keep the Syrian military out of East Beirut. Bachir was elected as President in late August of 1982 and he was the only candidate. This was an unacceptable Israeli victory in the eyes of Hafez al Assad. In September 1982 Bachir Gemayel lead a meeting in Achrafieh in an apartment building he frequented. Habib Tanious Shartouni lived in this same apartment building. He was a Lebanese Maronite, a member of the SSNP, and an agent of Syria‟s military intelligence. A decision had been made by the Syrian regime to be rid of Bachir following his rise to the presidency. Shartouni was ordered to prepare an explosive device, fit it into a suitcase, place it in his sister‟s apartment directly above where the Phalangist‟s meeting was taking place, and then detonate it by remote control. Shartouni followed out his orders on September 14th. Bachir‟s body was almost beyond recognition.212 Two weeks before his assassination and only one week after his election, Bachir met with Menachem Begin who demanded that Bachir sign a peace treaty with Israel as soon as he took office. He also threatened that the Israeli military would stay in southern Lebanon if a peace treaty wasn't signed. Bachir was furious and
210 211

Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 219. Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 113. 212 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 156-159.

39 flat out refused to do so. The Israelis had lost Bachir even before Hafez al Assad decided to kill him. Habib Tanious Shartouni followed in the footsteps of his Ba‟athist predecessors perfectly. A Christian, he attended a university in France before joining the SSNP early in the Lebanese civil war. Two days after Bachir‟s assassination Habib was arrested and imprisoned by the Lebanese Forces, he admitted to the assassination, spent several years in Roumieh prison, and eventually escaped during the Syrian siege of Lebanon in 1990. In an interview conducted in July of 2012 Shartouni remained adamant that his assassination of Bachir “saved the country,” that it was a “strike at the head of collaboration” with the Zionist threat, and that it “helped thwart a scheme to establish a Greater Israel and turn the region into a collection of sectarian mini-states under its tutelage.”213 Shartouni was not asked what he thought about the SSNP‟s scheme to establish a Greater Syria and turn the region into a collection of sectarian ministates under Hafez al Assad‟s tutelage. Salim al Lawzi, a Lebanese Sunni Muslim from Tripoli who had worked as a radio journalist in Palestine in the 1940‟s, was forced to flee Lebanon at the onset of the civil war because of his harsh criticism towards the Syrian regime‟s policies of brutality and intervention in his country. The office of his newspaper, al Hawadeth, had been bombed and he was on the receiving end of multiple death threats from Syrian agents in Lebanon. His mother passed away in early 1980 and Salim decided to return to Lebanon in order to attend her funeral even though all his friends and colleagues warned him not to. He was kidnapped by Syrian agents shortly after leaving Beirut international airport. His lifeless, bruised, and bloodied body was found several days later. His right arm had been broken and dislocated and his stomach had been stabbed with pens.214 His writing hand had been dipped in acid and there was a bullet in his head. The message sent by Hafez al Assad to the journalists and dissidents of Lebanon was clear.215 Hafez also had his hands full in his own backyard during this time. A splinter group from the Syrian Communist Party known as the Party for Communist Action was causing trouble for the regime, what with their relentless dissent and calls for social justice.216 Hafez al Assad‟s soldiers and security agents were seen as invaders in many areas of Syria as well as Lebanon. In Aleppo the Syrian regime‟s Alawite forces were viewed by the people as occupiers and with good reason. In Aleppo, out of a population of one million people, only 600 were Ba‟ath Party members.217 Hafez was not a reformer. He could only rely on military strength and brute force.218 The Aleppians met that brute force with some of their own. In June of 1979 there was an attack on Alawite cadets at an artillery school in Aleppo and the perpetrator was a Sunni army captain. He was a card carrying Ba‟athist with no connection to the Muslim Brotherhood. Almost 300 Alawite cadets were mowed down by this one perpetrator and his machine gun.219 However, most of the resistance to Hafez‟s rule, from 1977 onward, did come from the Muslim Brotherhood and they were the voice of the Syrian majority. This was the urban poor and the rural middle class who had been politically oppressed and economically destroyed by the rapid modernization enacted

213

Afif Diab, Habib al-Shartouni: Striking the Head of Collaboration (Al Akhbar English, July 23, 2012), http://english.alakhbar.com/node/10157 214 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 2. 215 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 70. 216 Ilene Rabinovitch, Middle East Contemporary Survey 1986 (Jerusalem; Hebrew University Publishing, 1986), 607-608. 217 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 40. 218 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 46. 219 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 40.

40 by Hafez al Assad. Led by the local religious leaders the Muslim Brotherhood took up an armed campaign of resistance to the military coup of 1970. They planted bombs outside the government institutions that were responsible for their repression and they assassinated both Soviet advisors and Ba‟ath Party officials. It was an indigenous rebellion to the Soviet neo-colonialists and their Alawite partners. In 1980 a coalition of clerics and trade unionists in the city of Hama issued a manifesto demanding Hafez adhere to Human Rights Charter, hold free elections, and end the state of emergency that had been in place since 1963. The manifesto circulated through all mosques and all the working class neighborhoods. A call for a general strike was ordered and a violent government crackdown followed. In June of 1980 members of the Muslim Brotherhood attacked Hafez with grenades and machine gunfire while outside the official visitors‟ palace in Damascus, but he escaped with the help of his numerous body guards. The assassination attempt had failed. The Ba‟ath Party Congress followed this and Hafez‟s brother Rifaat declared an all-out war on the Muslim Brotherhood. He was chomping at the bit to spearhead this campaign of annihilation because he was the Commander of the Defense Companies; the heavily armed Alawite guards who do the regime‟s dirty work by imprisoning, murdering, and torturing any domestic opposition members, whether they be poets, human rights attorneys, Communists, or members of the Muslim Brotherhood. At this time Rif‟aat made no secret of his admiration of the genocidal government policies of Joseph Stalin. At the Ba‟ath Party Congress he made a remark about how Stalin had sacrificed 10 million people in order to preserve the Bolshevik revolution. He believed Syria should do the same. 220 Colonialism in Syria had officially been internalized. Twenty four hours after the attempted assassination of Hafez al Assad regime helicopters were sent to the Palmyra desert prison to commit a massacre of political prisoners. 800-1,000 people were gunned down under the direct orders of Rifaat.221 Many of them were Muslim Brotherhood members who had been arrested the previous year.222 In 1981 random government raids of the cities of Hama and Aleppo began. Banan al Tantawi, the wife of a former Muslim Brotherhood leader named Issam al Attar, was assassinated in her own home.223 These cities were certainly Muslim Brotherhood strongholds, but this also means that they were civilian strongholds. Aleppo lost thousands of sons and daughters; disappeared in Assad‟s notorious jails to be tortured and executed. Weekly raids by Alawite occupation forces involved the random executions of the younger members of the opposition. The bodies of dozens and dozens of college students, shot execution style, began to line the roads. The raids would happen at night and the next morning the people of Hama and Aleppo would see their sidewalks covered with the dead bodies of their neighbors. The elderly Muslim clerics were humiliated by the government security forces; their beards were shaved off and they were forced to dance while their feet were being shot at. Those who were not executed immediately during these nighttime raids were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and then released so they could tell their neighbors what was done to them. Many Syrians in Hama and Aleppo at the time became familiar with a Soviet torture device known as the Black Slave; a person is forced to sit on a black chair naked while a hot and sharp metal skewer repeatedly rapes them, often going up into the intestines.224 Torture is a trait of insecure tyranny above all else.

220 221

Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 78-79. Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 40-41. 222 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 79. 223 Raphael Lefevre, The Rise of the Syrian Sisterhood (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 25, 2013), http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/2013/04/25/rise-of-syrian-sisterhood/g173 224 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 79-80.

41 In November of 1981 the Muslim Brotherhood, as a reaction to the relentless state-violence being used against them, set off a car bomb in Damascus. It killed 64 people and wounded 135. As a result of this incident Hafez‟s paranoia was at an all-time high and he desperately needed something to take out his aggression on. His secret service agents convinced him that the Muslim Brotherhood had gained a foothold in the Syrian air force and that they were going to try and topple the government. Hafez‟s gestapo, the mukhabarat (the Syrian intelligence agency), interrogated and tortured numerous air force officers and forced them to confess to these allegations.225 The city of Hama was home to 180,000 inhabitants at the time and it was a pious Sunni Muslim city, with a handful of Alawite and Christian residents. Hama had a long reputation for being a base for religious organizations that were in opposition to the secular fascism peddled out by the Syrian government.226 In early 1982 Hafez gave Rifaat the responsibility for seeing the destruction of this city. Hafez gave Rif‟aat the responsibility for seeing the destruction of Hama. Most of what is known about the nearly month long assault that took place in this city in 1982 comes from the Egyptian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. They used to have a publishing house in Cairo and in 1984 it released a book about the massacre of Hama. In February of 1982 roughly 1,500 men from Rifaat‟s Defense Companies entered the buildings in Hama and another 1,500 men from Colonel Ali Haydar‟s Special Forces set up camp at a dam outside the city. This is from where the helicopters would be launched. Alawite Colonel Nadim Abbas commanded a brigade of Soviet tanks and it was his job to encircle the town. The next task was for 500 of these death squads from Rifaat‟s Defense Companies, and a large group of security agents, to surround the Barudi neighborhood on the west side of Orontes River. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood were lookouts on the rooftops of Hama‟s civilian neighborhoods. They saw Rifaat‟s 500 death squads coming towards them and preemptively mowed them down with machine guns. Following this defensive action they set up a barricade on the bridge that connected the east and west sides of the Orontes River in order to prevent any military reinforcements from entering the area. That night Rifaat‟s Defense Companies were forced to retreat and many are killed. The people of Hama thought that maybe they had won. The whole neighborhood felt relieved and thought they were safe. The next day thousands of Syrian government soldiers were sent to Hama and the tanks were ordered to move into the city. Sheikh Adib al Kaylani, a Muslim Brotherhood patriarch, decided that martyrdom had to be the order of the day. He felt that if this was a battle to the death it could spark a national rebellion. The Sheikh also knew that if any of them lived they were all going to be imprisoned and tortured to death.227 The people of Hama initiated the attacks on Rifaat‟s troops positioned around the town, they set up roadblocks, and they broke into the local armory and police station in order to get more weapons to defend themselves. Once they felt that Rif‟aat‟s death squads were momentarily at bay, the armed militias of the Muslim Brotherhood raided the homes of the Ba‟ath Party officials in and around the city. Fifty local Ba‟athist government officials were either shot to death or stabbed to death and many security agents were pulled out of their cars and executed in the street. Soon more tanks were ordered into the city and the telephone lines were cut by the government in Damascus so people in Hama could not tell the outside world what was about to happen to them. As tanks were moving into the densely populated civilian neighborhoods the Muslim Brotherhood began to use rocket-propelled grenades and Molotov cocktails to destroy the machine guns coming out of the tanks. Once again, in spite of the odds, the people
225 226

Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 79. Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem, 77. 227 Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem, 81-82.

42 of Hama appeared to be winning… that was, until, Rifaat ordered Commander Fouad Ismail to led twenty tanks into the city. They began firing indiscriminately and whole apartment buildings filled with civilians started going up in flames. The mosques of Hama began to collapse from all the firepower. An entire arsenal of Russian-made tanks and helicopters were used to mercilessly crush an entire community. According to the official eyewitness account of the Muslim Brotherhood a radio transmission from Rifaat was intercepted in which he could be heard saying, “I don‟t want to see a single house not burning.” The Muslim Brotherhood was forced to retreat from the east side of the Orontes River. The Syrian army came in and raped, assaulted, and killed what few civilians remained alive. Their homes were also looted. Trucks filled with other people‟s furniture were being driven away by Alawite officers. Entire families were shot in the street because they had one relative who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.228 Hibah al Dabbagh, a prominent Islamist, was tortured for nine years in a regime prison because she refused to reveal the exact whereabouts of her brother who was active in the Hama uprising.229 Some of the wealthier civilians in Hama were able to bribe their way out of the city and some of the luckier ones escaped through the underground sewers. In mid-February is when Sheikh al Kaylani was killed by a mortar blast. Towards the end of February, while Alawite officers were still raping Sunni Muslim girls and murdering their families, the Syrian government broadcasted a telegram of support to Hafez from the Hama branch of the Ba‟ath Party. They praised him for putting down the Islamist rebellion. Nothing about the government‟s campaign of annihilation was mentioned. It wasn‟t even done yet. Reprisals on behalf of the Syrian government against the people of Hama took place over the next several weeks. This is when most of the people were murdered; entire neighborhoods were dynamited, ancient Islamic sites were wiped off the map, and the security agents set up detention camps so they could torture and kill whatever survivors they could find. People‟s hands were welded together and they were introduced to another Soviet torture device; Solomon‟s Chair, which is covered in iron spikes. Rifaat‟s job was not finished. Next he brought in bulldozers and steamrollers to flatten all the buildings and neighborhoods that were still standing but had been damaged beyond repair by Syrian tank fire during the previous weeks. He turned entire neighborhoods into parking lots and underneath them were mass graves. The prisoners from the previously mentioned detention camps who survived the campaign of torture were shot en masse, dumped into pits, and then covered with dirt and cement. Cyanide gas containers were also brought into the city. They were connected by rubber pipes into buildings, the toxic gas was pumped into buildings that the survivors were hiding in, and they were killed in this manner. This is how the entire religious leadership of Hama, who had survived the initial battle, were murdered along with most of the anti-government union leaders. In March of 1982 the Syrian government authorities ordered the religious students from the surrounding villages of Hama to go in, sweep the streets, wash the blood off of whatever was left standing, and to dispose whatever dead bodies were still lying around.230 The main highway to Hama from Damascus was reopened only two months after the massacre took place. Hafez wanted the people of Syria to see what he had done to one of their largest, most pious cities. Even two months later the Orontes River was still bloody with human remains occasionally bubbling up to the surface. According to the Amnesty International report released in 1983

228 229

Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem, 83-84. Raphael Lefevre, The Rise of the Syrian Sisterhood (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 25, 2013), http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/2013/04/25/rise-of-syrian-sisterhood/g173 230 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 85-86.

43 over 25,000 Syrian people had been slaughtered and several thousand people were left homeless.231 Underground, illegal, Muslim Brotherhood owned and operated newspapers in Syria referred to Hafez as “Satan,” and a “sectarian agent of the Soviet Union.” He became the ultimate monster in the eyes of Sunni Muslims throughout the Arab world; a Russian ally who opposed orthodox Islam and left an outrageous trail of blood and destruction behind him. The massacre solidified his reputation as a ruthless despot, and that‟s what he wanted; to instill fear in the hearts of the opposition, a fear that would last for decades.232

Chapter 3:

231 232

Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem, 77-76. Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 21.

44 “And when it is said to them, „Do not cause corruption on the earth,‟ they say, „Surely, we are only reformers.”- Quran (2:11) The Hama massacre of 1982 was not a secret, but it remained taboo subject for years. Syrians didn‟t even call it a massacre for a long time. It was vaguely referred to as “the events.” The wall of fear created an unspoken deal between the Syrian people and the government that wanted them dead. The regime has done its utmost to rewrite the slaughter of unarmed civilians, including whole families, as a war on Islamist terrorists and nothing else. As part of its vicious crackdown against leftist dissidents during the 1980‟s Hafez al Assad‟s regime arrested hundreds of activists from both the Party for Communist Action and the Syrian Communist Party in an attempt to smother the last remaining voices of dissent after it had crushed the Muslim Brotherhood. It was the Syrian Communists who worked with a group of Palestinian dissidents called the Palestinian Popular Committee in the Yarmouk refugee camp in the Damascus governate. The Palestinian Popular Committee was founded in 1983 but was forced to dissolve two years later as a result of Hafez al Assad‟s campaign of arrests. 200 members of the Party for Communist Action were arrested by the Syrian security forces in 1986.233 Hafez continued to look towards Lebanon, that long lost “Syrian” territory. The Iraqi military had greatly expanded during its war with Iran and the Syrian regime was feeling threatened by this massive army with an irrational tyrant in charge. An anti-Syrian government in Lebanon, led by Michel Aoun, was getting Iraqi assistance and Iraq had supported anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon since the civil war broke out in 1975.234 If Hafez al Assad wanted to keep Lebanon under his tutelage he would have to parallel this move. The Amal Movement grew with Syrian support and became the top Shia Muslim militia during Lebanon‟s civil war. They pulled members from the 300,000 internally displaced refugees caused by Israel‟s indiscriminate bombing campaign. In 1980 Nabih Berri, a Lebanese lawyer who joined the nationalist movement in the 1960‟s, became the leader of the Amal Movement. First they fought against the Palestinians for control of the Sabra, Shatila and Burj al Barajneh refugee camps of southern Lebanon in the spring of 1985.235 This "War of the Camps" lasted for two years and resulted in over 3,000 deaths.236 Following this they began a street battle for control of Beirut and their rivals were the more religious former members of Amal who had left after Nabih Berri's rise to power and they had formed their own militia; Hezbollah. In the winter of 1985 Nabih Berri signed the Tripartite Accord in Damascus with the aim of giving Hafez al Assad the green light to influence Lebanese political life however he saw fit.237 The sectarian fault lines within both Syria and Lebanon had been exacerbated to within an inch of their lives. The Alawites were ruling from Damascus and the Shias from Bekaa Valley were ruling from Beirut.238 Syrian meddling in the Lebanese civil war in regards to Bachir Gemayal‟s assassination would prove to be very detrimental to both Lebanese and Palestinian people. The Israelis had placed all their bets on Bachir and not only did he refuse to roll over and sign a peace treaty, now he was dead. Begin and Sharon ordered the Israeli military to invade West Beirut twenty-four hours after Bachir‟s death. The Israelis first target was the PLO Research Center even though it didn‟t have any guns or bombs or rockets. It had something far more dangerous to Zionism; books, documents, historical archives, maps,
233 234

Ilene Rabinovitch, Middle East Contemporary Survey 1986 (Jerusalem, Hebrew University Pub. Project, 1986), 607-608. Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 219-220. 235 Augustus R. Norton, Amal and the Shi'a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon (Austin: University of Texas, 1987), 5. 236 Edgar Balance, Civil War in Lebanon, 1975-92 (New York, NY: St Martin‟s Press, 1998), 168. 237 Augustus R. Norton, Amal and the Shi'a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon (Austin: University of Texas, 1987), 7-10. 238 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 116.

45 photographs, and land deeds belonging to Palestinian refugees. The entire archive was stolen and the building was vandalized. It would take a whole year before the PLO was able to force the Israeli government to return these documents as part of a prisoner exchange. Israel‟s second target was the camps, Sabra and Shatila, respectively. According to the Phalangists there were a few thousand armed militants in the area. This would turn out to be a very convenient lie. Two days after Bachir Gemayal‟s death an orgy of violence erupted. The now infamous massacre of about 1,000 Palestinian civilians including men, women, and children was a joint exercise between the IDF and the Phalangists. A quarter of the neighborhoods surrounding Sabra and Shatila were inhabited by impoverished Lebanese Shias and they were the first victims.239 When it really counted the Syrian regime was not there to protect its Lebanese constituents from either the Maronites or from one another. A few months later Hafez al Assad tried to depose Yasir Arafat from the PLO leadership entirely.240 The PLO began to splinter in 1983. Colonel Saed Abu Musa was Arafat‟s rival and he led a rebellion amongst al Fatah in the Bekaa Valley. Abu Musa had been a professional soldier in the Jordanian army before joining the PLO. The Syrian regime supported him and assisted in supplying him with weapons. Abu Musa and his followers ran Arafat‟s men out of Tripoli that summer. When a reporter from Newsweek asked Yasir Arafat for a comment regarding this mutiny he responded with, “Don‟t ask me about the puppets and the horses of Troy… Assad wants my pen. He wants the Palestinian decision, and I won‟t give it to him.” Most of the Palestinian refugees chose Arafat over a Syrian puppet, but as a result of Hafez‟s meddling Arafat‟s men were forced out of Tripoli and the Palestinian resistance was disempowered.241 Along with all of the aforementioned carnage, betrayal, and empty Pan-Arab rhetoric, in the 1980‟s Syria experienced an economic crisis due to three factors; the drop in oil prices, reduced financial aid from the Gulf States and the collapse of the Soviet Union following the end of the Cold War. The state was no longer the main source of monetary accumulation for the Syrian people. Many of Syria‟s wealthier Sunnis fled the country following the socialist wave of the 1960‟s. Nationalization was the order of the day and these Syrian expatriates took billions of capital with them. As a result, in the future, foreign investment would become a necessity for the Syrian regime. 242 The oil decade came to an end in 1982. It had given prosperity to Syrian economy, but it came to an abrupt end. Oil prices collapsed in the late 1980‟s and there was a recession.243 In 1983 Hafez al Assad suffered a major heart attack and decided to turn his presidential affairs over to a committee of loyal Sunni government officials as he recovered. Alawites working in the regime, including Rifaat, were staunchly opposed to this decision and Rifaat decided to impose himself on this Sunni committee. He was thoroughly encouraged by his fellow Alawites government officials to do so. However, when Hafez recovered, he was less than pleased at what his brother had done. Rifaat found himself without any Alawite support once Hafez directed his displeasure at him and he was forced into exile in 1984.244 Rifaat al Assad had practically attempted a palace coup, so the hammer came down on him. What Hafez could‟ve done when he fell ill and placed a committee of Sunnis notables in charge in his absence was created new support groups that would forward economic reforms. However, these are
239 240

Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 159-164. Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem, 167. 241 Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem, 172-174. 242 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 63-64. 243 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 113. 244 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 38.

46 the Sunni entrepreneurs that his violent police state saw as threats to their Alawite monopoly on power. To offer any power to these Sunni entrepreneurs would have been seen as going back to the environment that predates Ba‟athist rule in Syria; wealthy, pro-capitalist, land owning families running the show.245 The banking sector was nationalized in early 1960‟s, but it remained a state monopoly. If the private banking system were to be reopened it would help the smaller local entrepreneurs that come from the Sunni business class. They could gain financing, but it won‟t happen unless the private banking system is actually reopened.246 The regime is an ideological and militaristic dynasty based on ethnic and tribal divisions. All the senior figures were members of Hafez‟s own Qalbiyya tribe. Dynastic rulers are not immortal, regardless of what their state propaganda proclaims, and all dynasties need the perfect successor. In the early 1990‟s Hafez began to think about the upcoming succession and he set his sights on Basil; the favorite son. Basil already had a military career under his belt and he became a card carrying Ba‟athist at a young age. He was in the Officer Academy by age 18 and had been appointed to the position of Commander in a brigade of Republican Guards. These are the government-controlled death squads that replaced Rifaat‟s Defense Companies Division. Tragedy struck in 1994 when Basil was killed in a car accident at the age of 32. It was a great shock to the government and five days of state-wide mourning followed.247 This is the only reason why Bashar was given the job by his father in the first place; to replace Basil. Bashar al Assad was to inherit a country that is an absolute stereotype of an Arab authoritarian police state; the security services are used to dominate the civilian population in the name of defending the homeland. The economy was stagnant, corruption was taken as the normal way of doing government business, and of course, the regime had a notorious reputation for political oppression.248 The political career of Syrian President Hafez al Assad illustrates the inability of the Arab bourgeoisie to realize the aspirations of the Arab masses for freedom from foreign domination, democracy and social justice. His strong measures were clearly the end result of a weak regime. Bashar is Hafez‟s second son and was training to be an ophthalmologist in Britain when Basil died unexpectedly. So practically overnight Bashar was called upon by his father to transform into the perfect son, into the next leader, and into something close to Basil. He was quickly set up as a commander of tank battalion and eventually took over Basil‟s previous position as the Commander of the Republican Guards.249 Bashar became the chairman of the Syrian Computer Society and in 1988.250 Hafez built support for Bashar in state security-military apparatus by appointing young unknown Alawite officers into higher positions. Their job was to remain loyal to Bashar and to be there to back him up in case there was a fight for succession. The heads of the directorates are Sunni, but their deputies are Alawites, and an Alawite of any occupation can talk down to his or her Sunni superior.251 No one gets legitimacy from the constitution. It is only a reflection of Ba‟athist political and socioeconomic order. Alawites are bound by political and ethnic alliances. This is Syria‟s ruling tradition.252 The system of vertical patronage was
245 246

Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 70. Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 122. 247 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 39-40. 248 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 5. 249 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 40. 250 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 2. 251 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 41-42. 252 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 49.

47 nearly impossible for outsiders to enter, and this was just another form of control by the state. It helped to keep the Sunni upper classes fragmented so they could not unite in opposition.253 This was the same vertical patronage that the coup of 1963 had sought to dismantle in the first place. Hafez al Assad's record of betrayal towards and exploitation of both the Palestinian cause and Pan-Arabism in general is undeniable. His bloated military and intelligence apparatuses were meant for repressing his own population rather than liberating Palestinian lands. The thirty years of political stability in Syria alleged by his foreign supporters was largely the result of fifteen different security services and rigid state control of the media, along with all other forms of communication. From the PanArab Ba‟athism in the 1940‟s to the Ba‟athist regime established in 1963 everything worked to undermine Syrian ambitions to unite the Arab world with it and against Israel. It proved to be detrimental because it did not prioritize the domestic issues, including the unstable political system, the tension between the minorities, and the tension between the upper and lower classes.254 For the first 20 years of his rule, during the Cold War, Hafez was a client of the Soviet Union. His anti-Zionist chest-thumping was a reaction to this lack of genuine independence for his country. The Soviet Union was the main ally of Syria throughout the 1970‟s and 1980‟s. When it collapsed Syria lost a great deal of power and stability. Russia was Hafez‟s main source of economic, political, and military support. It was also viewed as an insurance policy against any possible Western aggression and intervention. When the Soviet Union fell apart at the end of the 1980‟s so did this feeling of protection from external threats. However, the biggest threat to the Syrian status quo was coming from within. The high birth rate combined with the rapid urbanization, along with both land and water shortages, would‟ve been a recipe for disaster almost anywhere. Internal social and economic inequality was not a foreign conspiracy.255 Only about a decade after Hafez‟s death and Bashar‟s succession would another uprising begin. From the late 1980‟s onward, for the first time since the October War of 1973, Syria had to purchase arms with own resources and the financial burden of this was very heavy. The Syrian regime found itself having to pay for 75% of its own weapons between 1992 and 1994. This was a drastic change that sent the economy reeling. Between 1980 and 1988 Syria and Russia equally split the defense costs. Now the Syrian regime had to choose between the betterment of its defense sector or the betterment of its socioeconomics. The heavy cost of the arms imports left public education and quality healthcare for the Syrian people on the back burner.256 By the end of the 1980‟s the Syrian regime‟s military spending was 60% of the total amount of government expenditures.257 Even with the Soviet Union dead and buried the Syrian regime kept a Soviet attitude when it came to their economics. Deals involving inferior cheap products were within an authoritarian corporatist system that had no interest in competing on the world stage. Syria is not subjected to the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. It was too isolated for its own good and it may very well have collapsed like the Soviet Union if it did not begin to pivot towards the West in 1990.258It was at this time that Hafez al Assad made his final mark on the last chapter of the Lebanese civil war. In October the Syrian military along with some support from the Lebanese Shias of the Amal Movement steamrolled Michel Aoun‟s forces around the Presidential Palace in Beirut. He had declared a “War of Liberation” against the Syrian occupation troops and had survived an assassination
253 254

Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 58. Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 257. 255 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 34-35. 256 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 94-95. 257 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 110. 258 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 59.

48 attempt by them. 700 people were killed by the Syrian occupation forces and 2,000 were injured on October 13th, 1990. Most of the victims, 400 to 500, were soldiers in the Lebanese Army. About another 200 were arrested and they simply vanished. On top of this about a dozen civilians in the area who were loyalists to Aoun were rounded up and killed. This bloody assault on Michel Aoun‟s government by Hafez al Assad‟s military is how the Lebanese civil war came to a close, and it‟s also how Syrian forces broke Habib Tanious Shartouni out of jail.259 At the same time the Syrian government‟s political and economic policies were increasingly stomping on the neck of the average Syrian citizen. Throughout the early 1990‟s the Alawite-dominated security-state increasingly left the majority of the Syrian people without the socioeconomic assistance that they needed. This is when it became obvious that the Soviet Union could no longer support the Syrian military and only then did expenditures begin to decline.260 With its Soviet ally gone massive military and economic aid was also gone. This is what led Syria to join the US in the Gulf War against Iraq in the early 1990‟s. Syrian Ba‟athist propaganda was all about how the US was dangerous, imperialist, and bad for the Arab world, yet here was Hafez al Assad aligning himself with the West in the Gulf War of 1990-1991. The Syrian public identified far more with Iraq even though Saddam Hussein was a violent sadist who had committed a genocide against the Kurds, crushed a Shia uprising in southern Iraq, and breached Kuwaiti sovereignty thus serving the interests of Zionism by distracting attention from the Arab struggle. Following the war‟s end in 1991 and the devastating sanctions placed on Iraq the balance of power shifted in the Syrian‟s regime‟s favor. Both Syria and the West wanted to maintain Iraq‟s territorial integrity while neutralizing Saddam Hussein. If Iraq were to fragment it could strengthen a certain unruly group of oppressed minorities in Syria; the Kurds. If the northern Kurdish region of Iraq were to fall under Turkish control this would be a threat to the power of Ba‟athism, or at least Hafez al Assad‟s version of it. If the southern and central regions of Iraq with its Shia majority were to fall under Iranian domination this too was a threat to Ba‟athist power at the time. The economic upturn in early 1990‟s was due to the Gulf States giving financial assistance to the regime in return for Syria joining the US against Saddam Hussein‟s Iraq.261 It gained $3 billion between 1991 and 1994 and the money was used to buy modern aircraft and long-range missiles. For the first time after the Ba‟athist coup of 1963 the private sector‟s capital investments were higher than those in public sector.262 The Ba‟athist dream of unification with Lebanon became a reality in 1991 when Hafez al Assad signed a treaty that subjugated Lebanon to Syria. In return for Syria's role in the Gulf War, the West turned a blind eye to Assad's dispatch of occupation troops further into Lebanon and the installation of a pro-Syrian government in Beirut in 1991. Abandoned by the West, Lebanon had officially become a satellite state of Damascus.263 The transformation of Syria into a massive police state was Hafez al Assad‟s life‟s work. The many different and overlapping security agencies were created directly by Hafez and many Syrian people felt forced to accept this asphyxiating situation. They felt okay, at least on the surface, with sacrificing freedom for stability and allowing the government to do whatever it claimed it needed to do in order to prevent yet another destabilizing military coup. The average Syrian saw the very bloody wars next door in
259

Robert Owen Freedman, The Middle East Enters the Twenty First Century (Gainsville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2002), 214. 260 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 116. 261 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 63-64. 262 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 119-120. 263 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 203.

49 Lebanon and Iraq and thus began to feel dependent on these repressive measures for government stability.264 This fear was constantly manipulated by the government through its state-controlled media. The Syrian regime portrayed itself as the only thing protecting the people from further chaos.265 Syria‟s Tadmur prison was kept very busy in the early 1990‟s and it was all kept hidden from outsiders very well because he Syrian economy needed those hundreds of thousands of tourists who visited the ancient site of Palmyra every year. The following is from an Amnesty International report released in 1996; “Tadmur Prison appears to have been designed to inflict the maximum suffering, humiliation and fear on prisoners and to keep them under the strictest control by breaking their spirit. Prisoners are not only completely isolated from the outside world, they are also prevented from communicating with each other. Every aspect of life in Tadmur Prison is a dehumanizing experience… Despite numerous allegations of torture, some of which were made in court by the victims themselves, no proper investigations appear to have been carried out by the Syrian authorities. Although the bulk of these violations took place in the 1980s and early 1990s, their impact continues to be felt by the victims and their families and friends.” 266 Most of the 500 people tried before the Supreme State Security Court between 1992 and 1995 had testified to being severely tortured in various ways and about 700 people were being held in Tadmur prison by 1996. This particular death factory was originally built and used by the French occupation forces and Hafez began to use it for his own objectives following his coup in 1970. 20,000 political prisoners passed through this massive torture chamber between 1980 and 1990. The average number of Syrian people held there at any one time during this period was around 6,000.267 Everything becomes a torture device in a prison run by Syrian Ba‟athists, from the forced weekly shavings of the prisoners to bathing.268 The term itself, “prisoner,” seems unethical because none of these individuals are ever actually criminals; they‟re journalists, doctors, cement-layers, college students, men and women, young and old. They‟re hostages more than anything else and they‟re also not always Syrian. As previously mentioned, thousands of Lebanese people have disappeared into these death factories along with a large number of Palestinians over the years.269 Fascist regimes who feel they must warehouse and terrorize their constituents in order to rule over them usually, historically speaking, they dig their own graves. When Hafez al Assad was not imprisoning and brutalizing individual people he was performing similar actions to hinder Syria‟s economic development. Any economy that has been dominated by the state for decades and decades is going to have many difficulties integrating into the global economy. In Syria, regime survival and its regional standing were placed above economic rationalization, and this is what prevented any full economic liberalization from coming forward.270 Syria is a lower to middle income country that is dominated by a public sector formed during the pro-socialist and post-independence years of the 1950‟s and 1960‟s. According to the doctrines of this particular ideology in order to distribute wealth and political power more equally among the masses they must willingly give the state their undying obedience and the state gives them the social services they depend
264 265

David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 5. Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 50. 266 Amnesty International, Syria: Torture, despair, and dehumanization in Tadmur military prison (Amnesty International, PDF, 2001), 2-3. 267 Amnesty International, Syria: Torture, despair, and dehumanization in Tadmur military prison, 5-6. 268 Amnesty International, Syria: Torture, despair, and dehumanization in Tadmur military prison, 21. 269 Amnesty International, Syria: Torture, despair, and dehumanization in Tadmur military prison, 17-18. 270 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 57.

50 on for a decent life, such as education and employment. The end result in Syria was predictable; the public sector became too massive to actually perform well and it also became the support base for the government. The upper class became dependent on the regime because the state‟s economic policy was driven by survival rather than doing what‟s best for the people. With the Syrian people‟s needs no longer the top priority Syrian society became a prisoner to the state. The economy as a whole became dependent on things that were not very reliable. The agrarian base had to deal with both unpredictable rainfall, drought, and the oil sector is intrinsically a chaotic market anyway. This led to a process of very “selective liberalization.” If the state were to liberalize too much of the economy too quickly the massive public sector could be hurt and this is the patronage system that works to keep the regime in power. Economic liberalization was selected by what could create more support for regime rather than what could improve the economic situation for everyone.271 The Sunni business class was tied to the Syrian government in order to hold onto their economic well-being.272 A process of selective liberalization could only lead to selective stabilization. The IMF and the World Bank had no power up against the Syrian regime‟s unpredictable, outdated, and repressive laws and reforms.273 Hafez al Assad failed to clear the government‟s financial debt to the World Bank as far back as 1986 so he couldn‟t get any new loans from it anyway.274 The bourgeoisie was maintained through this process; the young Sunni entrepreneurs who were driven out by the security apparatus. This is who desperately wanted more economic reform.275 If the state went down, so would the upper classes of society and as a result of this survivalist mentality increased rates of corruption emerged in the private sector.276 It literally was liberalization and authoritarianism at the same time.277 Plus, the education system suffered along with the economy. Those who are rich enough to go overseas for their education usually do not return to Syria. They choose to stay in the West and this resulted in a severe brain-drain.278 By the late 1990‟s 200,000 young Syrians were graduating annually from higher learning institutions and jobs were desperately needed by all of them.279 Simultaneously, foreign companies lost interest in Syria‟s oil development and by 1995 only five out of twenty-two foreign oil companies that had been active in the country were still there. Western oil corporations could no longer attract foreign partners to explore the existing oil fields. Syria‟s foreign debt was at $2 billion in the 1990‟s and that‟s equal to 3% of its total GDP.280Meanwhile, Syrian defense costs were five times higher than average world defense costs and 90% of these weapons were supplied by the Soviet Union.281 Fascism is not sustainable anywhere as evidenced by the fact that the most notorious police state in the Arab world could no longer finance its own objectives.

271 272

David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 6-7. Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 3. 273 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 64. 274 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 99. 275 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 67-68. 276 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 7-8. 277 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 9. 278 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 8. 279 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 126. 280 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 87-88. 281 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 93.

51 Because the public sector controls the economy and secures the power of the Alawite community they are the ones who benefit from a much higher standard of living.282 The Assad dynasty was constantly playing the minority card so there would always be a guaranteed 20-30% of the population supporting them. The Alawites, Christians, Druze, and Ismailis feared a Sunni comeback and subsequent repression. The urbanized elitist Sunnis from the business class were also part of this minority to be manipulated. Combined together it would appear as if 50% of the population was behind the government which, on the surface at least, is not such a bad deal for an authoritarian ruler.283 It is true that Ba‟athism and the Assad dynasty pulled the Alawite community out of poverty and guarded them from the occasional bouts of religious persecution, but it did this only to land them in great peril. Alawites are not religious; their identity is based on culture, and that culture is practically owned by the Syrian government. Their feelings of persecution are constantly manipulated through state-controlled television even though they had come to dominate Syria‟s security state for decades. The regime gave them their solidarity, the security state became their house of worship, and the government deliberately linked their culture and history to state security. Alawites will be the first to tell you that often they don‟t know much about their own religion.284 Under Hafez an elitist Alawite minority was maintained in the coastal cities of Latakia, Baniyas, Jableh, and Tartous. Tel Khalakh is a Sunni town on edge of Homs, but it‟s surrounded by Alawite-owned lands. In Homs only a quarter of population were Alawites but they dominated the city from their own segregated neighborhoods. The government, the military, the security agency, and the economy all came to be held within the Alawite sphere of influence. Cities, such as the previously mentioned ones on the coast, either came under the control of an implanted elitist minority or, as with Homs, they were surrounded. The Assad dynasty worked to deliberately alter the demography, but this couldn‟t be done with Damascus and Aleppo. The Sunni majority is too great. Instead these cities became heavily militarized. Detention centers, Ba‟athist offices, prisons, and military camps were constructed in strategic areas with the goal of dominating the Sunni majority. However, Hafez al Assad‟s survival was dependent on the appeasement of the upper class Sunnis as much as the cohesiveness of Alawite community. The Sunnis of Syria had come to be very divided along class lines, and the wealthier, more urbanized communities were not comfortable with the thought of sharing their power with the rural poor.285 Lebanon‟s Tripoli is a coastal city with a Sunni majority on the Syrian-Lebanese border. However, Tripoli has an Alawite minority that is given financial support by Syrian government. Out of the 120,000 Alawites in Lebanon most were placed here in their own neighborhood; Jebel Mohsen. Loyal to the regime in Damascus they are often armed and mobilized to check the power of the Sunni Islamists in the city, although their rising wave of political Islam was a reaction to this Syrian neo-colonization in the first place. A Sunni society has been forced to watch as highly sectarian minorities take over their governments. Syrian Alawites are placed in the Lebanese Parliament entirely due to pressure from Damascus. Lebanon‟s naturalization laws are also completely subverted. Palestinian refugees who have lived in the impoverished refugee camps since the Nakba of 1948 and its sequel in 1967 cannot attain Lebanese citizenship whatsoever, but Syrian Alawites can at any time.286 This will ring alarm bells to anyone familiar with the ongoing colonization and fragmentation of the West Bank, the political corruption of the Palestinian Authority, and Israel‟s ethnocratic subversion of refugee‟s rights. The
282 283

Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 104. David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 51-52. 284 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 123-124. 285 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 90-91. 286 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 117.

52 similarities remain uncanny. Clearly, Ba‟athism in power had become very different from Ba‟athism in opposition. Hafez al Assad supported Iran when Saddam Hussein launched a savage war against the country in the 1980‟s with the green light from the West and chemical weapons from Saudi Arabia, and then he supported the West against Iraq following the invasion and horrific military occupation of Kuwait in the early 1990‟s. However, later in this decade, the rivalry between Hafez and Saddam began to change. In 1997 the Syrian government heavily cut down on dissent that was in opposition to Saddam Hussein‟s cruelty and psychosis. Suddenly Saddam Hussein saw the political importance of economic ties with Syria because it allowed him to break through economic isolation. What is one to make of this? Perhaps one should check the receipt. In 1997 the Syrian regime received a $13 million contract for exporting goods to Iraq through the UN‟s Oil for Food Program. It managed the export of Syrian products to Iraq under UN Resolution 986.287 Established two years earlier by the UN and introduced by US President Clinton the goal of the program was to allow the Iraqi regime to sell its oil in exchange for food and medicine for the millions of Iraqi citizens suffering under the weight of economic sanctions. The corruption and abuse of funds on behalf of both Saddam Hussein and the UN were massive. People were not fed. Hospitals were not built.288 The United Nations was complicit in supporting both of these terribly violent neo-Ba‟athist regimes. At the same time Syria was more than willing to engage in diplomacy with the Jewish state. In the 1990‟s Syria had the upper hand at the negotiating table following how well it served the Western coalition against Iraq.289 Israel knows that the Syrian regime is real authority in Lebanon, so issues with Lebanon can only be solved through talking to them.290 The agents of the international order‟s status quo remain complicit in the suffering of the Syrian people until this day, and so do those still claiming to champion the cause of Syria‟s Ba‟athist platform. Syrian Ba‟athism hasn‟t been a spearhead for social justice in the region since 1952. Their world view and Hafez al Assad‟s health collapsed by late 1990‟s. It was the end of Pan-Arabism, of the socialist era, and of the Soviet Union.291 The collapse of the USSR, and of Communism, accelerated the Ba‟athist ideological crisis and undermined their pillar of state control.292 Hafez al Assad ruled Syria longer than any other man in the post-WWII era.293 He died of a heart attack in June of 2000 and was buried next to his favorite son, Basil, in a mausoleum in their ancestral Alawite village of Qardaha. Bashar al Assad was appointed to the presidency in an unopposed referendum. A wide variety of Western political representatives predicted Bashar to be a reformer. Five star hotels began to open in the cities because there was a new wave of tourism following an influx of investments from the Gulf States.294 The modernization card was played very well by the Assad family. Bashar‟s inaugural speech in 2000 was praised by Western officials as being very enlightened; he was critical of his father‟s rule and he fully admitted that the increasing rates of poverty were caused by the

287

Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 221-224. 288 BBC, Oil-for-food chief took “bribes” (BBC, August 8, 2005), http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4131602.stm 289 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 101. 290 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 126. 291 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 50. 292 Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East, 118. 293 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 79. 294 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 6-7.

53 state-domination of the economy.295 The most serious problem was the growing inequality in distribution of wealth. The few reforms that were enacted only enriched an elitist minority with ties to the government and cronyism was rampant. The biggest trait of Syria‟s cronyism were the economic oligarchs who had a privileged access to wealth and power. In Damascus they built luxury and high-end establishments with the money the regime received from the Gulf States. The Alawites and Sunni bourgeoisie of Damascus were practically segregated from the rest of the population.296 The era of the “Damascus Spring” occurred 7-8 months after Bashar took office. A variety of different political prisoners were released, private newspapers were allowed to be licensed, the media becomes slightly less restrictive, and political forums were opened. These became spaces for criticism and dissent of the state‟s policies.297 However, this “Damascus Spring” ended almost as soon as it began. It was a cosmetic change designed to keep Bashar‟s new Western friends on his good side. Dissident forums were repressed and shut down almost right after they opened and numerous human rights activists who engaged people at these forums found themselves imprisoned.298 The associates of Hafez are the men behind the curtain and they decided that enough was enough. The “Damascus Spring” was reversed and pro-democracy activists disappeared back into the torture chambers of the regime. Following this was ten years of some very minor and superficial economic reforms. The Syrian regime stayed as an authoritarian, patriarchal, single-party system.299 The second Palestinian intifada erupted a few months after Bashar became president and the Syrian regime has historically exploited the Palestinian cause regardless of what historical record shows. While Bashar was praising the second intifada hundreds of Palestinians were languishing in his jails. Attiyeh Dhiab Attiyeh, a Palestinian in his early 30‟s, died in Tadmur prison in early 2000 due to medical neglect. He was already very ill when he was transferred in Tadmur in 1996. Attieyeh was a member of Fatah, the faction led by Yasser Arafat, and had been arrested in 1989 in south Lebanon before being sent to Syria.300 Nothing from the all-powerful Syrian security state was used to help prevent the second Palestinian intifada from being mercilessly crushed by the Israeli military. The US would come to find Syria‟s torture chambers to be very useful in its “War on Terror” even though President George W. Bush anointed Bashar al Assad as being a cog in the “axis of evil.” The Syrian regime was one of the most popular destinations for the CIA to send those it captured during its extra-rendition program. A securitybased relationship between the Gestapos of Syria and the West was born in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th.301 A Syrian-Canadian man named Maher Arar was repeatedly tortured by Syrian state security after he was kidnapped by the American authorities and flown to Syria in 2002. He was seized at New York‟s John F. Kennedy International Airport before being placed in the hands of Bashar al Assad where he was tortured in a small underground cell almost a year. The only reason Maher eventually saw the light of day again is because of a massive public outcry in Canada that came as a result of his wife‟s relentless campaign for his freedom. Most Syrians who end up in a Ba‟athist prison are not so fortunate. According to former CIA agent Robert Baer, “If you want people to be well interrogated,

295 296

David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 4. Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 62-64. 297 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 8. 298 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 8. 299 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 4. 300 Amnesty International, Syria: Torture, despair, and dehumanization in Tadmur military prison (Amnesty International, PDF, 2001), 18. 301 Al Bawaba News, America's gulag: Syrian regime was a 'common destination' for CIA rendition (Al Bawaba, February 5, 2013), http://www.albawaba.com/news/rendition-syria-torture-468616

54 you send them to Jordan. If you want people to be disappeared, you send them to Egypt. And if you want people to be tortured, you send them to Syria.”302 For engaging in such good cooperation on the “War on Terror” the Bush administration blocked the Syria Accountability Act from passing. It would have imposed harsher sanctions on the Assad regime for their chemical weapons stockpiles.303 In 2003 the debacle of America‟s pre-emptive strike on Iraq began. Bashar‟s allegedly secular government was engaged in bald-faced double dealing because he supported the Islamist militants who went into Iraq to fight the American occupation forces. Not only did his regime help foreign Muslim fighters enter Syria, but they were also supplied with weapons along their border-crossing into Iraq. Bashar felt that he needed to fight the US military and raise his anti-imperialist credentials, but do so without giving the US military an excuse to invade Syria.304 He literally built, from the ground up, his own Al Qaeda in Iraq. The plan worked perfectly for Bashar; Syria was labeled a rogue state by George W. Bush after financially and logistically aiding the foreign jihadis who took part in the Iraqi resistance while simultaneously the CIA and FBI continued to depend on Bashar‟s torture chambers for their extra-rendition program. While the Syrian regime was implanting Al Qaeda cells in Iraq and, at the same time, imprisoning and torturing innocent Muslims who the Americans suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda, the Lebanese resistance to Syrian tyranny was rumbling again. The Israeli occupiers were on their way out the door in 2000; the same year Hafez al Assad passed away. Two monstrous shadows that had smothered the lives of Lebanese people for decades began to dissipate at the same time. Hezbollah, the Iranian proxy militia aligned with the Assad dynasty, had worked to not only dismantle the South Lebanon Army but had also chased out the Israeli military. They began to ride a wave of popularity in Lebanese political culture in spite of their connection to the Syrian regime and all its subsequent atrocities.305 Lebanon provided Syria with an alternative labor market that generated $2 billion a year and employed over one million Syrians.306 The effect of tribalism within Lebanon remains staggering; a person is a Druze, a Maronite, a Sunni, or a Shia before they are a Lebanese. The splintering can go even further. Which Druze clan? Arslan or Jumblatt? Which Maronite clan? Gemayel or Franjieh?307 Certainly an external threat, such as Zionist or Syrian Ba‟athist occupation, will reinforce such a gang-mentality. The effects of Lebanon‟s “conspiracy” game can be just as toxic; the perpetrators of a car bomb or a political assassination are never caught, the victim is always a martyr, and justice is never served to the family of the deceased.308 In the early 2000‟s several figures began to emerge who managed to unify the Lebanese people, and Bashar al Assad would work to eliminate all of them. A moderate Sunni politician with Saudi connections named Rafik Hariri would become an unlikely martyr for the cause of Lebanese independence. From a humble background in Sidon he gained his high social status through the House of Saud.309 The countdown to his murder at the hands of Syrian agents in Lebanon began five months before his death. A powerful, popular, moderate Sunni Lebanese politician is
302

Democracy Now!, Maher Arar: “My Rendition & Torture in Syrian Prison Highlights U.S. Reliance on Syria as an Ally‟ (Democracy Now!, June 11, 2013), http://www.democracynow.org/2011/6/13/maher_arar_my_rendition_torture_in 303 Al Bawaba News, America's gulag: Syrian regime was a 'common destination' for CIA rendition (Al Bawaba, February 5, 2013), http://www.albawaba.com/news/rendition-syria-torture-468616 304 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 10-11. 305 Zahera Harb, Channels of Resistance in Lebanon - Liberation Propaganda, Hezbollah and the Media (London: I.B. Tauris, 2011), 214-216. 306 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 130. 307 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 46. 308 Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem, 36. 309 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 45.

55 a huge threat to Syrian hegemony, so Bashar offered political and financial support to Hariri‟s rival; President Emile Lahoud. Hariri was obviously much more experienced for the job; he headed five cabinets during his tenure, dominated the country's post-war political life, was credited with reconstructing Beirut after the devastating 15-year civil war, and had worked as Lebanon‟s prime minister for a decade when Lahoud came onto the scene. Hariri met with Bashar al Assad in Damascus 2004 to discuss this conflict of interests. Hariri was warned that if he got in the way of Lahoud‟s power grab either he or Walid Jumblatt would lose their lives. Bashar threatened to come after Hariri‟s family “anywhere in the world.” Rafik Hariri left the meeting in 2004 knowing that he was a dead man walking, and he decided to follow through with his death sentence for the greater good of Lebanon. He submitted his resignation as Prime Minister and announced to the world that he was considering a presidential campaign against Lahoud. His decision was met with a tremendous outpouring of public support. Now Bashar began to sweat; Hariri called his bluff and his presidential campaign could lead to a large popular movement against the Syrian occupation. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1559 calling for a “free and fair electoral process” in next Lebanese presidential election, stating that foreign interference was not allowed, and calling for the remaining Syrian troops to leave. Hoping to maybe save his life Rafik Hariri met with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem and tried to convince him that Resolution 1559 was not his doing. Everyone knew that Hariri had enough votes in parliament to block Lahoud‟s presidential extension. A huge failure for Bashar in his father‟s favorite satellite state was around the corner.310 This is in spite of the fact that Hariri was not a threat to the power of Syria‟s Shia Lebanese allies, Hezbollah, in the slightest. In an interview with the BBC in 2001 he described Hezbollah as being “the ones protecting Lebanon against the Israeli occupation” and he called for sanctions against Israel. He also refused to send Lebanese troops into Iraq and wanted no part of the American neo-con agenda, unlike Bashar al Assad.311 He was a reasonable character, and his constituency wanted the Syrian occupation to end. Hariri only did his job; represent the people. It‟s something that Syrian Ba‟athism had long left behind. In early February of 2005 Rafik Hariri was killed when explosives equivalent to 4,000 pounds of TNT concealed inside a parked van were detonated as his motorcade drove passed the St. George Hotel in Beirut. Twenty two people in all died in the massive explosion. Hezbollah shamelessly blamed Israel, but no one other than Hezbollah‟s Western supporters bought the propaganda. Hariri‟s murder was so morally repulsive, and the culprits so obvious, that Lebanese sovereignty suddenly mattered to outside world. The sloppy assassination backfired tremendously; the movement to end the Syrian occupation was strengthened and the Sunni silent majority of Lebanon came to life. Because Rafik Harir was the picture perfect example of the moderate Sunni establishment from Sidon who had previously spoken against armed Islamic extremism no Syrian Ba‟athist smears of alleged jihadism could stick.312 Hariri‟s son, Saad, received condolences from the Syrian people in the form of an open letter signed by a large group of prominent exiled Syrian dissenters living in Lebanon for security reasons. It was published at the end of February in one of Lebanon‟s most trusted daily newspapers. The letter described Hariri‟s murder as an “ugly deed of slaughter planned and perpetuated by those who do not wish to see Lebanon healthy, united, and free,” adding that “…we as educated Syrians have found in Lebanon a window for the

310 311

Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 48-50. BBC, Interview with Rafik Hariri (Information Clearing House, November 2001), http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8295.htm 312 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 51.

56 expression of ideas not permitted to us in our homeland.”313 The February 14th assassination of Rafik Hariri became Bashar‟s defining action of the early 2000‟s,314 but it didn‟t end there. Only four months after Hariri‟s death Bashar al Assad struck again. Samir Kassir was a Greek Orthodox Christian with a Palestinian mother and a Syrian father.315 As an outspoken leftist Kassir was a strong advocate for the liberation of Palestine and their civil rights as refugees in Lebanon. He advocated for secular democracy in both Lebanon and Syria and was an unrelenting critic of the Syrian occupation. Kassir was a founding member of the Democratic Left Movement, which won a seat in the Lebanese parliamentary elections of 2005, and the party had worked to tirelessly organize the massive demonstrations that erupted following Hariri‟s assassination. The death threats from both the Syrian regime and their agents in Lebanon kept piling up. Samir Kassir was killed by a car bomb in June only a few days after the general elections.316 Two thousand people carried Samir‟s coffin through Martyr‟s Square, and his colleague Gebran Tueni was one of them. Six months later he too would be neutralized by the Syrian regime. A Greek Orthodox Christian journalist, his family launched Lebanon‟s Al-Nahar paper in the early 1930‟s. His father had gone on to represent Lebanon at the UN. Tueni came from a long line of Lebanese threats to Syrian hegemony. In an in interview given two months before his murder Tueni stated that the Syrian regime “lives on mafias, lives on money laundering, lives on drug dealing, and lives on corruption.”317 Before he knew it Gebran Tueni found himself taking preventative measures to avoid assassination, like switching cars every day and taking different routes to work. He exiled himself to Paris for a short period and upon his return to Beirut was killed by a car bomb on his way to work. Remembered as a defender of Lebanon's elusive sovereignty, tens of thousands of people attended his funeral. Whether it was Kamal Jumblatt in 1977 or Bashir Gemayal five years later or the countless others over the course of three decades, the motive remained the same; any threat to Syrian hegemony had to be neutralized. The Assad regime in Damascus does not want Lebanon‟s national sovereignty to exist.318 The fallout from Lebanon‟s Cedar Revolution made Bashar regain some interest in raising his anti-imperialist credentials, thus his support of Al Qaeda in Iraq continued. However, Syrian assistance was only marginal and was not responsible for the majority of the indigenous Iraqi uprising.319 Several studies done in 2005 and 2006 showed that foreign fighters in Iraq counted for only 10% of all armed militants and that there was a broad consensus amongst US military officials that the resistance was 95% Iraqi.320 Bashar does not want the Iraqi people to be empowered too much. Syria wants Iraq to be stable, but only after the American neo-con threat is gone. A broken Iraq, an Iraq without national borders, is a threat to the power of the Syrian regime because it could lead to minorities in Syria wanting to rise up and break away from the state. This is especially true for the Kurdish people in Syria. Their nationalist riots in the spring of 2004 in Qamishli was directly motivated by the enhanced autonomy gained by their brothers and sisters in Iraq.321 Qamishli is the largest town in the Al Hasakah governate and is the heart of Kurdish life in Syria. Thousands had been denied citizenship by the Syrian government since 1962, thus denying
313 314

Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 53. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 45. 315 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 54. 316 Nicholas Blanford, Journalist‟s Murder Rattles Beirut (The Christian Science Monitor, June 3, 2005), http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0603/p06s01-wome.html 317 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 54-55. 318 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 46. 319 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 13-14. 320 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 23. 321 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 16.

57 them job security, healthcare, and the right to own property. To add insult to injury Hafez al Assad had worked to resettle thousands of Syrians from other parts of the country onto the border with Iran, Iraq and Turkey. This was done to create a buffer zone between the Kurdish areas thus fragmenting them and surrounding them by communities hostile to them. The way in which Hafez al Assad had deliberately created sectarian strife by playing with the Sunni-Alawite demographics in the cities was repeated in the Kurdish majority lands. It was these resettled staunchly Ba‟athist Arabs in the Kurds‟ backyard who decided it was appropriate to raise photos of Saddam Hussein; the dictator responsible for the Kurdish genocide of the early 1990‟s. In March of 2004 a football match in Qamishli between the local Kurdish team and a Sunni Arab team from Deir ez Zor was the spark that set off the riots. The fans of Arab team had brought their framed pictures of Saddam Hussein with them, and in response, the Kurdish fans praised the US invasion of Iraq. A street fight broke out, followed by a massive Kurdish demonstration. A Ba‟ath Party office was burned down, a statue of Hafez al Assad was toppled, and thirty Kurdish Syrians were massacred by Syrian state security forces. Thousands fled into Iraqi Kurdistan for safety.322 There was, and still is, very intense anti-American sentiment in the Arab and Muslim world because of America‟s reckless military occupation of Iraq. As a result both Saddam Hussein‟s living victims and anyone even remotely connected to American policy is quick to be demonized. For the Syrian opposition in exile to join with US policy on anything was to play into the hands of Syrian state propaganda. It was used as evidence to discredit them in Syria. Bashar‟s popularity always took a sudden jump whenever he would go out of his way to condemn American policy regardless of how brutal his security forces were against his own people, and regardless of how many Ba‟athist torture chambers throughout Syria remained in operation with the help of the CIA. All Bashar had to do to gain more domestic support was to point to the horrific bloodshed caused by the American military in Iraq.323 The term “humanitarian intervention” had been thoroughly stained by the American occupation of Iraq. In 2004 Human Rights Watch commented on the change in tone; "The result is that at a time of renewed interest in humanitarian intervention, the Iraq war and the effort to justify it even in part in humanitarian terms risk giving humanitarian intervention a bad name. If that breeds cynicism about the use of military force for humanitarian purposes, it could be devastating for people in need of future rescue."324 Although Bashar al Assad had reduced the Syrian troop presence in Lebanon by 50% since he came to power in 2000 he still kept a massive presence of 14,000-16,000 occupation forces in the country and it wasn‟t until the spring of 2005, after much international pressure came to a boil, that Bashar finally agreed to withdraw these troops.325 However, Lebanon was forced to defend itself from Syria without any Western assistance. Syrian military personnel had been forced out of Lebanon but intelligence operatives and Lebanese allies were still there.326 Soon enough the Syrian regime agreed to recognize and work with the US-backed, Shia led Iraqi government and Syrian-Iraqi diplomatic relations were fully restored in 2006. This was also a good year for Bashar because of Israel‟s failure in Lebanon. The Israeli military went to war with Hezbollah that summer and they were forced to retreat. Hezbollah‟s popularity soared
322

Human Rights Watch, Syria: Address Grievances Underlying Kurdish Unrest (Human Rights Watch, March 19, 2004), http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2004/03/18/syria-address-grievances-underlying-kurdish-unrest 323 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 22. 324 Human Rights Watch, War In Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention (Human Rights Watch, January 25, 2004), http://www.hrw.org/news/2004/01/25/war-iraq-not-humanitarian-intervention 325 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 20-21. 326 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 54-55.

58 and a victory for them is a victory for the Syrian government. Bashar used Hezbollah‟s popularity to increase his regime‟s legitimacy in the eyes of the Arab world. Now that he was in a position of strength he could dictate the terms of peace negotiations with Israel and several US representatives would meet with Bashar in Damascus during the winter of 2006.327 The official Israeli investigative report into the 2006 war stated, “Israel cannot survive in this region…” Considering the 400-600 nuclear warheads that Israel sits on, is this statement accurate? Absolutely not, but it does reflect how much psychologically the rug was pulled out from under them. It was an Iranian proxy militia that revealed to the Arabs that maybe Israel was not indestructible, and a suffocating shadow of failure slowly began to lift off of people‟s minds and hearts.328 The Israeli military leadership kept asking themselves the same question in regards to Hezbollah‟s manpower; “Where did all these people come from?” Lebanon had become not only a satellite state for the Assad dynasty to conquer, but also Iran‟s blueprint for future imperial istic endeavors.329 The evolution of Iran‟s proxy Hezbollah from a small militia to a guerilla army to “a state within a state” occurred over a span of two decades; the decades of Israeli military occupation and Hafez al Assad‟s repression.330 For Syria to side with Iran in the 1980‟s meant that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards could reign supreme in Lebanon and Syria bowed to Iranian power fully in 1990. Syrian Alawite military personnel in Lebanon had been in contact with the Iranian emissaries for years and Hafez al Assad had allowed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to establish a base in Baalbeck in 1982 with the intention of pushing out the Israelis. In 2006 it was the Iranian-backed Lebanese militants who had expelled the Israeli army and not Syria. Lebanon‟s Anjar in particular has historical and strategic importance to Bashar. This is where Syrian Alawite military personnel were stationed and they kept a notorious military prison there in business. Anjar is home to a gallows and a torture chamber for Lebanese people who get out of line in regards to Syrian hegemony.331 Keep in mind how Hezbollah became “a state within a state” in the first place; the Lebanese government collapsed in 1984 due to Hafez al Assad‟s meddling and a power vacuum needed to be filled.332 Through Hezbollah Iran has colonized the Lebanese state and the Syrian government assisted Iran in delivering sophisticated weapons to southern Lebanon, thus Hezbollah became the strongest military force in the country by the early 1990‟s.333 To see sectarian demarcations in the Arab/Muslim world as being set in stone is a mistake. Under the right circumstances not only can revolutions erupt but also sectarian divides can collapse. People from all sects and regions were overjoyed following Hezbollah‟s victory in 2006.334 Would Syria want to condemn this result of Iranian military power? Would Palestine? Would Lebanon?335 Would anyone who carries a heavy heart at the sight of Jewish settlers setting Palestinian olive trees on fire? Keep in mind that the death machine that has been steamrolling Palestine since 1948 does not stop for one second. Dr. Azmi Bishara, a Palestinian intellectual from Nazareth who was a member of the Israeli Knesset for almost a decade, was mercilessly harassed by his Jewish Israeli co-workers and eventually run out of the country. In 2007 he was exiled to

327 328

David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 24-26. Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008), 52. 329 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 54. 330 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 78. 331 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 186-187. 332 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 4. 333 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 194. 334 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 176-177. 335 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 188.

59 Qatar for passing military intelligence to Hezbollah during the atrocity that was the Second Lebanon War. He explained his actions to Ha‟aretz reporters; “In that month of July they killed children in Lebanon. I remember my tears and the tears of the people over those children… Have they been cleansed of their sins in this period? Baptized? Become religious? They want to try those who condemned the aggression against Lebanon, and that is unacceptable."336 Sunni fundamentalists, particularly those in the Gulf States, don‟t seem to have much of a plan other than turning Mecca into a shopping mall and preventing women from learning how to drive. Shia fundamentalists, however, have been able to adapt to the 21st century much better. Hassan Nasrallah is the secretary-general of Hezbollah and he‟s very well-read mujtahid. Shia Islam requires this “middle man” between the believer and the Quran. A mujtahid assists Muslims with the interpretation of their holy book and Nasrallah underwent years of formal training for this position. Osama bin Laden was an engineer. Ayman al Zawahiri is a doctor. Shias would never take orders from these men and there‟s no comparison between them.337 The question of “Shia mujtahid or Sunni takfiri?” used to only float through the minds of the movers and the shakers in Washington DC, but following Hezbollah‟s victories of 2000 and 2006 that same question began to scream inside the heads of the anti-Zionist establishment. Today‟s Tehran holds more promise for Washington, Moscow, and Damascus simultaneously. Who is an average impoverished Shia individual in southern Lebanon going to look up to after their village has been razed to the ground and their family killed by an Israeli warplane; the outrageously rich Saudis who are Zionist collaborators, or Hassan Nasrallah? The answer is obvious.338 In 2008 in Syria there were reports of a sudden jump in conversions to Shia Islam by both Sunnis and Alawites.339 It was because of Hezbollah and because of politics. According to a Zogby poll taken that same here the top three most popular leaders in the Sunni-dominated Middle East were not Sunni. Bashar al Assad was one of them. The other two were Iran‟s Mahmoud Ahmadinejhad and Hezbollah‟s Hassan Nasrallah.340 An Arab despot can immiserate the lives of his people for decades with unspeakable horrors and pain, but one taste of successful resistance against the Zionist knife that stabs the Levant‟s heart every day and al l can be temporarily forgiven. Both the dirtying of “humanitarian intervention” by American neo-conservatives and the Iranian takeover of the anti-Zionist movement would come to stab the Syrian people in the back. The Syrian Alawite partnership with Iran after 2006 led to its further breaking with Saudi Arabia. In 1989, following the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Moscow and Tehran negotiated their first major arms deal. By the end of the 1990‟s Russia emerged as Iran‟s main supplier of conventional arms. Vladimir Putin has been selling all kinds of major weapons systems to Iran since 1992. In 2005 Russia sold Iran a $700 million surface-to-air missile defense system along with thirty TOR M-1 air-defense missile systems. Russia also built Iran‟s nuclear reactor at Buhsher. In the spring of 2006 the Iranian military tested a high-speed torpedo that was similar to the Russian-made VA-111 Shkval. The monetary value of arms transfer agreements between Iran and Russia grew from $300 million between 1998 and 2001 to $1.7 billion between 2002 and 2005. It came as no surprise when the Israeli military discovered

336

Jonathan Lis, Balad Chairman Bishara: “I cannot receive a fair trial in Israel” (Ha‟aretz, April 26, 2007), http://www.haaretz.com/news/balad-chairman-bishara-i-cannot-receive-a-fair-trial-in-israel-1.219014 337 Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008), 196-197. 338 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 199. 339 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 152. 340 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 56.

60 Russian-made anti-tank weapons in southern Lebanon following the Second Lebanon War.341 By 2009 the total investment of Russian companies in Syria‟s tourism and energy sectors, totaled at $19.4 billion.342 However, it cannot be denied that Hezbollah has done a brilliant job at funding itself, without assistance from Iran, Syria, or Russia through their involvement in the drug trade. They‟ve become a major player in the field of narco-terrorism, since venturing into the global narcotics industry back in the 1970‟s. A drug trade route known as Highway 101 allows Hezbollah to access the illicit drug markets of Europe from South America through West Africa. Lebanese Shia individuals involved in the narcotics trade in Lebanon began to work with criminal associates within the Lebanese Shia diaspora in South America. The end result was that Lebanon became a transit country for cocaine and heroin. The mullahs of Iran issued a fatwa in themid-1980s providing the needed religious justification for the otherwise extremely impure activity of drug trafficking. The Lebanese town of Ghajar straddles the “Blue Line,” the UN-demarcated line dividing Israel and Lebanon following the war in 2006. There isn‟t a fence on the Lebanese side, thus making it ideal for drug smuggling. Ghajar has gained a reputation as the main route for such activity in Lebanon.343 While Hezbollah is proving that it is more than able to take care of itself, Iran can continue to buy weapons from Russia, including their fuel-air explosives, also known as “vacuum bombs.” Fuel-air explosives were first developed and used by the US in its genocidal campaign in Vietnam during the 1960‟s. Soviet scientists liked what they saw and quickly developed their own. The Russian military began to use these “vacuum bombs” in Chechnya in 1999.344 The second Chechen war was one of the most horrific conflicts of the 21st century; thousands of civilians were being slaughtered by indiscriminate bombing campaigns from the Russian army, torture and extra-judicial killing were daily occurrences, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum placed Chechnya on its genocide watch list.345 Regardless, the Western media fully assisted in the justification of 250,000 people being slaughtered by Putin‟s military in Chechnya because they were following the “War on Terror” guidelines. After all, Chechnya is a Sunni Muslim country and occasionally a terrorist attack against Russian civilians did occur. Meanwhile, Russian forces were free to engage in widespread killing, arson, torture, and rape. These scorched-earth tactics became the fuel to the fire of Islamic terrorism used against Russian civilians. Not only did the Russian authorities refuse to undertake credible investigations into the infinite number of massacres committed by the military,346 but anyone who dared to criticize Vladimir Putin‟s policies in Chechnya found themselves in a living nightmare as well. Russia was, and still is, one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist. Fifty six were killed by Vladimir Putin‟s hit men between 1992 and 2013.347 Russian and Ukrainian human rights defenders from all walks of life were neutralized alongside Putin‟s mission to turn Chechnya‟s Grozny into Germany‟s Dresden circa WWII. Following
341

Lionel Beehner, Backgrounder: Russian-Iran Arms Trade (Council on Foreign Relations, November 1, 2006), http://www.cfr.org/arms-industries-and-trade/russia-iran-arms-trade/p11869 342 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 136. 343 Mathew Levitt, Hizbullah Narco-terorism: A growing cross-border threat (The Washington Institute, PDF, September 2012), 1-3. 344 Human Rights Watch, Backgrounder on Russian Fuel-Air Explosives (“Vacuum Bombs”) (Human Rights Watch, February 1, 2000), http://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/02/01/backgrounder-russian-fuel-air-explosives-vacuum-bombs 345 Peter Oborne, Ukraine crisis: We confront Vladimir Putin now, yet appeased him before (The Telegraph, March 4, 2014), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/vladimir-putin/10679121/Ukraine-crisis-We-confront-Vladimir-Putin-now-yetappeased-him-before.html 346 Human Rights Watch, Russian atrocities in Chechnya detailed (Human Rights Watch, June 1, 2000), http://www.hrw.org/news/2000/06/01/russian-atrocities-chechnya-detailed 347 Committee to Protect Journalists: Defending Journalists Worldwide, 56 Journalists Killed in Russia since 1992/Motive Confirmed (CPJ, 2013), http://cpj.org/killed/europe/russia/

61 the terrorist attacks on American soil in September of 2001, international discomfort towards armed Islamic resistance only increased even if they were resisting against a genocide. Speaking of the “war on terror,” besides the devastating loss of human life in Iraq as a result of the American occupation beginning in 2003, the US practically handed it over to its arch rival on the world stage; Iran. Iraq‟s military was destroyed, the Iraqi people turned on the more moderate Shia clerics who weren‟t anti-American enough for them, and a power vacuum needed to be filled.348 In the spring of 2007 Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, led a delegation to Syria to meet with Bashar and by 2008 the Syrian intelligence agency was passing information to the US military about where in Iraq the training camps for the armed rebellion were located. Bashar also gave the green light for a campaign of arrests of foreign fighters within Syria… foreign fighters that had made it into Syria with help from the Syrian regime in the first place.349 He played the CIA like a piano knowing full well that the American government‟s biggest concern with Syria was, and still is, the possible rise of Sunni jihadists and militant political Islam rather than decades of state terrorism committed against the Syrian people by their own government. By January 2007 American powerlessness in Shia Iraqi lands had become obvious. An Iraqi Shia militia gunned down several American occupation forces who ventured to Karbala and the US State Department‟s hands were tied; Iranian proxies were in control of the police and other security forces.350 This is the Iranian paradox; a deep defiance of colonialism while simultaneously expressing its own desire for empire. This is something that the West can work with. What with Iran‟s belief in its right to empire through proxy wars and control over the oil market, the West has no choice but to work with it.351 During an interview given in late 2007 the US State Department‟s senior official for Iraq said, point blank, “The decline in attacks on American forces in Iraq „has to be attributed to an Iranian policy decision.‟”352 As previously mentioned, what with the US stuck in a blood-soaked Iraq, Lebanon was left wide open for the regimes of Syria and Iran to continue to imperialize. Lebanese major general Francois al Hajj was assassinated in a car bomb explosion in December of 2007 and the outpouring of grief in Lebanon was tremendous. In the 1980‟s he fought against the Israeli occupiers in the south and against the Syrian occupiers who were murdering Lebanese people in the “free zones” of West Beirut. He became second in command of the Lebanese army and would‟ve been a presidential contender. Francois el Hajj was responsible for putting down Fatah Islam, an Al Qaeda-inspired group, who had barricaded themselves in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el Bared. The presidential term of Bashar al Assad‟s puppet, Emile Lahoud, had come to an end and the official Lebanese government and Hezbollah were in conflict as to who should be the next presidential contenders.353 Bashar al Assad saw Francois‟s star rising, and he had to put it out. In late December of 2008 the Israeli military began its Operation Cast Lead in the militarily occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza and the entire international community expressed a severe moral revulsion at Israel‟s relentless bloodletting during the attack. Over a period of 22 days the Israeli military
348 349

Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008), 92. David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 27-28. 350 Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008), 47. 351 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 4. 352 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 36. 353 Hussein Dakroub, Lebanon bids farewell to army general slain in car bombing (The China Post, December 14, 2007), http://www.chinapost.com.tw/news/detail.asp?id=134936

62 annihilated densely populated civilian areas through an indiscriminate bombing campaign, along with closing Gaza‟s border crossings thus preventing the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid. At the end of the operation in January 2009 both the death toll, devastation, and the insane amount of firepower used on a defenseless civilian population left much of the world shocked and disgusted. 1,400 Palestinians were murdered, over 300 of these deaths were children, and 5,000 people were injured. Only about a dozen Israelis were killed during the assault, and half of them died as a result of friendly fire. 4,000 homes, 215 factories, 700 private businesses, 15 hospitals, 43 primary healthcare centers, 60 police stations, and 30 mosques were leveled to the ground in Gaza by the Israeli military.354 Characteristics of the assault were quite reminiscent of Hafez al Assad‟s annihilation of Hama in 1982. In both massacres the minarets of the mosques were destroyed by the invading occupation forces. They claimed that the minarets were being used by Islamist snipers. There‟s no evidence of that in either situation, but there is evidence of the distaste for orthodox Islam expressed by both sets of perpetrators.355 As a direct result of the atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza the Arab world politically moved closer to the Syrian government. As with the American military‟s violence committed against the Iraqi population any propaganda from the Syrian regime painting its Western enemies as dangerous was unnecessary. Only the truth had to be told in this case.356 In 2009 Saad Hariri became Lebanon‟s Prime Minister, but the political power was not in the hands of the Parliament, rather, it was in the hands of Hezbollah; the remnants of the Syrian occupation assisted by Iran. In December of that year Saad had no choice but to go to Damascus and meet Bashar because of how much power Hezbollah still held in Lebanon. His French, American, and Saudi supporters could not outweigh the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah combination.357 They were heading to Damascus quite often as well. By the end of 2009, and throughout 2010, high-level American and Syrian government officials began meeting on a regular basis.358They had become partners in the “War on Terror” after all. Only 12 months later the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy would be demanding that its readership begin to advocate for an end to “Bashar Assad‟s killing machine in Syria.”359 The Syrian regime did receive a lot of foreign investment from the Gulf States at this time, but it went into tourism and real estate rather than industry and manufacturing. Job creation was not Bashar al Assad‟s priority. 12% of Syria‟s GDP was from the tourism sector and this brought in 8$ billion in 2010, but where did all that money go? Syria‟s GDP in 2010 had grown by only 3.9%, which is down 6% from 2008. Overall economic growth slowed to only 1.8%. Syria‟s total population by 2010 came in at 22 million and 60% of all Syrians were under the age of 25. In this age group 53% of the women and 67% of the men were unemployed. The economy was nowhere near to keeping up with the population growth. Food production was down and food prices were up.360 Even without the issues of police-state tactics relentlessly brutalizing the population for years and years the economic problems had created a recipe for disaster all on their own.

354

Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace (S.l.: Israel/ Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A, 2011), 28-29. 355 Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (London: Collins; 1989), 84. 356 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 29. 357 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 57. 358 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 30. 359 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 39. 360 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 69-52.

63 Vladimir Putin saw all of the attention Bashar al Assad‟s Syria was getting from the West and the Gulf States at this time, so he wanted a piece of the action too. The value of Russian arms sales to Syria came in at $162 million per year for both 2009 and 2010. Moscow also signed a $550 million deal with Damascus for combat training jets. As of 2013 Syrian contracts with the Russian defense industry have exceeded $4 billion. From late 2010 to early 2011 Syria still seemed quiet while the Tunisian, Egyptian, and Yemeni uprisings of the Arab Spring were well underway.361 These stagnant economies had been paralyzed by state-capitalism and endless corruption. The public sector is where everyone went for work because there was no other option. Incomplete market reforms exacerbated the unequal distribution of wealth, and because the economy was not expanding fast enough the region was literally a ticking time bomb.362 Bashar al Assad was completely in denial about the rebellion around the corner. He gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal in January 2011 in which he peddled the myth of Syrian exceptionalism from the Arab Spring. Bashar proclaimed, “Syria is stable. Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people.”363 Apparently, someone didn‟t get the memo that Ba‟athism had been asphyxiated in Syria‟s jails a few decades ago.

Chapter 4:

361 362

Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 38. Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 46. 363 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 40.

64 “People are certainly the slaves of this world. The religion is only a sliver on their tongues. They turn it wherever their livelihood demands.”- Imam Hussein on his way to Karbala. By the 1970‟s the Alawite community was in complete control of the military-security apparatus, the economy, and most of the religious institutions.364 However, the regime denied any public space for Alawites to openly practice their faith. The Syrian government, run by Alawites, did not recognize any Alawite council that could provide religious rulings. No Alawite clergy could manifest itself. Assadism, a faux Ba‟athism, filled the gap that was left by the state‟s theft of the Alawite identity. This process was systematic and deliberate.365 By 2011 30% of the Syrian people, overwhelmingly Sunni, were living below the poverty line.366 The younger generation had been mobilized through education and they were led to believe this would get them a decent job, make a living, have a family, and have a future, but they were clearly not getting these things that their government promised them.367 The Alawites who made up the most loyal divisions of military were used to start the violent crackdowns in early 2011. Standing up to these death squads would‟ve been a daunting task to anyone.368 Syria‟s security services are an omnipresent way of life. There are 70,000 full time security agents and hundreds of thousands of parttime personnel. By 2011 there was one intelligence officer for every 240 people. The Syrian regime‟s funding for these security services came in at $3 billion every year; one third of the budget. The fifteen different security branches were not only oppressive, but also random. They practiced a pre-emptive intimidation that created an atmosphere of constant paranoia. All the phones are monitored and no one could trust anyone else.369Even the taxi drivers are hired to serve in the state security apparatus.370Anyone can be incarcerated and tortured at any time. It was a constant threat that people lived with every single day. Silence became survival. Any political expression meant to put both yourself and your family at risk… but along came 2011. Along came the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, sacrificing themselves en masse for a revolution, and that‟s all the Syrian people needed to see.371 The socialist and pan-Arab rhetoric was promoted relentlessly by the Ba‟ath Party and a job in the army or in the city became the only door for achieving any upward mobility in Syrian society. These two choices were intimately tied to the militarization of the state and to the support of an exploitative upper class. It very easily could‟ve been Syria‟s back who broke first and inspired Egypt‟s rebellion instead of the other way around. Bordering on that fine line between failing state and failed state, all that was needed was a precise combination of sparks to set off the Syrian uprising of 2011, much like the Palestinian intifadas of the past. The Syrian people did not need a Western imperialistic attack to make them suffer humiliation for decades and decades. The Syrian regime did not wait for a Western imperialist attack to implement its neo-liberal policies of economic strangulation. When it comes to stealing national wealth for the interest of a small elitist group of people and the corporations that they run, the Assad dynasty is guilty ten times over. Any vocal criticism of the government made one a target of persecution by the police state long before the eruption in the spring of 2011. In 2011 after decades of sustained oppression the political
364 365

Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 43. Amal Hanano, Framing Syria (Jadaliyya, November 11, 2011), http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/3209/framingsyria?fb_action_ids=4595567807851&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=24696592 5417366 366 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 9. 367 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 45. 368 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 51. 369 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 65-66. 370 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 109. 371 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 66-67.

65 culture of Syria suddenly tried to assert its full mental and emotional capacities. Many feel it was long over do. The uprising of 2011 began in the Syrian town of Deraa, which was thoroughly under Bashar‟s thumb. Home to about 100,000 people its rural, agrarian based economy was suffering greatly due to an ongoing drought. The three tyrants of Deraa included the governor, the head of the security forces, and the Ba‟ath Party leader. The security chief was a cousin of Bashar. During the first week of March 2011 ten children, aged 9-15 years old, were feeling inspired by the slogan proclaimed by Egypt‟s January 25th Movement; “Down with the regime.” The children wrote this on the wall of their school. Artistic expression, such as graffiti, remains an important venue for people in the Arab world because it‟s one of the only ways they can express anger at their government besides organizing demonstrations. They know the presidential elections are not real. They know the voting booths don‟t work for them. They literally have to write their feelings on the wall in order for their government to maybe see what they are experiencing. The Syrian town of Deraa near the Jordanian border is poor and religious with a failed economy and too many mouths to feed. It was a victim of overbearing security forces and government cronyism for years.372 Hamza al Khatib, a 13 year old boy from Deraa, became the personification of the Syrian government‟s annihilation of its own people. Following his political expression on the walls of his school he was arrested and his dead body wasn‟t returned to his family until a month later. The child had been tortured to death; both of his knees and his neck were broken and his genitals mutilated. It was a clear signal to the people from the regime; “If you revolt, this will be what happens to you and your loved ones.”373 On the 18th is when the people of Deraa went to Atef Najib, Bashar‟s cousin and the security chief, and demanded the release of their children. Atef‟s advice to the people was to not only forget about their children, but that they should send him their wives so he could rape them and thus make new children for them. In response a massive demonstration was organized and it marched out of the Umari mosque. Atef Najib told his superiors that a coup to overthrow him was underway. Sixteen regime helicopters filled with security agents from the counter-terrorism unit landed near the town. Four people were gunned down in the street. It was the next day, following the massive public funeral for the demonstrators, in which people began to call for Atef Najib‟s resignation. Following the government crackdown on demonstrators anyone who tried to get to the hospital was either arrested or executed. The hospital had been occupied by security agents. Donating blood was forbidden and a Palestinian resident of Deraa was shot on the spot for entering the hospital and trying to do just that. The sit-in outside the Umari mosque only increased. On March 23rd came a massacre at the hands of state security. The tents were smashed, the mosque was broken into and vandalized, and seventy to one hundred people were gunned down. By March 24th a demonstration of 100,000 people were screaming what their children had scribbled on the walls of their school; “The people demand the fall of the regime.” It was during this demonstration that news of another massacre surfaced; twenty people had been killed in al Sanamayn. The people of Deraa were infuriated; pictures of Bashar al Assad were torn up and a statute of Hafez was toppled. Snipers on top of the governor‟s mansion were shooting anything that moved. The people overtook the governor‟s mansion in an effort to stop the sniper attacks and the building was set on fire.374

372 373

Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 55-57. Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 10. 374 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 118-122.

66 This same month, March of 2011, is when Vogue magazine featured Bashar‟s wife, Asma al Assad, calling her “a rose in the desert.”375 Massive protests in Baniyas, a conservative Sunni coastal city, erupted the same time as the ones in Deraa. Next came Homs, the Kurdish towns of Qamishli and al Hasaka, then Hama, Latakia, and the suburbs of Damascus.376 It was the middle class who initiated the uprisings and not the extreme poor. Rather, they could not get jobs and worried that they would become the new poor.377 The towns of Deraa and Baniyas on the coast had been thoroughly economically neglected by Bashar al Assad, but historically they had once been the Ba‟athist base. The uprising of 2011 came from the same towns that Ba‟athism had first gained traction in during the 1950‟s and 1960‟s. The peasantry from these towns saw opportunities of social promotion in both the military and Ba‟ath Party politics. With a higher socioeconomic status came increased land ownership and financial stability. Those who lived in these villages were fully supportive of the coup of 1963. Hama did not lead the way, and neither did Aleppo. These were not hard-lined Sunnis wanting a sectarian revenge. These were people whom Ba‟athism had betrayed, forgotten about, and left behind. The Alawite officers in the army and security forces partnered with the Sunni merchant class, rather than with the peasant towns that gave Ba‟athism its populist power in the first place. A huge economic and political gap had been created between the cities and the countryside.378 On April 1st another massacre at the hands of security forces in Deraa took place. Twenty people were shot down as they ran for their lives through the alleyways. This is when the security forces began to mutilate the dead bodies of demonstrators in a last-ditch effort to terrorize them into silence.379 The demonstrators were carrying olive branches and the men unbuttoned their shirts to show that they had no weapons on them. Four weeks into siege the call to prayer was banned and all the mosques were desecrated by the Alawite security forces. The graffiti said, “Your God is Bashar.” Two hundred people were killed within the first ten days.380 Rumors of the ongoing horrors in Deraa began to make their way to Damascus. The state security agents were getting desperate and throwing young men into giant industrial refrigerators so they‟d freeze to death. Demonstrations erupted at Damascus University; the students detained and their cellphones confiscated. The town of Talbiseh was under siege and all lines of communication were cut. In Latakia eight people were burned to death in the central prison.381 The town of Douma was surrounded by military personnel and checkpoints. Snipers from atop the buildings began to rain down bullets on demonstrators. Douma officially became an occupied city. By the end of March forty people were killed in Deraa within twenty four hours. In Homs a solider was executed by security agents for refusing to open fire on unarmed civilians.382 Bashar al Assad announced reforms in late March, including the formation of a committee to deal out justice to government soldiers who murdered protestors. Wages of government workers were to be raised by 30%, there was to be a relaxation of media restrictions, and an expansion of general healthcare adjustments. There was even a promise to lift the state of emergency that had been in place since 1963. This martial law is what allowed the government to make pre-emptive arrests, override
375 376

David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 40. Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 69. 377 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 46. 378 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 72-73. 379 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 124-125. 380 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 74-75. 381 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 12. 382 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 16.

67 constitutional and penal code statutes, suspend habeas corpus, and those arrested are not allowed to have a lawyer present during their interrogation.383 But by mid-April the village of al Baida was under siege. The men were taken from their homes, hands tied behind backs, forced to the ground and stomped on before being shoved into trucks by security agents. They were never heard from again. Syrian state television reported these men as traitors. Children were also arrested and they too disappeared. Electricity was cut off to the city.384 The protests, the violence being dished out by the security forces, and the death tolls continued to escalate. Bashar was not there. He wasn‟t anywhere saying anything. Everything from Syrian state television was coming through his spokesperson Bouthaina Shaaban. Bashar could‟ve set presidential term limits, established real political parties, or even held elections to independent review. He had a lot of options other than going into hiding, but he chose the latter.385 Some will say that reform was never an option for Bashar. Reform would require the dismantling of fifteen secret service divisions, the release of 100,000 political prisoners, and the punishment of the murderers of the 4,000 dissidents killed on his watch. To dismantle the secret service means the end of the regime and he already had over a decade to instigate reform.386 This has been a dilemma within Syria since the 1980‟s; how to keep privatization measures while adhering to regime politics. Economic liberalization and a growing private sector clearly do not guarantee democratization. Syria was highly unlikely to undergo reforms then, and it certainly was not very likely to undergo reforms in 2011. The empowerment of the masses is a threat to the state.387 Bashar‟s March 30th speech was very disappointing, to say the least. He went on and on about external conspiracies and he even brought up threats of European imperialism of the past as if he didn‟t know that his death machines being used to crush his own people had “Made in Russia” stamped on them, yet he blamed Israel and the US.388 Did he really think this was going to work? Only he can answer that question. The government continued to completely deny any responsibility and recognition of the very real, very painful socioeconomic and political pains that the majority of the Syrian people have had to cope with year after year. His March 30th speech was not only disappointing it was also very obvious how disingenuous and delusional it was. Other than Damascus, protests broke out across the country the next day followed by more violent crackdowns.389 By the end of April there were piles of corpses outside the Umari Mosque in Deraa, the several pharmacies in the city were bombed from the sky, and people were continuing to flee across the Lebanese and Jordanian borders.390 A flour embargo was imposed on the city. Deraa was not even allowed to have bread because Deraa was to be an example; it was to be exterminated, it was to be Bashar al Assad‟s own Hama circa 1982, and it was to be his blueprint for what he would do to the rest of Syria. Demonstrations continued. Tanks were steamrolling civilian neighborhoods. Alawite individuals who dissented were presented with death threats and they were cut off from their families.391 Multiple cities came under siege. The electricity and the water supply were cut. People had difficulties getting food. Children begin to die
383 384

David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 70-71. Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 22-23. 385 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 72-72. 386 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), viii. 387 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 124. 388 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 76-78. 389 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 82. 390 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 30-31. 391 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 34-35.

68 of starvation. Fifty women demonstrated outside the Syrian parliament and demanded an end to the Deraa siege. They were arrested and never seen again. Security agents were still throwing women and children in Deraa into massive industrial refrigerators so they‟d freeze to death.392 In April of 2011 Bashar al Assad tried to buy the Kurds‟ loyalty; he offered them citizenship. The Kurds weren‟t having it and they continued to join the mass demonstrations. Then he tried to buy off the more conservative, traditional Sunni Muslims. He announced in April that female teachers were allowed to wear the niqab again, and that teachers who had been fired for refusing to take it off could come back to their jobs, as if that‟s al l conservative Sunni Muslims care about; the niqab. Bashar swore in a new cabinet, gave another speech, and announced the lifting of the emergency law. His second speech still did not cover what people actually wanted to hear; an end to the violence and a dismantling of the security state that was brutalizing them. New violent decrees were issued. Members of the security forces became immune to prosecution and having membership in the Muslim Brotherhood punishable by death.393 Whether Bashar lifted the emergency law or not didn‟t matter at this point; he turned the country into a warzone and the death machine is not stopping. Tafas, a village outside of Deraa, saw a massacre at the end of April; forty two civilians killed and they were all shot in the head or chest by a single sniper. Broad arrest campaigns were underway. Hundreds of young men from across the country are were locked up and tortured. Zabadani was under siege. Deraa was still under siege. Large demonstrations, one after the other, popped up within a forty eight hour period; Damascus, Aleppo, Dayr al Zur, Homs, Hama, Latakia, Qamishli, Amuda, and Daraya. Thousands of people were in the streets as the government bombed their cities into oblivion throughout 2011. Private healthcare clinics were stormed by security agents. Then Jableh came under siege. In Salamiyah security forces began to use electric cattle prods against unarmed demonstrators. The people in the town of al Rastan toppled a statue of Hafez and security forces mowed them down with machine guns. Syrian state television proclaimed they were all violent Salafists. Children were mowed down with machine guns by security agents on the Sidon Bridge.394 The military moved into Deraa on April 25th with several Russian tanks, the electricity and the phone lines were cut off again, and seventeen hours of gunfire followed. Out of 200,000 members of the Syrian army roughly 75,000 were in Deraa this one day. People‟s home were broken into and ransacked, all of the men aged fifteen to forty were arrested, and the women who would not allow government snipers on their rooftops were also arrested. Almost 10,000 people were detained in one day. Houses were shelled and the two morgues were overflowing.395 It was during the last week of April that two parliamentary deputies and a leading religious figure working for the government resigned and all three of them were from Deraa. Sheikh Rizq Abd al Rahim Abazeid, the mufti of Deraa, told reporters, “I cannot tolerate the blood of our innocent sons and children being shed.” The two members of parliament who resigned were Nasser Hariri and Khalil Rifai. When interviewed about his resignation Hariri said, “If I cannot protect the chests of my people from these treacherous strikes, then there is no meaning for me to stay in the People‟s Assembly.”396 By early May the average number of demonstrators arrested every day came to five hundred. Alawites were being told by security forces and Ba‟ath Party officials that their Sunni neighbors would
392 393

Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 38-39. David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 83-86. 394 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 41-44. 395 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 124-125. 396 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 98.

69 kill them all if Bashar stepped down. A sectarian blackmail ensued as state television demonized all dissenting Alawites.397 Baniyas came under the assault of regime warplanes but only the Sunni neighborhoods of al Baida and al Qumsiyya were razed to the ground.398 Bashar al Assad officially banned Reuters from entering the country.399 The siege on Homs only increased as UN officials began to demand that Bashar al Assad “engage in dialogue” with his people. France 24 and BBC were expelled by the Syrian government at the same time journalists began to report the appearance of nerve gas in Deraa. In mid-May is when Hezbollah made their appearance as snipers on Syrian rooftops taking aim at the demonstrators down below.400 On May 16th a Lebanese soldier was shot and killed by Syrian military personnel as they were gunning down Syrian civilians fleeing for the Lebanese border.401 Human rights activists reported the use of white phosphorous by the Syrian military in the town of Musrata. A few Palestinians from the Yarmouk camp managed to break the siege on Deraa and deliver some desperately needed medical supplies. Meanwhile, Russian tanks were crawling all over the town of Salkhad. People were forced to, time and again, build their own makeshift hospitals because security agents were all over the official ones. No patient was allowed in the operating rooms without security clearance.402 What happened to those at the Tishreen military hospital served as a warning. Security agents were relentlessly interrogating the survivors, promising them that they would be safe if only they went on Syrian state television and proclaimed that random armed Salafi gangs shot them rather than the security agents. Those who refused to take part in the state‟s propaganda machine were executed on the spot.403 By late May 887 people were dead and 418 of them were from Deraa.404 The violence was continuously escalating. The summer of 2011 is when absolute carnage began to spill out all over the social media outlets and soldiers began to defect from the army, especially following the bloodshed in Jisr al Shughur in June. Both security forces and army personnel were stationed in the city and the demonstrations were so violently repressed that entire neighborhoods fled the area. Soldiers began to refuse to fire on the unarmed demonstrators, leaving the dirty work to the security forces. It was through these defections in the summer of 2011 that Syrian civilians got their hands on some heavy weaponry for the first time. Bashar al Assad‟s scorched earth policy forced the residents of Jisr al Shughur to become refugees in Turkey, forced the Syrian people to begin to take up arms in selfdefense, and even forced a handful of Syrian soldiers to commit suicide in the city of Jisr al Shughur rather than be tortured by security personnel for refusing to murder their neighbors. Bashar al Assad managed an insidious campaign against his own military; those who refused to follow orders were killed and their bodies dumped in a mass grave in this emptied out civilian neighborhood. The corpses of eighty soldiers, shot execution style, were “discovered” in Jisr al Shughur on June 8th. Syrian state television claimed these military personnel were killed by terrorists living in the town, but according to a coroner‟s report these men had died a month before they had been dug up.405 On June 9th, within twenty four hours, 2,400 Syrian people had fled into Turkey.406 Bashar al Assad‟s third speech came later that month at

397 398

Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 49-50. Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 56. 399 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 65. 400 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 92-93. 401 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 108. 402 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 112-115. 403 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 117. 404 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 75. 405 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 126-129. 406 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 134.

70 Damascus University and he delivered a priceless one liner; “Conspiracies are like germs, which increase every moment.” It was painfully reminiscent of what Libya‟s Qaddafi had done when he was calling demonstrators in his country “rats.” The giant banners held up by the Syrian people during their demonstrations began to read, “The Syrian germs salute the Libyan rats.”407 The Friday protest of July 29th was named “Your Silence is Killing Us.” It was directed at the Arab League who had yet to condemn Assad‟s actions.408 There were forty two different Fridays of protest in 2011.409 By the sixth month of the uprising in 2011 3,000 people were killed. Homs lost over 700 individuals. Deraa‟s death toll came in at almost 500. Idlib lost over 300 people. Hama lost almost 400.410 The protest of September 9th was named “Friday for International Protection.” Insisting on Syria‟s sovereignty the demonstrators asked for a No Fly Zone to protect them from Assad‟s relentless bombing campaign with Russian weapons. The question of “will you help us?” was directed at the West because the Syrian people knew that nothing would come from the Arab world. They had grown used to its silence in the face of Syrian state terrorism directed against its own people for decades. The Arab League has no military troops to deploy and no peace keeping forces of its own. No rescue mission from them was to be expected.411 Some solidarity did make its way from Turkey because the party in power there is Sunni neoOttomanist and the Turkish government does not want any relationship with an Alawite ruler starting sectarian bloodshed.412 Prime Minister Erdogan spoke ill of Bashar in the press, saying the cruelty that was a response to people in Hama, Homs, and Deraa “was the inheritance of his father.” However, Turkey was not entirely trustworthy. A Syrian army defector, Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Harmoush, disappeared while he was in Turkey at end of the summer. In June, while still in Syria, he had made a video calling for a mutiny against Bashar and then he fled with his wife and children to a refugee camp in Hatay. In August he told his wife he was going to meet a Turkish intelligence official, but hat evening his cell phone went dead and he disappeared. Two weeks later he was on Syrian state television saying that the opposition had betrayed him, that he was never told to shoot non-violent demonstrators, and that the Muslim Brotherhood was smuggling terrorists and weapons into Syria. Hussein Harmoush was never seen or heard from again. It was obvious that he had been arrested, tortured into a false confession, and then killed, but it was the Turkish authorities who handed him over to Damascus in the first place. Turkey was playing both sides, and needless to say, not one drop of their solidarity went towards the Kurds of Syria. The Turkish government would host Syrian opposition conferences, but sometimes it would give up its members to Assad.413 It did not take long for the Syrian people to decide that self-defense against the war machine of the state was not murder. The state security, the political security, and the military security had no qualms about the age of its victims. A little boy at a non-violent demonstration had to be crushed before he was old enough to pick up a gun to defend himself against the regime. Child murder, mass rape, mutilation, and indiscriminate bombing campaigns hardened the opposition. Ironically it was a relative of former Minister of Defense to both Hafez and Bashar, Moustafa Tlass, who was one of the first to defect and help found the Free Syria Army. First lieutenant Muhamad Abdelaziz Tlass began to help lead operations
407 408

Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 78-79. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 83. 409 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 11. 410 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 91. 411 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 94-95. 412 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 98. 413 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 101-103.

71 to defend demonstrations from the security forces and to build weapons stockpiles. 414 Despite the waves of army defections in the fall of 2011 and the slow growth of a homegrown militia whose goal was to prevent demonstrators from being massacred in the streets Bashar al Assad continued to insist that the Syrian armed opposition was controlled almost entirely by either the CIA, the Mossad, or Al Qaeda. In his speech that previous June he used the term “terrorists” or “terrorism” forty three different times. He said “terrorists” or “terrorism” more times than George W. Bush did during his speech to Congress after the terrorist attacks of September 11th.415 The Assad regime has practically handed a near constant stream of new recruits to the FSA through its policies of brutalization. Those who survived torture and imprisonment quickly filled up the ranks of the armed resistance. By November of 2011 more than 70,000 people were in jail.416 Government crackdowns on Hama were ongoing yet denied by the state and the propaganda pumped out through the television claimed that only armed gangs from the Muslim Brotherhood were being neutralized.417 Even Sunni soldiers who had been loyal to the government for years before defecting were accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.418In the eyes of the Syrian state leviathan all eight hundred men who had followed in Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Harmoush‟s footsteps were no longer human, rather, they were only Muslims to be exterminated.419 Syrian state propaganda is stuck in the 1980‟s. The Hama massacre of 1982 crystallized Syrian political culture and the events of 2011 worked to smash it to pieces. As army defections increased and people clamored for weapons to defend themselves with the non-violent resistance suffered one serious blow after another. Two hundred soldiers joined the Free Syria Army within the first three weeks of June. Alawite security forces who harassed civilian Alawites for joining the anti-government demonstrations began to refer to them as “Jews” and “Zionist traitors.”420 On June 15th the village of Ma‟arat al Numan was under assault from tank gunfire and 8,500 people were sent fleeing for their lives across the Turkish border.421 The naval forces began to defect. Officer Mahmoud Habib announced his resignation.422 Ghiyath Matar, a young man with Palestinian origins living in the Daraya suburbs of Damascus, pioneered the tactic of handing out roses and water to the Alawite security forces sent to shoot demonstrators. By early September of 2011 he was dead. His mangled corpse was delivered to his family four days after his arrest. Several US envoys attended his funeral. The spokespeople for the Assad regime said an armed gang was responsible for Ghiyath‟s torture and death, and that is half true423 because, after all, there was an armed gang running the government. Ibrahim Qashoush, a forty two year old father of three who worked as a fireman in Hama, became a center of the

414

Amal Hanano, Framing Syria (Jadaliyya, November 11, 2011), http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/3209/framingsyria?fb_action_ids=4595567807851&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=24696592 5417366 415 Max Blumenthal, The right to resist is universal: A farewell to Al Akhbar and Assad‟s apologists (Blog, June 20, 2012), http://maxblumenthal.com/2012/06/the-right-to-resist-is-universal-a-farewell-to-al-akhbar-and-assads-apologists/ 416 Anthony Shadid, In Assad‟s Syria There Is No Imagination (PBS, November 8, 2011), http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/foreign-affairs-defense/syria-undercover/in-assads-syria-there-is-no-imagination/ 417 Noor Hassan, Hama is beacon of resistance 30 years on from massacre (The Guardian, July 6, 2011), http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jul/06/hama-resistance-30-years-massacre 418 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 240-241. 419 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 249. 420 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 145-146. 421 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 152. 422 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 161. 423 Liz Sly, Syrian activist Ghiyath Matar‟s death spurs grief, debate (TheWashington Post, September 15, 2011), http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/syrian-activist-ghiyath-matars-death-spurs-griefdebate/2011/09/14/gIQArgq8SK_story.html

72 demonstrations thanks to the protest songs he wrote and sang. Nicknamed “the nightingale of the revolution” Ibrahim was arrested on his way to work, and his dead body discovered the next day floating in the Orontes River. His vocal cords had been severed.424 The rockstar literally had his voice box ripped out. It was the likes of Ghiyath Matar and Ibrahim Qashoush who Syrian state television referred to as CIA agents while Assad‟s Alawite and Lebanese Shia apologists from Damascus to Beirut to Dearborn to Philadelphia referred to as Zionist traitors. By July the security forces were stealing the organs of demonstrators, perhaps removing them while they were being tortured, and began to sell them on the black market. Lifeless bodies showing signs of torture began appearing in the streets. They had been cut open, hurriedly stitched up, and several vital organs missing from inside them.425 Historically speaking, peaceful protest for change only works when both sides believe in the rule of law. Clearly, Bashar is his father‟s son, but he has no previous political experience. Bashar al Assad is no Adib al Shishakli. It should have been obvious to outsiders that he was incapable of responding to the needs of his very complex society, and that there was a strong possibility that he would inevitably respond to their dissent with savage violence in a desperate attempt to maintain control.426 It cannot be denied that the Syrian regime views its survival as being far more important than implementing reforms for social and economic well-being throughout the country, but the regime is not stupid. Everyone knows that economic prosperity creates regime stability. The Syrian government needed to find a balance, but that was impossible for the likes of Bashar to comprehend. The private sector is kept dependent on the state and religious opposition was never fully eliminated, not even in 1982 in spite of the outrageous devastation that was deliberately caused.427 Compared to what Bashar has done in the past few years, his father showed restraint. As a direct result of social media the police state had lost its grip. The internet and the mobile phones of the people were out of Assad‟s control.428 It‟s impossible to enact a 1950‟s style tyranny in the social media age of today. Every cell phone turned each Syrian individual into a satellite. Demonstrators filmed the security forces killing them and it was uploaded to YouTube before the dead bodies of their friends were properly buried. Security agents used their phones to film themselves raping and torturing male and female prisoners, and that too was uploaded to YouTube. While the masses were screaming for freedom and talking to the world their killers were incriminating themselves. It got to the point where human rights advocates outside of Syria could see the aftermath of a regime crackdown five minutes after it ended. This tactic of internet advocacy would only become more refined in 2012. Today the world knows through multiple social media outlets and citizen journalists when a war crime is taking place as it‟s actually happening. In 2011 Syrians began to find one another and talk to one another other after decades of monstrous silence that was deliberately manipulated by layer upon layer of fear. This fear was handed down over generations as a direct result of the severe trauma inflicted by the regime‟s campaign of massive imprisonment and torture. Syria was the most fearsome national security state in the Arab East. This fear dissipated following the Arab Spring uprisings

424

Bassem Mroue, Ibrahim Qashoush, Syria Protest Songwriter, Gruesomely Killed (The Huffington Post, July 27, 2011), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/27/ibrahim-qashoush-syria-protests_n_911284.html 425 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 232. 426 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 9. 427 Moshe Maoz, Modern Syria: From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1999), 67. 428 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 48.

73 within Egypt and Tunisia. To quote Lebanese cyber-activist Rami Nakhla, “You can‟t quash an uprising if millions of people are acting like their own independent news stations.”429 However, non-violent tactics were going to move the severely entrenched state security apparatus only so far.430 All of the previously mentioned savage violence had been dealt out by the government before the uprising began to weaponize itself. The death threat repeatedly pumped out by the Assad regime to the Syrian people was this; “Us… or we burn the country.” It was broadcasted on the television, it was screamed into the faces of prisoners, and it was written on the dead bodies of demonstrators. “Us… or we burn the country.”431 By the summer of 2011 the Sunni residents of Lebanon‟s Tripoli were burning something else; Iranian flags alongside Israeli ones while imams began to preach that it was their duty as Muslims to help their brothers and sisters in Syria. A Salafi preacher in Tripoli named Zakaria al Masri said that blind loyalty to Hassan Nasrallah just because he resists against Israel “would be akin to loving Hitler because he was an enemy of the Jews.” Syrian state propaganda had done all it could do to show the protest movement for democracy as being a danger to the Alawite community and the Syrian revolutionaries worked very hard to counter this sectarian blackmail. A Friday of protest was named in honor of Sheikh Salih al Ali; the previously mentioned Alawite notable who helped lead opposition to the French colonizers in 1920. Measures were taken, time and again, to reach out to the Syrian Alawite community while Alawite security forces were brutalizing the Sunni-dominated civilian population.432 A resolution was brought to the UN Security Council in October of 2011 laying out the possibility of sanctions against the Syrian government. Predictably, both Russia and China vetoed it. While the Russian regime thinks of imperial power, weapons sales, and its naval base in Tartous, China thinks of Tibet. China had also increased its trade with Syria over the past decade. China became Syria‟s third largest importer in 2010. Precedents that could possibly be used against the governments of Russia and China in the future are a threat to their regimes‟ survival.433 Genocide prevention is not a priority for any of the major players here. Shortly after this toothless resolution was vetoed Mashaal Tammo, a prominent Kurdish leader of the opposition and a member of the Syrian National Coalition, was assassinated by Syrian state security agents in his hometown of Qamishli. His funeral procession the next day turned into a massive demonstration of 50,000 people. Security forces fired into the crowd and killed several demonstrators. Time and again, the Assad dynasty has pushed the Kurdish people into the opposition against it. Soon after Mashaal Tammo‟s death is when the famous Syrian political cartoonist Ali Ferzat was attacked by Alawite security forces. They broke his hands and left him bleeding on the side of the road near the Damascus airport. Time and again, Bashar took the UN Security Council‟s failures as a license to kill.434 By the end of 2011 over 3,000 Syrians had fled into Lebanon. Neither average civilian nor prominent opposition member was safe in what had become an Iranian colony. Syrian refugees who passed out pamphlets condemning Bashar al Assad were swiftly rounded up by the authorities and sent to the dungeons of Damascus. Gebran Tueni‟s daughter Nayla published a column in late October saying, “Lebanon… is being turned into a prison and an instrument of Syrian repression, a regime that practiced all sorts of tyranny and torture against the Lebanese before it turned its wrath against its own people.”
429 430

Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 121. Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 9. 431 Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 165. 432 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 119-120. 433 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 137-138. 434 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 140-141.

74 Amnesty International released a report on October 25th that documented the systematic brutality being dished out by security forces at the hospitals. Doctors were helping the regime to torture the injured, nurses were armed with clubs so they could beat protestors in their beds, and any medical personnel who refused to comply with Bashar al Assad‟s demands, or revealed any sympathy towards the demonstrators, were beaten and killed. The Friday protest of October 28th was named the Friday of the No Fly Zone. Forty people were killed and hundreds from both Homs and Hama were imprisoned. It was the bloodiest day in a five month period. Sixty people, mostly from Homs, were killed the following weekend. In an interview given to The Sunday Telegraph in late October Bashar threatened, “Do you want to see another Afghanistan?”435 He does not, and never will, think he is the one responsible for destroying the country. As early as the fall of 2011 it was painfully obvious Bashar was no longer a rational actor on the world stage. In November the United Nations Human Rights Council released a report that charged the Assad regime with crimes against humanity. It detailed how hospitals had been turned into slaughterhouses and the rampant sexualized torture being used against men, women, and children. 4,000 people were dead by the end of November.436 This same month is when the Syrian people began to wave their old flag of independence. Syria was finally suspended from the Arab League. A new war of liberation from colonialist occupiers had begun.437 January 6th of 2012 was named “International Protection Is Our Demand.”438 On January 10th Bashar al Assad made an appearance at the Damascus University where he continued to speak of foreign conspiracies against him; he blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, the Gulf States, and the Internet. 5,000 people were dead by the end of the previous December.439 The Homsi neighborhood of Baba Amr was still under heavy bombardment in February as the UN Security Council turned back a resolution calling on Bashar to step down. 1,800 people were killed that month.440A mosaic of internet hackers released a collection of 3,000 e-mails from within the Assad inner circle and their findings were published by The Guardian. Bashar ordered government repression while downloading songs from iTunes and his wife was busy shopping online for chandeliers.441 The death toll climbed to 6,000.442 In early March Republican senator John McCain took to the senate floor; "Time is running out. Assad's forces are on the march. Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary, but at this late hour, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives.” The rulers of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait called for arming the FSA the same week. It‟s no secret that John McCain is a war hawk or that the Sunni monarchies are battling Iran's Shia mullahs for hegemony in the region. While the suspicions of outsiders were running high, so was the Syrian death toll. Those working for change within Syria have been almost entirely ignored by the American mainstream media to the left and to the right. While hard-lined American anti-Western imperialists and conspiracy theory junkies practiced their pseudo-intellectual facebooking about the coming New World

435 436

Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 148-152. Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 162-163. 437 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 156. 438 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 175. 439 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 177. 440 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 190-191. 441 Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion, 193-194. 442 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 190.

75 Order the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs was bombed to pieces.443 The Assad dynasty, time and again, annihilates the moderate Sunni leaders and then scratches its head and wonders why only extremists are left. The now infamous Houla massacre occurred in May of 2012. In this one neighborhood in Homs over one hundred Syrian people, including thirty children, were shot execution-style by Alawite state security forces.444 By the end of that month the UN estimated that 10,000 Syrians were dead, 200,000 were internally displaced, and 30,000 had become refugees in the neighboring countries. 60,000 people were still locked up in the government‟s multiple prisons and torture chambers. 20,000 individuals were missing entirely.445 Since June of 2011 all the way up until today the Syrian government has deliberately targeted bakeries and the civilian gatherings lining up in front of them in order to terrorize and starve the population. Between June of 2011 and January of 2013 almost four hundred people have been killed in this specific type of attack, along with over six hundred wounded. Aleppo has seen bombardments on its bakeries twenty six times so far. This is not an accident; these are the results of systematic regime warplane shelling and tank gunfire.446 In June of 2012 Human Rights Watch released a report detailing how Syrian government forces have used sexual violence to torture men, women, and children in their makeshift detention centers and prisons. Witnesses and victims described how both soldiers and progovernment armed militias alike have sexually abused girls as young as twelve during home raids.447 Simultaneously, Syrian soldiers who refused to obey orders and steamroll unarmed civilians were continuing to be executed by security agents.448 Russia Today, the English language Russian state propaganda channel that many anti-war American leftists have become rather fond of, was churning out one piece of anti-FSA propaganda after another. They lied about massacres committed by the armed opposition, about the armed opposition damaging churches, and they even shamelessly stole and manipulated photographs taken by Lens Young Homsi; one of the many Syrian citizen journalists documenting the revolution with the help of social media outlets.449 An entire slew of internet activists have found themselves having to work tirelessly around the clock to not only document the Syrian regime‟s war crimes and crimes against humanity, but to also combat the repugnant Russian, Syrian, and Iranian state propaganda machines working overtime to pump out more insanity than usual. In the summer of 2012 Alawite para-militaries who lived in Nisreen street, close to the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, opened fire on a massive anti-government demonstration. They killed ten Palestinian people, including a little boy.450 In July the massacre at Tremseh occurred. After

443

Jess Hill, The Doves of Damascus (The Global Mail, March 7, 2012), http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/the-doves-ofdamascus/110/ 444 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 221. 445 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 204-205. 446 The Syrian Revolution General Commission,“Bread Baked with Blood”- Statistical report about the regime‟s forces‟ attacks on bakeries and ovens in all provinces and cities during the Syrian Revolution (Rose al Homsi Blog, January 8, 2013), http://rosealhomsi.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/a-statistical-report-by-the-syrian-revolution-general-commission-about-regimeattacks-on-bakeries-in-syria/ 447 Human Rights Watch, Syria: Sexual Assault in Detention (Human Rights Watch, June 15, 2012), http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/06/15/syria-sexual-assault-detention 448 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 145. 449 Brown Moses Blog, Russia Today And Their Anti-FSA Propaganda (Brown Moses Blog, June 28, 2012), http://brownmoses.blogspot.com/2012/06/russia-today-and-their-anti-fsa.html 450 Ruth Sherlock, How an ordinary street became the defining image of Syria's war (The Telegraph, March 1, 2014), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10670539/How-an-ordinary-street-became-the-defining-image-ofSyrias-war.html

76 seven hours of shelling people were chased from the homes and shot in the street by Syrian state security forces. One hundred and fifty people were killed. Another one hundred were arrested and never seen again. The Free Syrian Army was not there, but many anti-government demonstrations did occur in this village northwest of Hama. A massacre of forty people in this same town had already been carried out the previous January. Men, women, and children were hunted down and shot like animals as they ran for their lives through the fields. People‟s homes were looted. Snipers lined the rooftops and shot anything that moved. The dead bodies were set on fire. Some living bodies, hiding in their shops and homes, were also set on fire. A children‟s school was burned to the ground. When the massacre was over the regime forces overwhelmed the FSA and prevented them from entering the village. They came to assist the wounded and properly bury the dead. The FSA came to Tremseh after, not before, it was attacked. The Syrian state news agency blamed the Tremseh massacre of July 2012 on an armed gang of foreign jihadis.451 The north western city of Yabroud became a desperately needed breathe of fresh air and victory that summer. Thousands engaged in peaceful anti-government protests every week without fear of imprisonment, torture, and death. The FSA guarded the streets around the clock, but they did not need to carry weapons while doing so. Because Bashar al Assad had given up Yabroud it became a shining example of what the Syrian people had been fighting for. The town became a place of calm and safety even though the International Committee of the Red Cross labeled the Syrian crisis a civil war just a few days earlier. The death toll reached 14,000 by mid-July of 2012. While Bashar al Assad‟s death squads had their hands full delivering pain and dishing out punishment to the people of Homs and Damascus, Yabroud was permitted to flourish. The FSA brigades stationed here handled the conflict beautifully. When a pro-government Alawite militia snuck into the city, broke into a few houses, and looted the furniture the FSA did not go on an anti-Alawite killing spree. When another pro-government Alawite militia kidnapped a human rights activists the FSA responded by kidnapping the son of an Alawite army general and then calmly negotiated a prisoner exchange. Yabroud had something prosperous to build on. It was home to a few wealthy families who all had a few relatives working abroad as engineers in the Persian Gulf. Financially it was stable from the beginning, and geographically it was safe from the beginning. The high surrounding hills were a natural buffer to Syrian regime tank-cannon fire. Yabroud housed a trauma center. Ammunition easily came into the town through Lebanon and from there to Damascus. The town‟s public schools, what with their running water and electricity, became refugee camps. People fleeing the violence in Homs and Qusayr found themselves safe in the homes or on the farms of their Yabroudi neighbors. Yabroud is also near a highway that is a regime supply line. The Syrian government did not want to risk losing it at the time. The city was home to 3,000 Christians and there was never any flare up of sectarian violence.452 This was much to the chagrin of the Syrian state propagandists who continued to portray the revolution as nothing more than a takfiri foreign invasion coming to chop off the heads of all the Christians. Even worse for them an all exclusively Christian brigade of the FSA was formed in October of 2012 in the suburbs of Damascus.453

451

Martin Chulov, Syria massacre: Assad's forces 'shot anything moving‟ (The Guardian, July 14, 2012), http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/14/syria-bashar-al-assad-tremseh 452 Austin Tice, In Syria, an oasis from the war (The Washington Post, July 16, 2012), http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/in-syria-an-oasis-from-the-war/2012/07/15/gJQA96xCnW_story.html 453 Syria Update, The formation of “Brigade of Jesus Christ”, peace be upon him in western coun tryside of #Damascus 10/21/2012 (Syria Update, October 21, 2012), http://syriaupdate.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/the-formation-of-brigade-of-jesuschrist-peace-be-upon-him-in-western-countryside-of-damascus-10212012/

77 While Yabroud became an “oasis,” Lebanon started going up in flames more than usual. By November of 2012 a Sunni-Shiite holy war was on the horizon in Lebanon as a direct result of Bashar al Assad‟s scorched earth policy in Syria, and of course, Hezbollah‟s complicity in such actions. The followers of Sunni Salafist leaders were tearing down posters of Hassan Nasrallah in Saida. A shootout erupted in the town. It was the assassination of General Wissam al-Hassan the previous October that proved to be a lit match thrown on a haystack. He was Lebanon‟s most powerful Sunni intelligence chief and an outspoken opponent of Bashar al Assad's. Enraged by his murder, a massive demonstration of Lebanese Sunni Muslims poured into the streets. Bashar and Hezbollah were blamed for his death and the people called for the downfall of the government in Beirut. Armed Sunni Muslim militias in both Beirut and Tripoli put the Lebanese military in their cross-hairs. The Palestinian refugee camps of southern Lebanon had become the headquarters of a growing Islamist rebellion. The Assad regime‟s genocidal campaign has thoroughly emboldened international jihad. By November there were six hundred Lebanese individuals fighting alongside the armed opposition in Syria. They remember Hafez al Assad‟s brutal hegemony clear as day. Under his rule the Islamists of Tripoli, whether they were men or women, whether they were Muslim Brotherhood or not, were routinely rounded up, imprisoned, tortured, and executed by Syrian state security agents with assistance from the Lebanese military. 454 Human progress is a myth, but the science of genocide is not. On November 16th the Syrian Air Force began to drop incendiary weapons on civilians, starting with the Damascus suburb of Daraya. Two weeks later they were dropped again, this time in Qusayr. A children‟s playground literally melted. In 2012 alone the Syrian Air Force carried out over 50 incendiary weapons attacks. One of the most infamous incendiary weapons is napalm. Men, women, and children were being splashed with napalm repeatedly and dying as a result of their severe chemical burns. Nothing was safe; not a mosque, not an elementary school, not an apartment building. By the end of 2012 Syria‟s rape crisis reached epidemic proportions. Women were being, and continue to be, raped by security forces at all of the checkpoints and 20% of those sexually assaulted in 2012 were murdered by their attackers.455 By the beginning of 2013 numerous advocacy groups, from the International Rescue Committee to Human Rights Watch to Women Under Siege, were exposing stories of widespread usage of rape by Alawite security forces as a weapon of war; sexual torture of both men and women was rampant, Bosnia-like instances of female family members raped in front of male FSA soldiers, teenage boys who joined the FSA were also raped, and phrases such as “You want freedom? This is your freedom,” are repeatedly said by the perpetrators.456 The Telegraph published a confession from a captured Assad loyalist in July of 2012. The FSA erected a detention center of their own in Idlib where this particular regime thug was being held; “We love Assad because the government gave us all the power - if I wanted to take something, kill a person or rape a girl I could… The government gave me 30,000 Syrian pounds per month and an extra 10,000 per person that I captured or killed. I raped one girl, and my commander raped many times. It was normal… I informed on people who didn't like Assad, I captured them and I put them in jail. The

454

Patrick Galey, The Boomerang Effect (Foreign Policy, November 11, 2012), http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/21/the_boomerang_effect 455 Lauren Wolfe, Rape is shredding Syria‟s social fabric (Women Under Siege, December 5, 2012), http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/blog/entry/rape-is-shredding-syrias-social-fabric 456 Lauren Wolfe, Syria Has a Massive Rape Crisis (The Atlantic, April 3, 2013), http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/04/syria-has-a-massive-rape-crisis/274583/

78 government gave me a gun… It wasn't for Bashar. I didn't care about Bashar al Assad. All I cared about was that I got the power."457 Because of how painfully taboo the subject of sex remains in Syrian society, whether it's pre-marital sex or sexual abuse, getting survivor testimony can feel like pulling teeth. The world won't know how severe the rape crisis is until probably a few years from now. This is the result of the international community‟s foot-dragging, if not outright refusal, to help arm the Syrian people; a stalemate is deliberately manifested and the perpetrators of war crimes are given impunity through international silence. The more Islamized militants did not make an appearance until 2012 and they wedged in because of the regime devastation that was wrecked upon a nonviolent uprising and Syrians‟ screams went unheard by the international community. The failure to support the Syrian people's legitimate demands for democracy and freedom has directly lead to the international community missing out on a chance to undermine religious extremism in the Levant. Still, the Salafist-Islamist militias who began taking a larger part in the uprising in 2012 are mostly Syrian and are viewed as part of the communities in which they established themselves.458 Jihadist groups, such as Jabhat al Nusra, have worked closely with community leaders to win over people‟s hearts and minds. Their military discipline has proved impressive and, as of today, they are widely considered to be more effective when it comes to providing muchneeded services through relief programs.459 However, it appears they may be playing both sides to some degree. The Syrian government has been cooperating with Jabhat al Nusra because they are now in control of the oil fields in Deir Ezzor, and they are selling the oil to Assad. Indeed, Bashar has no qualms about turning the Alawites into human shields and he won‟t shed a tear over an occasional terrorist attack against his own military; Islamic extremism provides Bashar with the superficial legitimacy he needs. The propaganda he can produce from it is very valuable to him. The FSB, the successor to Russia‟s KGB, engaged in staging false flag terrorist bombings both in and outside of Moscow in order to consolidate domestic and international political support for the genocide that was the Second Chechen War. Both Syria‟s intelligence and military elite have all been trained in Russian facilities. Moscow and Damascus are closer politically than previously expected. Is the current wave of Sunni radicalism in Syria a blowback, or more of a carefully controlled detonation?460 In April Human Rights Watch released a scathing report detailing the Syrian air force‟s deliberate and indiscriminate airstrikes on civilians. Between July and December of 2012 roughly 4,300 civilians were murdered in this particular manner. Four Syrian air force officers who defected informed Human Rights Watch that “the Syrian Air Force does not have the technology to identify and target specific military objectives in urban areas. They believed their commanders nonetheless ordered air strikes in cities and towns, in part to instill fear in the civilian population…”461 Indeed, as said by Said al As, the
457

Ruth Sherlock, Confessions of an Assad 'Shabiha' loyalist: how I raped and killed for £300 a month (The Telegraph, July 14, 2012), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9400570/Confessions-of-an-Assad-Shabiha-loyalist-how-Iraped-and-killed-for-300-a-month.html 458 Sarah Birke, How al-Qaeda Changed the Syrian War (The New York Review of Books, December 27, 2013), http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/dec/27/how-al-qaeda-changed-syrian-war/ 459 Hassan Hassan, Jihadis grow more dangerous as they conquer hearts in Syria (The National, March 6, 2013), http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/jihadis-grow-more-dangerous-as-they-conquer-hearts-insyria#page2 460 Michael Weiss, Assad‟s no enemy of Al Qaeda (NOW Lebanon, July 21, 2013), https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/commentaryanalysis/assads-no-enemy-of-al-qaeda 461 Human Rights Watch, Death from the Skies: Deliberate and Indiscriminate Air Strikes on Civilians (Jadaliyya, May 14, 2013), http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/11506/death-from-the-skies_deliberate-and-indiscriminate

79 previously mentioned Syrian resistance leader who battled the French occupation forces, such flying machines of death are “no more than weapons of fear, terror and delusion.” The only language Bashar al Assad is capable of speaking to his people in is the language of a colonizer. By February the city of Aleppo looked like Dresden in February 1945, the United Nations reported that between 60,000 and 70,000 Syrians were dead, 800,000 Syrians were now refugees. 462 The genocide alarm bells were going off only two years after the Syrian people took to the streets and demanded democracy. In early May of 2013 came the most brazen episode of ethnic cleansing yet; the massacre in Baniyas. Hundreds of Sunni civilians were slaughtered within 48 hours by Syrian government militias. This time around Syrian state propaganda did not blame the FSA or even try to cover up what happened. Pro-Assad facebook pages were posting pictures of the dead children and describing them as “militants.” In the al Bayda village of Baniyas alone roughly 400 people were killed and another 300 disappeared entirely. Fifty of the bodies couldn‟t be properly identified because of how disfigured they were. The Alawite perpetrators of the attack released videos of themselves on YouTube openly calling for a “cleansing” of the area.463 The situation had obviously become a genocide by the spring of 2013, and the West‟s determination to let the Syrians die alone was just as striking. No intervention, whether it be an airstrike or a No Fly Zone, was anywhere to be seen. In spite of such a genocidal campaign of government repression, the Syrian people remained very persistent in their demands. At the beginning of 2013 the Iranians began to sweat; Assad was steadily losing ground to the Syrian revolutionaries. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, between June of 2011 and early 2013 roughly 47,000 soldiers and militia fighters loyal to Bashar al Assad, most of them Alawite, had been killed by the opposition. Washington had begun to send them some small arms and a few European governments were sending non-lethal military equipment such as binoculars and body armor. In the face of the Russian leviathan continuously sending a whole slew of death machines to the Assad regime whatever small amounts of weaponry the FSA received from the West must‟ve felt rather condescending, and yet, progress was being made.464 In the summer of 2012 the FSA captured forty-eight members of Iran‟s al Quds Force inside Syria. Tehran put all its weight on Damascus and Assad was pressured into releasing two thousand detainees in a prisoner exchange. Several months later a seven billion dollar loan was given from Tehran to Damascus to keep the Syrian economy afloat. Iran had decided to kick things into high gear. Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran‟s al Quds Force and a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, began flying back and forth from Damascus so often that he practically became a one-man-show in regards to the Iranian intervention. His partner in crime was Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani; the Basij‟s former deputy commander. The Basij are an elite security militia in Iran who worked alongside the al Quds Force to crush the Green Revolution of 2009. Soon planes from Tehran carrying tons of weapons and ammunition were flying into Damascus every 24 hours. The al Quds Force assisted the Assad regime in consolidating his 15 secret service agencies as well. In April of 2013 the FSA liberated the Syrian town of Qusayr near the Lebanese border and Qassem Suleimani called upon Hassan Nasrallah to send in two thousand Hezbollah militants to imperialize the city for Tehran. The al Quds Force has built an international network of assets and some of them drawn
462

Henryk M. Broder, Why the West Lets Assad Massacre His Own People (World Crunch, February 21, 2013), http://www.worldcrunch.com/source-partner/world-affairs/syria-why-the-west-lets-assad-massacre-his-own-people/syria-alassad-revolution-homs-aleppo/c1s10993/#.UzOiN6iSzwJ 463 Hassan Hassan, Lessons from a massacre that Assad looks to exploit (The National, May 8, 2013), http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/lessons-from-a-massacre-that-assad-looks-to-exploit#page2 464 Peter Apps, Without chemical arms, Syrian weaponry still fearsome (Reuters, October 22, 2013), http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/22/us-syria-crisis-arms-idUSBRE99L06O20131022

80 from the Iranian diaspora. To save Assad, Suleimani has called on every asset he has constructed since taking over the al Quds Force: Hezbollah militants, Shia militiamen from all over the Muslim world, and all the money he could possibly get out of the Iranian government. Without Suleimani‟s assistance the Assad regime would‟ve collapsed by early 2013.465 Did religious Shia Muslims from around the world ask Hezbollah and Iran to intervene? No; it was the other way around. In June of 2013 Abbas al Jawhari, the president of the Lebanese Shiite Scholars Forum, described Hezbollah‟s intervention in Syria as being “illegitimate” and went on to say that such an action "will damage the future of resistance and cause disturbance between Shiite and Sunni… The Syrian people were demanding their legal rights.”466 Thanks to the colonialist ambitions of the Iranian government the wrath of the Syrian people has been brought to the Lebanese doorstep. General Salim Idriss, the chief of staff of the rebel Supreme Military Council, promised to “chase Hezbollah to Hell.” Colonel Abdul Jabbar al Aqidi, the commander of the Military Council in Aleppo, threatened "to strike at [Hezbollah‟s] stronghold in Dahiyeh,” which are Beirut's southern suburbs and are heavily populated with civilians, many have nothing to do with Hezbollah‟s atrocities in Syria. If Hezbollah did not want to bring a Syrian revenge to Lebanon, perhaps they miscalculated. Even more moderate Lebanese Sunni organizations, like the Muslim Scholars Association of Lebanon, have called on the Sunni community to help the Syrian people however they can.467 This sectarian interventionist campaign on part of Hassan Nasrallah has placed numerous Lebanese Shia civilians in the cross-hairs of the more radical Sunni elements within the current Syrian uprising. Keep in mind the events of 2006; following the Israeli attack on Lebanon thousands of Lebanese Shia individuals in the southern half of the country fled to Syria and found refuge mostly in the Sunni-dominated cities of Homs and Qusayr, respectively. By 2013 Hezbollah was assisting the Assad regime in its annihilation of these cities, especially Qusayr. Who are these Hezbollah militants who kill the Sunni Syrians that sheltered them only a few years ago? Who are these Hezbollah supporters who cheer when a school or healthcare clinic in Qusayr is razed to the ground, a school or healthcare clinic the Shias of southern Lebanon took refuge in when the Israeli military came for their heads?468 Hezbollah members who are called to the front line in Syria are done so through e-mail. The picture in these e-mails shows Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, standing next to Hassan Nasrallah. Khamenei is a representative of Imam Mahdi, and this is who, according to Shiism, is supposed to reappear to save them from an apocalyptic oppression. Perhaps Nasrallah faced difficulties getting the Shias of Lebanon to go kill Syrians in the name of Iran, so he had to change the narrative. Through the exploitation of the faith many now feel that they are crushing the Syrian revolution in the name of God.469

465

Dexter Filkins, The Shadow Commander (The New Yorker, September 30, 2013), http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/09/30/130930fa_fact_filkins?currentPage=1 466 Andalou Agency, Hezbollah's fighting alongside Syria regime forces has no legitimacy, said head of a group of Lebanese Shiite scholars (Andalou Agency, June 3, 2013), https://www.aa.com.tr/en/news/189365--shiite-scholar-rejects-hezbollahinvolvement-in-syria 467 Mona Yacoubian, Hezbollah‟s Gamble in Syria (Foreign Affairs, June 2, 2013), http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/139430/mona-yacoubian/hezbollahs-gamble-in-syria#cid=soc-twitter-at-snapshothezbollah_s_gamble_in_syria-000000 468 Salam Kawakibi, Between murder and resistance (Open Democracy, May 30, 2013), http://www.opendemocracy.net/salamkawakibi/between-murder-and-resistance 469 Sami Joe Abboud, Hezbollah‟s Base Questions Support for Assad (AI Monitor, April 25, 2013), http://www.almonitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/04/lebanons-shiites-questions-support-for-syria.html#ixzz2S5WnSmGk

81 ISIS, an Iraq-based al Qaeda affiliate, appeared in April and swept across northern Syria by the summer of 2013. They are Al Qaeda in Iraq, and therefore, they are Bashar al Assad‟s bastard children. Led by Ab Bakr al Baghdadi ISIS has overseen relentless attacks in Iraq, causing massive civilian casualties, and he was designated a Global Terrorist by the US State Department in October of 2011. It was his followers who founded Jabhat al Nusra. ISIS imprisons, tortures, and kills any Syrian who doesn‟t conform to its purist vision of Islam. They are so extreme that they have clashed with Jabhat al Nusra on several occasions even though in April of 2013 al Baghdadi merged Nusra with al Qaeda in Iraq and declared that the two branches are working together. Jabhat al Nusra is mostly indigenous and stresses the fight against Assad while ISIS is made up almost entirely of foreign occupiers whose main goal seems to be the destruction of the Syrian revolution in the name of their version of Islam. They kidnap and murder foreign aid workers, priests, and human rights attorneys while blowing up Shia and Sufi shrines. In December of 2012 the Syrian National Coalition issued a statement accusing ISIS of “abducting people for not abiding by their self-imposed regulations” and going on to say that “the Coalition does not consider ISIS a part of the opposition. Its actions serve the regime‟s interests.”470 ISIS officially declared war on the FSA in July of 2013. Raqqa and Aleppo, both close to the Turkish border, erupted in mass demonstrations, demanding ISIS leave. ISIS responded by mowing down protestors with machine guns. According to intelligence gathered by the Free Syrian Army, ISIS is not only helping to funnel weapons into Iraq, but they‟ve been penetrated by Iran since 2004. Today they kill members of the Syrian resistance to Iranian occupation the way they killed members of the Iraqi resistance to American occupation. ISIS has been taking over Syrian towns that were liberated by the FSA, and Assad warplanes do not bomb them. ISIS does not fight on the frontlines against the Syrian government in Homs, Aleppo, or anywhere else.471 The Syrian and Iranian puppet strings can be seen a mile away. Zahran Aloush, the commander of the Jaish Al Islam; Abdul Rahman Suweis of the Liwa al Haq; Hassan Aboud of Ahrar Al Sham; and Ahmad Aisa Al Sheikh, the commander of Suqour Al Sham, were all held in Assad‟s jails prior to the uprising of 2011. Bashar al Assad released Islamist militants from its prisons to deliberately subvert a peaceful uprising and ignite a violent rebellion.472 Turkey is partially responsible for some of ISIS‟s power too. When the Turkish government is not handing over FSA leaders to Damascus to be tortured and killed it‟s helping ISIS to grow by allowing foreign jihadists to cross its border into Syria. A large majority of foreign fighters who have entered Syria come through Turkey.473 Turkey has no qualms about watching foreign Islamist militants put down the Kurds for them, and yet even Kurds are joining the ranks of the Islamists and battling other Kurds who are not affiliated with jihadist organizations. By December of 2013 almost 300 Kurdish men and boys were working with the Al Qaeda-affiliated militia groups.474 After all, that previous summer the FSA accused the Kurds of working with the regime. By the fall of 2013 citizen journalists in Raqqa were forced into hiding by Al Qaeda-affiliated foreign jihadists. Employees were being kidnapped and offices
470

Sarah Birke, How al-Qaeda Changed the Syrian War (The New York Review of Books, December 27, 2013), http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/dec/27/how-al-qaeda-changed-syrian-war/ 471 Rani Geha, Al Qaeda Tries to Control Areas Liberated by Free Syrian Army (AI Monitor, July 10, 2013), http://www.almonitor.com/pulse/security/2013/07/al-qaeda-syria-armed-opposition-fsa.html 472 Phil Sands, Assad regime released extremists from jail, says former intelligence official (The National, January 21, 2014), http://www.thenational.ae/world/syria/assad-regime-set-free-extremists-from-prison-to-fire-up-trouble-during-peaceful-uprising 473 Sarah Birke, How al-Qaeda Changed the Syrian War (The New York Review of Books, December 27, 2013), http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/dec/27/how-al-qaeda-changed-syrian-war/ 474 Momen Zellmi, Al Nusrah Kurds: how do they operate and why do they fight fellow Kurds in Syria ? (Kurdistan Tribune, December 24, 2013), http://kurdistantribune.com/2013/kurds-joining-al-nusrah-how-do-they-operate-why-fight-fellow-kurdssyria/

82 were being raided. Human rights lawyers were receiving death threats. The Syrian citizen journalists who had worked tirelessly through social media to expose Bashar al Assad‟s genocidal campaign of government repression and to cut through the sectarian rhetoric, now had a whole new boot on their necks. While radio programs about the different stages of the French Revolution were being broadcasted from Raqqa people simultaneously had to look over their shoulders for Assad‟s Al Qaeda.475 In October of 2013 ISIS massacred almost 200 civilians in the pro-government villages of Latakia. The National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces and the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army sent letters to Human Rights Watch condemning the violence. Dr. Najib Ghadiban, Special Representative of the Syrian Coalition to the United Nations, wrote; “As long as the conflict is allowed to continue there is a real risk that extremist groups will grow in strength and that the human rights situation in Syria will worsen. Ultimately, the only way to protect Syrian civilians and ensure the integrity of international human rights law will be for the international community to end this conflict and help ensure that a transition to democracy in Syria can take place.” The Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army concurred, adding; “The ruthless massacres of Syrian non-combatants, regardless of their ethnicity, creed, or loyalties, is an abhorrent crime against humanity and antithetical to the values of our revolution… The Assad regime is guilty of the overwhelming majority of gross violations of human rights against the Syrian people… Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Al-Qaeda leader issued a declaration condemning the moderate FSA and banning the ISIS from interacting with FSA units… Further, we would like to point grave errors in judgment made by the report‟s authors in relying on numerous regime sources in attempts to corroborate information about the events; the regime‟s Ministry of Health, „loveassad.syriaforums.net,‟ and interviews with regime „security, army, and militia force members‟ can hardly be considered unbiased and objective observers.”476 By October 2013 over 115,000 Syrian people were dead, most of them civilians, and most of them were killed by their own government. 37% of the hospitals were destroyed, 469 health workers remained imprisoned, 15,000 doctors were forced to flee abroad, and of the 5,000 physicians in Aleppo before Assad‟s campaign of repression started only 36 remained. All medical neutrality had been eliminated by the Alawite state security forces.477 In December of 2013 ISIS seized warehouses containing FSA weapons and took over their local headquarters Idlib. This was the non-lethal equipment donated by the US. As a result of ISIS‟ theft the US halted all shipments of aid into Syria and Turkey closed the border. This same month the head of the rebel military command for Hama was kidnapped.478 ISIS has forced the Syrian people to fight on two fronts while preventing humanitarian aid getting into the country and news getting out. 6,000 people are dying every month in Syria and a third of the population has been forced to leave the country, yet the
475

David Kenner, How one Syrian radio station took on Al Qaeda (Foreign Policy, October 21, 2013), http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/10/21/how_one_syrian_radio_station_took_on_al_qaeda 476 Human Rights Watch, Syria: Executions, Hostage Taking by Rebels (Human Rights Watch, October 10, 2013), http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/10/10/syria-executions-hostage-taking-rebels 477 Gro Harlem Brundtland, Let Us Treat Patients in Syria (The New York Review of Books, October 2, 2013), http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/oct/02/let-us-treat-patients-syria/ 478 Joshua Hersh, The Worries of a Syrian Rebel Commander (The New Yorker, December 20, 2013), http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/12/lunch-with-the-syrian-rebels.html

83 issue of basic security has almost completely become center stage. ISIS forced the West to rethink their strategy of support to the Syrian revolutionaries. The country is now viewed as a security problem, rather than a massive ethnic cleansing that needs international assistance.479 The likes of ISIS became America‟s excuse to not send weaponry to the Syrian opposition.480 The long, drawn out decline in power and influence of the Syrian National Coalition and the Syrian Military Council was witnessed in 2013 as the Islamic Front began to take center stage. The preservation of meaningful Western influence on the Syrian opposition is in dire straits. Jabhat al Nusra‟s influence and ISIS geographical reach have only continued to expand. As of December 2013, ISIS numbers in at 8,000 fighters.481 Even though the revolution continues ISIS has changed the mainstream discourse away from the democratic will of the Syrian people and degraded it into one of civil war. The women fighting on the front lines are not mentioned. The bluecollar, salt of the earth origins of most of the opposition fighters are not mentioned. The massive antigovernment demonstrations that continued throughout 2012, 2013, and all the way up to today in the face of heavy bombardment are not mentioned. In December of 2013 Aleppo saw its bloodiest week since Bashar al Assad‟s genocidal campaign of repression began. Twenty five airstrikes over eight days killed 364 people and wounded several hundred. According to survivor testimony the helicopters that dropped the bombs did so from altitudes so high that they were beyond the range of the FSA‟s outdated anti-aircraft guns. This same week, the last week of December, came reports that North Korea had sent pilots to assist the Syrian regime‟s bombardment.482 By the end of 2013 Shia jihadists from Iraq by the thousands have been ushered into Syria by Iran to assist Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard keep Assad afloat. While Assad proclaims that political Islam is a failure, Shia jihadism is saving his life. Some claim that Shiism demands the suspension of jihad until the emergence of the Hidden Imam, but this religious tenet doesn‟t seem to be stopping anyone. Shia jihadism, fighting a holy war in the name of the religion, is almost unheard of, but the exploitation of a path to God in order to serve man‟s imperialist ambitions is nothing new. In Damascus the shrine of Sayyida Zainab, Imam Hussain's sister, has been used as a recruitment tool in the name of military occupation. Shia militants have come from Iraq, Yemen, Iran and Lebanon to defend the shrine from being attacked by ISIS.483 The Sunni foreign jihadists are given plenty of airtime in the mainstream media, but almost nothing is said of their Shia counterparts. The West will never know exactly how much of the ongoing carnage could have been prevented. Frederic C. Hoff, a Resident Senior Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, suggests that the right thing to have done would have been to support the Syrian revolutionaries by helping them to create an interim government inside the country and a rock-solid, fully unified militia of armed people willing to defend that interim government against both Bashar al Assad‟s regime and the Al Qaeda-inspired forces that it has helped to funnel into Syria. The US very easily could‟ve carved out a protected zone in northern Syria through diplomatic talks with Turkey and here is where an alternative to the Ba‟athist regime could‟ve grown. As
479

Sarah Birke, How al-Qaeda Changed the Syrian War (The New York Review of Books, December 27, 2013), http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/dec/27/how-al-qaeda-changed-syrian-war/ 480 Molly Crabapple, Syria's war, 3 years on: 'a horror film', in faces of the dead and voices of revolt (The Guardian, March 14, 2014), http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/14/syria-war-3-years-dead-faces-activist-voices 481 Charles Lister, The Next Phase of the Syrian Conflict (Foreign Policy, December 23, 2013), http://mideastafrica.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/12/23/the_next_phase_of_the_syrian_conflict 482 Edward Dark, Aleppo‟s Bloodiest Week (AI Monitor, December 26, 2013), http://www.almonitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/12/aleppo-syria-war-bombing-increase-death-victims.html?utm_source=almonitor.com_Security&utm_medium=twitter 483 Hassan Hassan, The rise of Shia jihadism in Syria will fuel sectarian fires (The National, June 5, 2013), http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/the-rise-of-shia-jihadism-in-syria-will-fuel-sectarian-fires#page2

84 a result of Western cowardice and indifference the Syrian people are at the mercy of both the Syrian state security apparatus and the foreign Shia fighters being funneled into the country by Iran and their proxy Hezbollah.484 The Syrian people asked for a No Fly Zone in 2011, 2012, and again in 2013. They still have not received one. The thought process that went behind the No Fly Zones of the 1990‟s, such as in the former Yugoslavia and Iraqi Kurdistan, was as follows; an aggressively enforced No Fly Zone would aid civilians being annihilated by their own military, prevent further escalation of the conflict, and end the conflict more quickly with a healthy threat of airstrikes to regime weapons facilities. Are these objectives limited? Yes. Are they worthless to the victims of relentless aerial bombardment? Absolutely not. By the spring of 2013 the death toll was placed at 70,000. Bashar al Assad‟s scorched-earth tactics displaced 3.6 million people inside Syria and forced 1.3 million to seek refuge outside of the country.485 The Pentagon, Congress, the American public, and even the self-appointed “anti-war”/ “humanitarian” crowd remains uninterested and indifferent. Frederic C. Hoff ended 2013 on this sobering note; “The greatest humanitarian catastrophe of the twenty-first century has unfolded before our eyes in Syria and in the countries surrounding it… The primary driver of Syria's descent into hell is the daily habit of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‟s regime to use artillery, aircraft, rockets, and missiles against residential areas its forces do not control… Syrian civilians find themselves at the mercy of a rapacious regime and violent political Islamists in significant part because the West opted for half-measures in supporting Syrian nationalists, and chose to leave the arming of Syrian opposition fighters largely in the hands of others… This catastrophe will only worsen immeasurably if we try, through various diplomatic artifices, to avert our collective gaze from that which is truly important and move on to subjects supposedly more pleasant and manageable.”486

Chapter 5: "Don't be afraid of the sound of bullets. You won't hear the one which kills you."- Abdul Qader al Saleh, a founder of the Tawhid Brigade in 2012. In the Syrian regime‟s brutality, its narratives of sectarianism, and its refusal to recognize the political legitimacy of the Syrian people‟s call for freedom, it bears an uncanny resemblance to its French predecessors of the 1920‟s. A worst case scenario for Syria was predicted as early as 2005; a civil war involving various ethnicities and religious sects at each other‟s throats combined with more radical Islamists waiting to drop in and fill the power vacuum as the political, social, and economic environment
484

Frederic C. Hof, Syria: Stopping the Carnage (The Atlantic Council, December 18, 2013), http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/syria-stopping-the-carnage 485 Scott Cooper, A Syrian no-fly zone is the moral and strategic thing to do (The Washington Post, April 6, 2013), http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-syrian-no-fly-zone-is-the-moral-and-strategic-thing-to-do/2013/04/05/2fdf3e2a9d52-11e2-a941-a19bce7af755_story.html 486 Frederic C. Hof, Syria: Stopping the Carnage (The Atlantic Council, December 18, 2013), http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/syria-stopping-the-carnage

85 deteriorates.487 What was not predicted was how savage the Syrian government would get in order to keep its grip on power. The heavy influx of fascist militants from Europe massacring Syrians on behalf of Assad was not predicted. The Syrian government has the support of fascists and far-right nationalist parties and organizations all across Europe. The Syrian Ba‟athist flag has made widespread appearances at rallies organized by the French National Front, the Italian Forza Nuova and Casa Pound, the Golden Dawn and Black Lilly of Greece, the British National Party, and multiple neo-Nazi groups in Poland. Every pillar of their support for the Assad regime is based on a myth. They believe Assad is a buffer to US imperialism, which he is not and has never been. They believe Assad is a threat to Israel, which he is not and has never been. They believe Assad is fighting Islamic terrorism, which he also is not. When they‟re not taking part in violent, racist, anti-Muslim protests and attacks back home, they‟re in Syria with government officials on “fact finding” missions and some have even picked up a weapon and joined Hezbollah. There were Greek Nazis killing Syrians in Qusayr alongside the followers of Hassan Nasrallah during the summer of 2013.488 In September and October of 2013 over two hundred Russian mercenaries known as the Slavonic Corps were hired to fight and kill Syrians in Homs and Deir Ez Zor. Their mission was cleared by the Russian Federal Security Services while Russian engineers were working on Syrian air defense systems.489 In October of 2013 Lord Truscott, a member of the UK House of Lords, announced that he had nominated Vladmir Putin for a Nobel Peace Prize. This came only a few days after a Russian activist group, The International Academy of Spiritual Unity and Cooperation, said they had done the same thing. They both cited Putin‟s efforts to prevent a US airstrike on Bashar al Assad‟s weapons facilities as reason enough in their eyes for Putin‟s nomination. Sadly, Vladimir Putin‟s genocide of Chechnya, war on Georgia, and his position as Bashar al Assad‟s weapons supplier did not enter anyone‟s head. The month prior to this incident of cognitive dissonance a charity organization known as Action on Armed Violence published a report detailing twelve of the most fatal explosive weapons being used indiscriminately against the Syrian people. Ten of these twelve weapons are Russian-made and 93% of the deaths from these weapons are civilians. The M240 Mortar Bomb is the largest mortar in the world, is fired from two Russian weapons systems, and this was Bashar al Assad‟s weapon of choice during his annihilation of Homs in February of 2012. Over 1,000 Syrian people were killed in that city in that month and over half of them were from the Baba Amr neighborhood. A 15 year old boy named Hamza Bakour lost his jaw as a result of a shell explosion and died within 48 hours of receiving his injuries. Hamza‟s bloody, jawless face has become yet another gruesome popular image of Assad‟s war on his own people. One of the several journalists killed during the assault on Homs at this time was Marie Colvin. During her last broadcast she reiterated the following to CNN; “…it‟s a complete and utter lie that they‟re only going after terrorists. There are rockets, shells, tank shells, anti-aircraft being fired in parallel lines into the city. The Syrian Army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.” The Russian M-1943/M43 is the mortar most commonly used by the Assad regime‟s military. This is what they used to commit the Damascus University massacre in late March of 2013. The Russian T-72
487 488

David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 40. Leila Shrooms, Who are Assad‟s fascist supporters? (Tahrir-ICN December 21, 2013), http://tahriricn.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/syria-who-are-assads-fascist-supporters/ 489 James Miller, The Insane Story of Russian Mercenaries Fighting for the Syrian Regime (The Huffington Post, November 21, 2013), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-miller/the-insane-story-of-russi_b_4317729.html

86 tank is the largest and most popular tank the Syrian military uses. Bashar as stockpiled over 1,500 of them since 2011, it was the first heavy weapon to be used on civilians and the Russian company that manufactures them raked in over one billion dollars in profit by the end of 2011. Those who survive such bombardment in one piece suffer from wounds that cannot be seen. To live under non-stop rocket fire for a few hundred days means to come away with post-traumatic nerve damage, which is what we are seeing be inflicted upon an entire generation of children. And then, of course, there is the previously mentioned “vacuum bomb,” also known as the ODAB-500 PM. The Russian company that manufactures the jets capable of dropping these bombs sold $2.6 billion worth of them in 2011. The Syrian military began to use these cluster bombs in 2012. They are an internationally banned weapon. The ones being used by the Syrian military have been identified as being AO-1SCh antipersonnel fragmentation bomblets. No country other than the Soviet Union in the 1970‟s and 1980‟s is known to have produced these specific type of bomblets. According to a report published by Human Rights Watch in the fall of 2013 over two hundred cluster munitions were used on 152 different locations in Syria between July of 2012 and June of 2013. Russia‟s Foreign Minister Sergiei Lavrov continues to deny their usage by the Assad regime.490 A Russian firm signed a 25-year energy deal with the Syrian government late in 2013. The agreement covers an 845-square-mile area stretching south from the Ba‟athist stronghold city of Tartous, which as previously mentioned, is also home to a Russian naval base. While Syrians starve to death under imposed terror-famines the Russian corporation of Soyuz Nefte Gaz will spend $15 million for initial oil well exploration before spending an additional $75 million to develop at least one.491 Russia will continue to see any Western attempt to remove Bashar al Assad as a way of weakening its power above all else.492 Only when Bashar becomes a liability, and is really on the run, will Vladimir Putin cut his losses. He wouldn‟t want the oppressed Muslim populations of the North Caucasus to get too riled up. Does Putin really want another Chechnya, especially now that all eyes are on his imperialism of Ukraine and Crimea? The immense failure of the international community to destroy Assad‟s chemical weapons stockpiles and to prevent him from using them repeatedly on civilians was not predicted. On August 21st of 2013, almost exactly one year after Barack Obama‟s “red line” speech, Bashar launched his largest, most wide scale and most fatal chemical weapons attack on civilians. The victims were the inhabitants of the Damascus suburbs of Zamallaka and Ein Turma in the Eastern Ghouta area. A UN inspection team was asleep in their hotels in Damascus at the time. They were there investigating a previous chemical weapons attack that occurred six months prior. What has been described as a “weaponized cyanide” killed over 600 Syrian people on August 21st. Photographs of piles and piles of dead babies and children flooded the social media outlets.493 Within the first six hours of the attack 6,000 people were in the hospital. Over ten thousand people were affected by the toxic gas. The adults died slowly and the children dropped like flies. In all, 1,500 people died over a two to three day period.494 Human rights lawyer Razan Zeitouneh

490

Mandie Garcia, In Response to Putin‟s Nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize: The Effects of Russian Weapons On Syrian Civilians (Journo for Humanity, Blog, October 16, 2013), http://garciamandie.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/in-response-to-putinsnomination-for-a-nobel-peace-prize-the-effect-of-russian-weapons-on-syrian-civilians/ 491 Nabih Boulous, Russian firm signs 25-year energy deal with Syria (LA Times, December 26, 2013), http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-russia-energy-oil-gas-syria-20131226,0,4090804.story#ixzz2obYexRkW 492 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 139. 493 Amal Hanano, The Chemical Attack & Massacre of Damascus (The Revolting Syrian, August 21, 2013), http://www.therevoltingsyrian.com/post/58902680033/the-chemical-attack-massacre-of-damascus 494 Mona Mahmood, Syria's gas attack: 'The children's faces have not left me. I'm not the same man‟ (The Guardian, December 27, 2013), http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/27/syria-ghouta-sarin-attack-emad-surgeon-interview?CMP=twt_gu

87 was in the area at the time and was interviewed by Democracy Now! two days after the attack took place. She reiterated the following statements; “This liberated East Ghouta is being shelled every day from air and land and is under brutal siege. For more than 10 months, there‟s no electricity, no communications. Hospitals and other facilities are using generators only when there is a fuel. All medications have expired or were run out time ago. This siege prevented locals get even any bread… At the beginning (of the attack), we thought that it‟s like the previous times, that there will be only dozens of injured cases and number of murders, but we were surprised by the great numbers which the medical points received during only the first half of hour following the shelling… I haven‟t seen such death in my whole life. People were lying on the ground in hallways, on roadsides, in hundreds…The regime knows that Obama‟s red line are just a big fat lies, so why the regime would care not to use the chemical weapons or any kind of weapons to stop the progress of the Syrian Free Army from the capital, Damascus?” Amy Goodman, the host of Democracy Now!, and Patrick Cockburn, the second guest on this particular episode, spent the second half of the show discussing the ordeal of an unknown American photographer who was imprisoned and beaten by Syrian opposition members. One injured American received just as much air-time as almost 2,000 dead Syrians.495 The Syrian military unleashed this particular chemical weapons attack only two days after the previously mentioned team of UN chemicals weapons inspectors arrived in Damascus and only a few kilometers away from the hotel they were staying in. About a year prior to the massacre in Ghouta Germany's foreign intelligence agency estimated that the Assad regime was in possession of 1,000 tons of chemical weapons and this included 700 tons of sarin gas.496 Even Hezbollah fighters got gassed by the Syrian government's chemical weapons attack in Ghouta. The State Department didn't translate the intercepts they got about the upcoming gas attack into English right away, thus Obama didn't know what Bashar al Assad was planning until the assault began. Calls came to Bashar about the gas attack from Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah. Russia knows the US knows that Assad has these chemical weapons. If one were to continue to connect the dots, Vladimir Putin knows that Barack Obama that Vladimir Putin knows that Bashar al Assad has these chemical weapons. Putin rang Assad to scorn him for the massacre in Ghouta, and then lied to the US and said that no chemical weapons attack took place. If the West had reached out more to the Free Syrian Army and used them to listen in live to regime intercepts Syrian lives could‟ve been saved. Lives also could‟ve been saved a year earlier when gas masks were requested. However, if the US had actually bothered to translate the regime intercepts into English before the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta took place, they still might not have acted. The US had already been monitoring Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles since March of 2011. It watched Bashar al Assad‟s state security apparatus carry out several smaller chemical attacks prior to what happened in Ghouta. A major crime against humanity was allowed to take place because the US did not want to have to respond. Several months earlier, in February, the US representatives of the FSA began asking the Pentagon for the types of injectors that US military personnel often carry just in case they have to treat themselves for sarin gas exposure. Their requests were denied by the Pentagon. It was a humanitarian organization from France that assisted them instead. Protective suits
495

Democracy Now! Syrian Activist on Ghouta Attack: "I Haven‟t Seen Such Death in My Whole Life” (Democracy Now!, August 23, 2013), http://www.democracynow.org/2013/8/23/syrian_activist_on_ghouta_attack_i 496 Hans Hoyng, Assad's Cold Calculation: The Poison Gas War on the Syrian People (Spiegel Online, August 26, 2013), http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/syrian-chemical-weapons-attack-western-intervention-draws-nearer-a-918667-2.html

88 and sarin gas antidote was delivered to the FSA from France in the spring of 2013.497 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke to the United Nations on August 26th. He argued that “hysteria” was pushing the international community towards a humanitarian intervention in Syria and he questioned whether or not a chemical attack occurred at all.498 In September he endorsed a plan to destroy Syria‟s chemical weapons stockpiles, and pledged Russian support. Like clockwork, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem expressed that the Assad regime was willing to work with the Russians on this plan.499Not only is the number of foreign Sunni militants entering the Syria continuing to increase at an exponential rate, but the growth of these Islamist brigades tripled in the northern areas directly after the August 21st chemical weapons attack outside Damascus.500 The international community did not come to the rescue, so the Ummah decided to step in. Razan Zeitouneh, the previously mentioned Syrian human rights attorney, wrote a piece for NOW Lebanon in September in which she detailed the relentless torture being implemented against prisoners at the air force intelligence prison in Harasta by Lieutenant Colonel Abu al-Mawt; “The world would rather deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Abu al-Mawt‟s role model who gives him the authority to steal away or extend one‟s life. This goes without mentioning the thousands of replicas of Lieutenant Colonel Abu al-Mawt who have been torturing and killing Syrians for two-and-ahalf years. Yet, the West would then express surprise and focus most at the sight of al-Qaeda-linked groups emboldened in some liberated areas and performing theatrical executions openly using edged weapons.”501 Razan Zeitouneh, her husband, and several colleagues were kidnapped in December. Their whereabouts are still unknown and people still are not sure if it was Alawite security forces that took her and her comrades or, worse, if it was ISIS.502 Also in December Syrian warplanes killed over 300 people, including 87 children, in an eight-day bombing campaign in Aleppo.503 According to a report released by UN investigators around the same time Syrian activists and other citizens are continuing to vanish into secret government detention facilities as part of a "widespread campaign of terror against the civilian population.”504 It‟s rather odd that the West has behaved as if chemical weapons are the main cause of death for the Syrian people when that is clearly not the case. The Oxford Research Group released a report in late December of 2013 that documents the killing of 11,420 Syrian children from the spring of 2011 until August of 2013, and these children were not killed by chemical weapons. 71% of these
497

Adam Entous, As Syrian Chemical-Weapons Attack Loomed Missteps Doomed Civilians (The Wall Street Journal, November 22, 2013), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303914304579194203188283242 498 James Miller, Syria – Another Brick in the Wall of Russia‟s Isolation (The Interpreter, August 27, 2013), http://www.interpretermag.com/syria-another-brick-in-the-wall-of-russias-isolation/ 499 James Miller, A Russian Plan For Syria Is Two Years Too Late (The Interpreter, September 12, 2013), http://www.interpretermag.com/a-russian-plan-for-syria-is-two-years-too-late/ 500 Charles Lister, The Next Phase of the Syrian Conflict (Foreign Policy, December 23, 2013), http://mideastafrica.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/12/23/the_next_phase_of_the_syrian_conflict 501 Razan Zeitouneh, Cheating Death in Syria (NOW Lebanon, September 16, 2013), https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/commentaryanalysis/cheating-death 502 Syria Deeply, Syria Deeply Asks: What's the Difference Between ISIS and the Islamic Front? (Syria Deeply, December 21, 2013), http://www.syriadeeply.org/articles/2013/12/4476/syria-deeply-asks-difference-isis-islamic-front/#.UrURMtIW3wL 503 World | Agence France-Presse. 300 dead in eight days of air raids on Syria's Aleppo: NGO (NDTV, December 23, 2013), http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/300-dead-in-eight-days-of-air-raids-on-syria-s-aleppo-ngo-462236 504 Reuters. United Nations: Secret detention part of Syria 'campaign of terror‟ (Atlantic Council, December 19, 2013), http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/top-news-us-senate-bill-allows-room-for-aid-to-return-toegypt?utm_content=buffer32ab2&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer#syr

89 children were killed by explosive weapons. It is true that over 400 children were gassed to death on August 21st in Ghouta, but this means that only 3.5% of Syrian children have been killed by chemical weapons. By the end of 2013 the number of Syrian children killed surpassed that of Bosnian children killed during the Bosnian genocide.505 While world‟s attention was temporarily focused on the sarin gas attack near Damascus in late August, Syrian government forces were waging an intense assault against the small town of Ariha, which is south of Idlib. To “cleanse” the town, government helicopters dumped dozens of Russian-made barrelbombs. 70,000 Syrian people fled for their lives, most across the Turkish border. Ariha‟s first protest came on April 22, 2011. The people of Ariha pulled down the statue of Hafez al at a major traffic circle and it was the first town in northern Syria to see such an action.506 Between August 21st and September 20th, that‟s within thirty days, 327 Syrian children were killed not by chemical weapons but rather by airstrikes and gunshots. 209 women, 1,016 civilian men, and 1,133 opposition combatants were murdered in this same thirty day period. By the end of September every fifteen seconds a Syrian person became a refugee, not to mention the fact that numerous American and Syrian human rights organizations have recorded twenty-six different instances of the Assad regime using chemical weapons before the devastating massacre in Ghouta took place.507 The only lesson from the US-Russian chemical weapons agreement that Bashar is taking away is that he can do as he wishes to Syrian civilians so long as he does it without chemical weapons. As long as he cooperates with the chemical weapons deal he retains his license to kill. The credible and sizable threat of US military intervention is what made the deal possible in the first place. The absence of this threat has resulted in the enabling of continued mass murder, rape, torture, and imprisonment. I highly doubt that this is what the West intended in regards to the chemical weapons deal, but regardless, this is the result of its actions and inactions. This what President Obama has cited as one of his foreign policy successes.508 The Syrian people also did not expect multiple American leftist news outlets to cover up the gas attack in Ghouta in an effort to prevent any kind of humanitarian intervention. An American website known as Mint Press News reported that Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia had given the FSA chemical weapons which they then then mismanaged and thus caused the mass deaths of August 21, 2013. This fraudulent allegation was widely circulated on the internet and cited by Russian government officials as proof that Bashar al Assad was not behind the massacre even though they know he is. The authors of the article are unknowns and nothing has been found of their previous work.509 The American anti-war movement has become the American anti-genocide prevention movement. They are not the ones demanding that the Obama administration send gas masks to the Syrians, rather, they would prefer that Syrian lives remain as cannon fodder for their political agendas. Because Syrians are mostly Muslim this has brought out the worst Islamophobic tendencies within the American leftist community. Certainly they
505

Dr Zaher Sahloul, Why Sarin Isn't the Biggest Concern for Syrian Children (Syria Deeply, December 12, 2013), http://www.syriadeeply.org/op-eds/2013/12/4418/sarin-biggest-concern-syrian-children/#.UxVdAuOSzwK 506 Raymond Gutmen, Battle for strategic Syrian town shows why war has displaced millions (The Miami Herald, November 11, 2013), http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/11/11/3739863/battle-for-strategic-syrian-town.html 507 Amal Hanano, One month after the world officially gave up on us (The Revolting Syrian, October 12, 2013), http://www.therevoltingsyrian.com/post/62162545687/one-month-on-after-the-world-officially-gave-up-on-us 508 Editorial Board, President Obama‟s empty boast on Syria (The Washington Post, December 24, 2013), http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/president-obamas-empty-boast-on-syria/2013/12/23/af398e46-6bec-11e3-aecc85cb037b7236_story.html?algtrack=mixedrec-1&tid=btm_rex_1 509 Bob Whitaker, Syria 'rebel chemicals' story gets weirder (Al Bab, September 21, 2013), http://www.albab.com/blog/2013/september/syria-rebel-chemicals-story-gets-weirder.htm#sthash.2ARqmssA.9Zw3yJOP.dpbs.

90 would not blame both sides of the conflict in regards to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, but then again, those resistance fighters were Jewish and European. Their short-lived outrage over a possible airstrike on the Assad regime as a response to the massacre in Ghouta proved to be just as artificial as the Russian state propaganda they promoted. Justin Raimando, the founder of Antiwar.com, labeled the Ghouta massacre as a “hoax” and Rania Masri, a popular mouth-piece for Palestinian solidarity, blamed the FSA for most of the destruction Syria has seen.510 Someone didn‟t get the memo that the Assad regime‟s annihilation of the country is good for Israel. An Arab despot who crushes his own people always has a special place in the Zionist heart, especially if those people are religious Muslims whose greatest desire is to see Palestine liberated. Also, an anti-Iran sentiment is being sown in the Arab world as a result of its colonization of Syria. Certainly Israel approves of any distraction from its ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine. As Iran‟s resources are depleted it is very likely that Syria will become Iran's Vietnam. At the same time, Hezbollah is too busy murdering Syrians to cause Israel much trouble. Lastly, Israel no longer faces any pressure to give up the Golan Heights.511 Despite Hezbollah‟s anti-Israel rhetoric Hezbollah is killing Syrians, both Muslim and non-Muslim, whom it accuses of being “takfiris” in Syria, and this is far from the Israeli front. Both Iran and Israel are well aware of the situation. The West and Iran are fighting the same battle. Israel has always relied on corrupt Arab despots like Bashar al Assad to put down the masses for them, and thus the Jewish apartheid state prefers secular tyrants over Islamic democratic movements, whether they be in Palestine, Egypt, or Syria. As the American left celebrated its victory of preventing an intervention that was never going to happen anyway, systematic terror-famines became the cheapest weapon dealt out by Bashar al Assad. The Syrian regime cut all humanitarian supplies to the town of Moadamiyah in early 2013 and by October it was starving to death. Eleven people, women and children, died from malnutrition that one month. Even before the FSA liberated the town it was assaulted by Syrian state security forces; six hundred people were stabbed to death in a massacre committed in 2011. Almost ninety Moadamiyah residents were killed by the sarin gas attack in August and another five hundred people were exposed to it. The perpetrators of this ongoing genocide have incriminated themselves time and again. In early October of 2013 a young member of the National Defense Force, the Alawite paramilitary group trained and funded by Iran‟s Revolutionary Guards, said the following in an interview with The Wall Street Journal; “We won‟t allow them to be nourished in order to kill us… Let them starve for a bit, surrender and then be put on trial.” A spokesman for Syria‟s Fourth Armored Division has described all the residents in Moadamiyah as “terrorists and those embracing them.” In early October about 600 women, children and seniors were permitted to leave Moadamiyah after a cease-fire was brokered, they were taken to the regime-controlled town of Qusaya, and ten of the children were kidnapped by Syrian state security agents. They were tortured into confessing information about the whereabouts of the FSA within Moadamiya.512 In the summer of 2013 Kristalina Georgieva, the Commissioner for the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department of the European Commission, described the ongoing Syrian Nakba as “undoubtedly the
510

Nott George Sabra, The Anti-War Movement Wins: the War in Syria Continues (Nott George Sabra, Blog, September 30, 2013), http://notgeorgesabra.tumblr.com/post/62735801728/the-anti-war-movement-wins-the-war-in-syriacontinues?og=1&fb_action_ids=1395492270682499&fb_action_types=tumblrfeed%3Apost&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%7B%221395492270682499%22%3A721909064491343%7D& action_type_map=%7B%221395492270682499%22%3A%22tumblr-feed%3Apost%22%7D&action_ref_map 511 Haian Dukhan, Syria‟s Security Implications for Israel: Advantage of a Stalemate (Carnegie Endowment, September 5, 2013), http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/2013/09/05/syria-s-security-implications-for-israel-advantage-of-stalemate/gm8a 512 Michael Weiss, Assad‟s Terror-Famine (NOW Lebanon, October 13, 2013), https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/commentaryanalysis/assads-terror-famine

91 world's worst refugee crisis in decades” and that the international community was “sleepwalking into this disaster.” As she spoke Alawite state security forces were reinforced with Iranian-led Hizbollah militants and they continued to place Aleppo under siege.513 In the face of such relentless and obvious ethnic cleansing the question “why isn‟t the world doing anything?” repeatedly surfaces. Even Stephen Hawking has pondered this; “where is our humanity?” Unfortunately, genocide prevention has never been a priority for the movers and the shakers of the international community. Oil and power is what makes them get out of their chairs in the UN General Assembly. The Western states do not want the war to end except as a victory for their allies. The US, Britain, France and the Sunni monarchies do not want the bloodshed to end until they can be absolutely certain that victory is theirs. Meanwhile, the country‟s healthcare system has collapsed. In three years Syria‟s hospitals went from being the envy of the Middle East to piles of rubble. Doctors and nurses have fled for their lives and treatable diseases have become death sentences. The World Health Organization‟s representative in Syria described the country‟s healthcare system as “going back in time… at a rate of a decade per month.”514 The Syrian people expected to be in for a long and difficult struggle, but they did not expect to become the new Rwandan genocide; a campaign of mass death ignored by the international community now only to shed crocodile-tears over it in the future. The Syrian people did not expect to become the new Palestinians and to be the victims of a new Nakba on a killing level of industrial scale. In an imperialist-capitalist world order the less powerful do not have rights. Rather, they have privileges that the more powerful must feel obligated to allow them to have. If the men and women behind the curtain do not feel obligated to save lives, then they won‟t. They won‟t give Syria a No Fly Zone, they won‟t demote Russia from the Security Council, and they won‟t go back on the nuclear deal with Iran just because their military is killing Syrians. Today both the Zionist and anti-Zionist establishment would prefer it if the Syrian revolution were to drown in its own blood. This is how Arab/Muslim resistance to the Jewish state ends; by collaboration with the West under the false pretense of anti-Western imperialism. The Syrian people did not expect the severity of the ongoing betrayal of Arab solidarity. The old order has been shattered and the icons of resistance have failed. From Leila Khaled to Fairouz, the elders have chosen to express their solidarity with the Assad regime and Iran‟s proxy militias rather than the Syrian and Palestinian civilians they are continuing to annihilate through terror-famines, mass rape, indiscriminate aerial bombardments, and massacres by machine guns. Enter The Protocols of the Elders of anti-Zionism. Ba‟athism is dead, but Basharism is not. Resistance has become a brand name. It has been co-opted by imperialist forces who are responsible for the deaths of Palestinian people, and have been responsible for the deaths of Palestinian people since the Lebanese civil war. For example, Khaled Bakrawi, a young PalestinianSyrian community organizer and founding member of the Jafra Foundation for Relief and Youth Development, was arrested by Alawite state security forces in January of 2013 for his leading role in carrying out humanitarian and aid work in Yarmouk. By September the Palestinians of Yarmouk learned

513

Peter Greenwood, Syria: world 'sleep walking' into greatest ever refugee crisis (The Telegraph, June 20, 2013), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10132558/Syria-world-sleep-walking-into-greatest-ever-refugeecrisis.html 514 Charlie Cooper, Syria in crisis: Country's healthcare system is 'going backwards in time, at a rate of a decade a month‟ (The Independent, December 25, 2013), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-in-crisis-countrys-healthcaresystem-is-going-backwards-in-time-at-a-rate-of-a-decadea-month-9025319.html

92 that Khaled was killed under torture in a detention center in Damascus.515 None of the English speaking Palestinian solidarity news outlets that have popularity amongst the American “anti-imperialist” left, from Electronic Intifada to Existence Is Resistance, mentioned Khaled‟s death or the siege the Assad regime had placed Yarmouk under. Clearly, some Palestinians are “more equal than others.” As of 2011 the total population for the Yarmouk camp near Damascus came in at 160,000. As a result of Bashar al Assad‟s genocidal campaign of government repression Yarmouk became a home for one million internally displaced Syrian refugees by the end of 2011. When the Free Syrian Army gained ground in the southern suburbs of Damascus the Syrian military began to shell the camp while, at the same time, arming the pro-regime Palestinian militia within Yarmouk; the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- the General Command (PFLP-GC).516 It was under Hafez al Assad‟s thumb before coming into Iran‟s tutelage. It was used to expand Iranian political influence in the Palestinian refugee camps of Jordan, including the establishment of a Jordanian Hezbollah.517 Mortars were fired at the camp by Assad‟s forces before the FSA ever stepped foot in it. With a fresh pile of weapons at their disposal, the PFLP began to cause trouble for the FSA and tit-for-tat kidnappings and gunfire ensued.518 In May of 2011 in commemoration of Nakba Day hundreds of Palestinians from the refugee camps in and around Damascus were bused to the demilitarized zone that separates Syria from the Golan Heights. The safety of the Palestinian civilians was not prioritized. The fence was breached and Israeli occupation forces opened fire and a dozen Palestinian people were killed. There was a repeat of this bloodshed in June on Naksa Day; the anniversary of the outbreak of the June War in 1967. Another dozen Palestinians were shot and killed. This was unprecedented because never before had the Syrian government bused hundreds of Palestinian people to the Golan on either anniversary. Why 2011? The answer is obvious; to deflect attention from the ongoing slaughter in the streets and to manufacture Palestinian-Israeli tension. One of the main intelligence branches in Syria deals only with Palestine-related issues. It‟s impossible for the Syrian government to not have known that a breach of the fence in the Golan would‟ve cost Palestinian lives.519 The previously mentioned Palestinian activist who was tortured to death in September of 2013, Khaled Bakrawi, took part in the June march into the Golan. He witnessed the leader of the PFLP, Ahmad Jibril, lead the people into the Israeli-occupied cease-fire zone. Knowing what was going to happen he tried to dissuade his fellow Palestinians from following Ahmad Jibril‟s orders, but to no avail. Khaled was forced to watch Alawite state security forces relax and drink tea while Israeli occupation soldiers rained bullets down on his neighbors. Khaled took two bullets in his leg. The young man who was labeled a hero for taking a few Zionist bullets would later that year fade away into obscurity following his murder at the hands of Bashar al Assad‟s security forces.520 Indeed, some Palestinians are “more equal than
515

Budour Hassan, Death under torture in Syria: the horrors ignored by pacifists (The Republic, September 15, 2013), http://therepublicgs.net/2013/09/15/death-under-torture-in-syria-the-horrors-ignored-by-pacifists/. 516 Ruth Sherlock, How an ordinary street became the defining image of Syria's war (The Telegraph, March 1, 2014), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10670539/How-an-ordinary-street-became-the-defining-image-ofSyrias-war.html 517 Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008), 178-179. 518 Ruth Sherlock, How an ordinary street became the defining image of Syria's war (The Telegraph, March 1, 2014), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10670539/How-an-ordinary-street-became-the-defining-image-ofSyrias-war.html 519 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 135. 520 Budour Hassan, Death under torture in Syria: the horrors ignored by pacifists (The Republic, September 15, 2013), http://therepublicgs.net/2013/09/15/death-under-torture-in-syria-the-horrors-ignored-by-pacifists/.

93 others. “As the FSA continued to gain ground in 2012 Bashar al Assad took out his frustrations on the Palestinians. The FSA set up a supply line through Yarmouk, and massive collective punishment at the hands of the regime ensued. Syrian government forces and Alawite militias encircled Yarmouk and by October of 2012 the entrances to the camp were only open two or three days a week. The civilians bore the brunt of the violence. The tragedies began to pile up. In December Syrian regime warplanes bombed a mosque in Yarmouk that was housing internally displaced Syrian refugees. Dozens were killed. The excuse for such an atrocity was that the FSA had hidden some weapons in the basement of the mosque. Under the regime‟s blockade Yarmouk became worse than Gaza. Everyone was starving, forced to live on weeds and spices cooked in boiling water. Children, the elderly, and the sick died of hunger. Yarmouk was under siege throughout all of 2013, and it continues to be. Russian barrel-bombs dropped from Syrian regime war planes have been pummeling it since the winter of 2012. Today over 40,000 Palestinian people are being held hostage by the Syrian military. Life for them now is a daily battle against starvation, disease from dirty water, being tortured to death by Syrian state security forces, and being caught in the cross-fire between Alawite para-military groups and the armed Syrian opposition.521 Palestinians in Yarmouk are also sometimes murdered by other Palestinians. The Russian BM-21 Grad Rocket was used to attack Yarmouk in July of 2013. Two grad missiles were fired onto the Hamdan bakery on July 24th, killing fifteen civilians. It was reported by both Reuters and the Yarmouk Camp Coordination Committee that this attack was carried out by the PFLP.522 Fifteen Palestinians in Yarmouk died of starvation between September and December of 2013.523 As of today roughly 50,000 Syrian people are still languishing in Bashar al Assad‟s prisons. The number of Palestinian refugees killed since 2011 in Syria has reached 1,597, in addition to 651 others lost or imprisoned, and 74 tortured to death in regime detention centers by the fall of 2013.524 This is more than the number of deaths of Palestinian prisoners captive in Zionist occupation jails since 1967.525 Today 270,000 Palestinians are displaced in Syria and another 80,000 have become refugees outside the country along with their Syrian neighbors as a result of Bashar al Assad‟s policies of collective punishment, terror-famines, and scorchedearth tactics.526 Ironically, almost one thousand Syrians have received medical treatment in four different hospitals in Israel. One Israeli doctor who is treating injured Syrian children is convinced that Alawite security forces shoot them in the spine on purpose.527 At the same time the Shia militants of Hezbollah are busy imperializing Syrian towns and cities because Tehran ordered them to do so. If the allegedly “proPalestinian” crowd in the West wants to prevent normalization with the Jewish state perhaps they should
521

Ruth Sherlock, How an ordinary street became the defining image of Syria's war (The Telegraph, March 1, 2014), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10670539/How-an-ordinary-street-became-the-defining-image-ofSyrias-war.html 522 Mandie Garcia, In Response to Putin‟s Nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize: The Effects of Russian Weapons On Syrian Civilians (Journo for Humanity, October 16, 2013), http://garciamandie.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/in-response-to-putinsnomination-for-a-nobel-peace-prize-the-effect-of-russian-weapons-on-syrian-civilians/ 523 AFP, 15 Palestinians dead from hunger in Syria camp (NOW Lebanon, December 30, 2013), https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nowsyrialatestnews/527877-15-palestinians-dead-from-hunger-in-syria-camp 524 MEMO: Middle East Monitor, 651 Palestinians lost or imprisoned in Syria, 74 death by torture (MEMO, October 2, 2013), https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/7637-651-palestinians-lost-or-imprisoned-in-syria-74-death-by-torture 525 Leila Shrooms, Hostage to politics: Syria‟s prisoners (Blog, March 6, 2014), http://leilashrooms.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/hostage-to-politics-syrias-prisoners/ 526 Natasha Hall, Palestinian Refugees and the Siege of Yarmouk (Carnegie Endowment, March 13, 2014), http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/2014/03/13/palestinian-refugees-and-seige-of-yarmouk/h3hm 527 Irene Lazareva, Israeli doctor treating Syrians says snipers deliberately shoot children in the spine (The Telegraph, March 14, 2014), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10697943/Israeli-doctor-treating-Syrians-says-snipersdeliberately-shoot-children-in-the-spine.html

94 demand that Hezbollah stop imperializing Syrian towns for Iran and instead deliver food and medical supplies to Yarmouk. This is what happens when resistance becomes co-opted by imperialist forces. It becomes a t-shirt, a brand name, a sound byte, and nothing more. It cannot be denied that Israel and its American supporters have built a “Holocaust industry” from the ground up. Iran and Syria want to meet this with a, dare I say, resistance industry. It‟s because of anti-Western propaganda directed at leftist Americans that both the Iranian and Syrian regimes have managed to get away with holding onto their alleged anti-imperialist credentials while exacting imperialism of their own. Clearly, Palestine will not be freed by mass murdering dictators and it will not be freed by highly sectarian minorities who take orders from Tehran and Moscow. Not one day went by in the lives of the Syrian people when they did not carry the cause of Palestine in their minds and hearts. Unfortunately, the sentiment has not been reciprocated. The Syrians and their Palestinian neighbors did not expect to become the new Kurds. Following Saddam Hussein‟s gas attack in Halabja many in the Arab world kissed his boots and hoped he‟d do the same to Tel Aviv. Numerous leftist/anti-imperialist intellectuals, from Tariq Ali to Joseph Massad, who today demonize the Syrian people for asking for a humanitarian intervention, did the same to the Kurdish people being annihilated by both the Iraqi and Turkish militaries. For an imperialist force, such as Iran, to co-opt an anti-imperialist movement, such as the Palestinian case, the entire indigenous liberation campaign becomes disrupted and ineffectual no matter how much Israeli hummus Palestine's Western supporters decide to boycott. The siege of Yarmouk coupled with the silence about its suffering, if not outright support for its suffering, from mainstream Palestinian solidarity news outlets and leaders personified this disruption. Let's not pretend this is the first time such a severe glitch in the system has taken place. As mentioned in a previous chapter there was the massacre at the Tel al Zataar refugee camp in Lebanon in 1976. Hafez al Assad used Maronite Lebanese Christian militias to do the dirty work for him. In the “War of the Camps” between 1985 and 1988 Hafez al Assad recruited the Shia Lebanese Amal Movement. It was in armed conflict with Hezbollah at the time and it opened fire on the Palestinians and Hezbollah simultaneously. The Syrian regime has a long history of starving Palestinians, perhaps longer than any other Arab regime. From Tel al Zaatar, to the War of the Camps, to Yarmouk today the pattern is the same, including how Syrian agents tell the media that the ongoing starvation in the camps is not happening. Meanwhile, the pro-Assad forces who impose the siege on the camps eat and drink in front of the starving Palestinians. The Palestinian people remain victims of both the Zionist and anti-Zionist narrative. Simultaneously, Russian state propaganda has thoroughly infected both Zionist and anti-Zionist English-speaking media. The baseless smears of terrorism against Syria‟s revolutionaries followed by the baseless smears of antisemitism against Ukraine‟s revolutionaries prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Following Vladimir Putin‟s policies of brutalization in Kiev earlier this year the running joke amongst advocacy groups for Syrians was, “Hezbollah wants to know if there‟s a shrine they need to go protect in Ukraine.” The Syrian people did not expect the Chechnya treatment; to all be labeled as terrorists and to have both Western leftists and rightists believe that to be true. Now not only are Americans telling Syrians that they don‟t know what they‟re talking about, but Arabs outside of Syria are also telling Syrians that they don‟t know what they‟re talking about. We‟ve taken a bus to Crazy Town, or more specifically, the Neo-Orientalist district. It‟s obvious that the current Syrian regime is not looking for a political solution that involves the popular will of the people. It‟s also obvious that the US is not interested in the well-being of the Syrian people, nor democracy in the region. The evolution of a fatalistic discourse on Syria strangely coincides with a foreign policy increasingly suited to the status quo and adverse to the idea of having to make

95 concessions with countries such as Iran; Baathist power without Bashar al Assad. The Syrian people did not expect the West to hand Syria under the table to Iran in exchange for a nuclear weapons deal. The old Sunni order is collapsing alongside the mosques of Syria under heavy bombardment by regime warplanes. Iran is deeply pious, yet is starving for modernization at the same time.528 It has evolved very rapidly from an unstable, revolutionary force in the Muslim world to a statist force with an imperialist agenda. Iranian proxies in Iraq have systematically looted the petroleum-export facilities. 600,000 barrels a day, one third of Iraq‟s oil, ends up in Iranian hands.529 The Shia-dominated southern region of Iraq produces 1.9 million barrels of oil a day, it possesses 71% of Iraq‟s oil reserves, and it accounts for 95% of the Iraqi government‟s revenues. This is the heart of Iraq‟s economy, and Iran will eventually control all of it. If all of the untapped Iraqi oil fields were to be developed the combination of Iran‟s and Iraq‟s total oil production would rival Saudi Arabia‟s. The Iranian government has professed an ambition to produce eight million barrels of oil a day by 2015. If it succeeds at this, it will surpass Saudi Arabia entirely.530 Iraqi oil is assisting the Syrian regime as well. Bashar spent the last nine months of 2013 importing Iraqi oil from Egypt under-the-table. Dozens of shipping documents reviewed by Reuters show that millions of barrels of oil have been delivered to Assad on Iranian ships, and the oil comes from Iraq through an Egyptian trading company.531 On a side note, this has been facilitated by the West because the US and Israel helped to usher in a secular fascist military dictatorship in Egypt last summer in an effort to annihilate the Muslim Brotherhood which came to power through democratic elections the previous year, but I digress. Oil is the American priority, and a new partnership is forming. It‟s Iran‟s relationship with Syria that, above all else, allows it to extend its influence into the Sunni-dominated Arab world.532 It has more to do with politics than faith. When the Iranian regime isn‟t busy executing poets or arresting whirling dervishes, its tying the West up in knots over the Syrian crisis. When serious talks occurred in Washington in 2012 about the possibility of pre-emptive airstrikes to take out Bashar‟s weapons facilities Iran threatened to unleash the full wrath of Hezbollah on Tel Aviv.533 This was enough to quiet down the West even though Israel sits on top of a mountain of 400-600 nuclear weapons in Dimona. America would prefer that its most reliable military outpost in the Middle East not create its own Hiroshima. Iran has already taken control of more land, oil, and trade routes than anyone in the region since the Ottoman Turks. For the US there is no other alternative. Pakistan is a failing state. A couple drones massacring several thousand civilians a year has only strengthened Al Qaeda. Saudi Arabia is led by a corrupt, out-oftouch monarchy that only the US takes seriously. It goes without saying that the US has long-term security interests in the region. The proponents of Sunni jihad are a bit detrimental to that.534 The Ayman al Zawahiris of the world claim to be “weakening the enemy” when they label Shias, Christians, and Jews as apostates and then murder them, but that‟s where their action ends. Bloodshed is the only message and the only goal. Meanwhile, Hezbollah withdrew its demand for an Islamic state in Lebanon thus allowing Christians and Jews to live under a secular rule of law. US State Department officials see this, and then they see Iraq and Afghanistan where takfiri types are constantly murdering both Shias and Sunnis with car
528 529

Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008), 7-8. Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 48. 530 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 87-88. 531 Julia Payne, Exclusive: Assad's secret oil lifeline: Iraqi crude from Egypt (Reuters, December 23, 2013), http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/23/us-syria-oil-idUSBRE9BM0RI20131223 532 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 125. 533 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 127. 534 Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008), 198.

96 bombs. This is their simplified world view and when it comes to the question, “who would you rather work with?” the answer is clear for them.535 Iran had no qualms, and certainly no second thoughts, about sending Hezbollah and members of its Revolutionary Guards into Syria to crush the uprising. Elements of the elite Quds Force were instructing Alawite security agents how best to stomp on the necks of demonstrators as early as spring 2011. Iran had suffocated its own popular uprising for democracy back in 2009.536 There was a point in time when the Iranian government saw America as the new Umayyads,537 but that‟s coming to an end. The new Umayyads for them are the leaders of the Syrian revolution who dared to defy the Assad dynasty‟s police-state of torture and repression. The Iranian regime‟s fear was that the US would provoke a Sunni-Shia civil war, perhaps by arming Sunnis in Lebanon who stand against Hezbollah‟s rule and Syrian hegemony. If the US plunges Hezbollah into a civil war then they cannot resist against Israel.538 What Iran and Hezbollah did not see coming, however, was the Syrian people‟s uprising against Bashar. The rise of Sunni militants in Lebanon is a direct result of the Syrian government‟s policy of annihilation, and this has led to attacks on the Alawite community in Lebanon‟s Jebel Mohsen. Armed Sunnis have attacked and burned numerous shops belonging to Alawite residents in Tripoli, they have beaten Alawites on the streets outside of Jebel Mohsen, and some mafia-esque characters from the Sunni neighborhood of Bab al Tabbaneh have forced Alawite shop owners to pay protection money.539 This is only one devastating effect of Bashar al Assad‟s terror campaign; Alawites will not be safe anywhere other than Tehran and Moscow. Much like the rising anti-Jewish sentiment in the Arab world following one of Israel‟s daily atrocities against the Palestinians, the Alawite community is now experiencing discrimination along the same vein. How exactly ethnic cleansing, dispossession, apartheid, land theft, child killing, and military occupation in the name of Judaism are supposed to make the Middle East safer for Jewish people is anyone‟s guess. The same question can now be put to Bashar al Assad‟s claims of protecting the minorities. For Syria to be handed over to Iran by the West also means that Lebanon has been handed over to Iran. There will be more Rafik Hariris. There will be more Francois al Hajjs. In late December of 2013 Lebanese politician Mohammed Chattah was killed by a car bomb in Beirut. A former ambassador to the US and a senior aide to ex-Prime Minister Saad Hariri, he was an outspoken critic of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah. Four Lebanese people were also killed and seventy were wounded by the explosion. Mohammed Chattah was a prominent economist, one of the closest aides of Rafik Hariri, a pillar of Lebanon‟s Sunni community, and now he‟s dead. His last tweet, posted only an hour before the explosion, read: "Hezbollah is pressing hard to be granted similar powers in security & foreign policy matters that Syria exercised in Lebanon for 15 yrs."540 His tweets during the days before his death did not mince words either; “Arafat then Assad then Nasrallah. If Lebanon is not saved from its current path history will tell how the 3rd blow led to its final downfall,” and, “Anyone who thinks Assad can restore his rule over #Syria by dropping C4 &TNT barrels on cities must be mad.”541 There will be more
535 536

Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 204. David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 128. 537 Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (New York: Crown Publishers, 2008), 248. 538 Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 250. 539 Human Rights Watch, Lebanon: Sectarian Attacks in Tripoli (Human Rights Watch, December 19, 2013), http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/12/19/lebanon-sectarian-attacks-tripoli 540 Ryan Lucas, Car Bombing Kills Pro-Western Lebanese Politician (The Associated Press, December 27, 2013), http://bigstory.ap.org/article/strong-explosion-shakes-lebanese-capital-black-smoke-billowing-central-beirut 541 Max Fisher, The final, ominous tweets of Mohamad Chatah, Lebanese politician killed in car bomb (The Washington Post, December 12, 2013), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/12/27/the-final-ominous-tweets-of-mohamadchatah-lebanese-politician-killed-in-car-bomb/

97 Mohammed Chattahs. The resistance establishment has no qualms about pretending to fight Zionism down to the last Lebanese, the last Palestinan, and now the last Syrian. When Lebanon is free from both Syrian meddling and Iranian imperialism only then will its simmering civil war come to a close. The Lebanese people are hostages to the Syrian Nakba, and the Lebanese state is a hostage to Iranian colonial ambitions.542 A significant portion of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who put down the Green Revolution in 2009, assisted the Syrian Alawite security forces in crushing the initial uprising of 2011, and continue to imperialize Syria up until today make up the elite Quds Force. This is the Arabic translation of Jerusalem. They handle activities abroad and have often been described as the successor to the Shah‟s Imperial Guards. The elite Iranian death squads are named after Palestine‟s capital city and they have colonial origins.543 Iran doesn‟t just want to free Palestine; it wants to own it, along with Lebanon, Syria, and it wants Mecca too. Shia Islam, like Syrian Ba‟athism, is clearly different in power than it is in opposition. The Syrian people are desperate for a Syrian solution, but what they‟re getting is an Iranian one.544 For the West it‟s about oil. For the East it‟s about resistance to Israel, no matter how superficial and ineffective it may be. If the Syrian government were to ever become a democracy it would be Sunni dominated. Iran does not want that. Iran wants a Syrian regime that is friendly to its politics, proxy wars, and manipulation of the oil markets. First a few Palestinian militias in Jordan were Iran‟s link to the Arab world. Then came all of Lebanon. Now all of Syria. Iranian-backed car bombs have repeatedly taken out Lebanese moderate Sunni leaders, and the Lebanese diaspora increased. Now the Syrian diaspora is obviously increasing during the worst refugee crisis since WWII, and Palestine is still not liberated from Zionist occupation. Imperialism is not resistance. Iran cannot have it both ways, but it will try anyway. Highly sectarian Lebanese Shias, backed by Iran, don‟t own Damascus; this belongs to the Sunni-majority of Syria. That would be called, dare I say, democracy. If implemented in Syria both Israel‟s and Iran‟s power would shrink at the same time. Iran and the West have finally found something they can agree on; Syria must die alone.

Conclusion: From WWI to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire all the way up until now the crisis of Syrian nationhood has been a Sunni-Alawite split that has pitted the urbanized elites against those in the countryside. As the Alawites used the state to climb to the top of the social ladder a whole community of bourgeoisie Sunnis became their pillars and their colleagues. The Alawite community is currently suffering from both a power trip after decades of control and immense anxiety over manipulated fears of extermination. Will the Assad regime consider the well-being of the Alawite community that is complicit in decades of regime repression? The overwhelmingly monstrous crackdown on Syria‟s revolutionaries in 2011, 2012, 2013, and up to today, are all predominantly carried out by Alawites. This is what has
542 543

Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 132. Ervand Abrahamian, History of Modern Iran (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 175-176. 544 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 129.

98 exacerbated sectarian tensions. Bashar has placed the entire Alawite community in the cross-hairs. It cannot be denied that the expulsion of minorities is a frequent occurrence in modern Middle East history.545 How is this to be prevented? The status of the Alawite sect must be addressed. Assad is not one individual; he is a political system. Terrorism at the hands of an Alawite elite did not begin in 2011. Samar Yazbek, an Alawite dissident and prominent author who risked multiple threats of death and rape to join the protest movement, recalls an incident of such terrorism in her memoir; “My memory takes me back to the late eighties when we were young college students in Latakia and how afraid we all were of speeding black cars and the men who drove them… We girls felts indescribable horror after the death of one of our college friends; a very beautiful young woman who people say had been harassed by one of Jamil al Assad‟s sons. She stopped coming to university when he began stalking her, but we were all shocked by the news of her death. Her cold corpse was discarded after she had been raped and disfigured… Any young woman who refused the sexual advance of an interested boy from the al Assad clan could wind up with the same fate.”546 Does Bashar al Assad have any reservations in regards to turning the Alawite community into cannon fodder and human shields? If so, it remains to be seen.547 If the sect is to survive both the regime and the opposition it must be disconnected from what the Assad dynasty has turned it into; a mafia. To say that if the Alawites are not tyrants and that if they take their boot off of the Syrian people‟s necks for five minutes they will all be killed in the streets is a false dichotomy that the Assad regime thrives on.548Sectarian animosity has been relentlessly exacerbated by the regime‟s narratives and actions, not by the popular rebellion for democracy. In today‟s Syria basic services have stopped running; piles of rotting garbage are everywhere, running water and electricity are unavailable, the infrastructure has been decimated, the famous historical sites have been wrecked and looted, and the only thing more numerous than the security checkpoints are the bloodstains in the streets.549 For how much longer will the majority of the Alawite community of Syria be willing to annihilate the country to save one man? Do Alawites and Christians really want to live in a garbage dump under theocratic Iranian tutelage? It‟s highly doubtful. The Alawites of Lebanon in Jebel Mohsen are already distancing themselves from Bashar and preparing for a future without him. They see the writing on the wall.550 It‟s very likely their Syrian counterparts will too. Perhaps a religious revival and a clergy is in order so Bashar al Assad will no longer be their God. In January of this year a Syrian army defector who had worked as a military police photographer tasked with recording deaths in regime custody between 2011 and 2013 released 55,000 photos of severely mutilated corpses to human rights investigators. In just one part of the country he documented a killing of 11,000 civilians on an “industrial scale.”551 The Syrian people did not expect mainstream allegedly pro-Arab solidarity outlets in the English speaking world to remain sinfully silent even in the face of such gruesome evidence, and they definitely did not expect the likes of staunch Republican John McCain to be the one to reveal these photos to his colleagues on the senate floor, demanding the West to
545 546

Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 106. Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 179. 547 Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution, 203. 548 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 125. 549 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 206. 550 Raphael Lefevre, Power Struggles Among the Alawites in Lebanon, Part II (Carnegie Endowment, January 2, 2014), http://carnegieendowment.org/syriaincrisis/?fa=54060 551 Leila Shrooms, Hostage to politics: Syria‟s prisoners (Blog, March 6, 2014), http://leilashrooms.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/hostage-to-politics-syrias-prisoners/

99 step up to plate and intervene constructively. The American leftist community places itself on a humanitarian pedestal, yet it could not have been less interested in stopping the Ba‟athist killing machine. The basics of Syrian history and the long trail of Muslim victims who have perished at the hands of Russian imperialism are unknown to them, whether they be Crimean, Chechnya, or Syrian. The Syrian diaspora in the US who had marched against American aggression in Iraq in 2003 found themselves berated at various liberal gatherings. Syrian, Russian, and Iranian state propaganda was spewed back out at them by bourgeoisie hipsters who had zero awareness of Syria‟s history, people, and their seemingly never-ending struggle against Ba‟athist tyranny.552 According to a report issued by the UN close to 40,000 Syrian children have been born as refugees by the end of January 2014 and over 10,000 children have been killed within the past three years.553 In all 140,000 Syrian people have been killed, but the UN stopped counting. Only thirty one Syrians were granted asylum in the US in 2013.554Iran remains the key figure for the West to aim for in diplomatic talks to end this episode of mass murder. The foreign Shia fighters it has raised is what has kept the Assad regime alive, and thus facilitating its terror campaign. As a result of the nuclear freeze agreement Washington and Tehran now have a very open line of communication. Washington could, if it actually wanted to, pressure Iran to force their Syrian client to stop his war crimes and his crimes against humanity.555 Through Russia‟s and China‟s vetoes at the UN Security Council the international community is enabling the Syrian genocide we are witnessing. Russia has blocked almost every UN Security Council resolution that would‟ve held Bashar al Assad accountable for his actions.556 Perhaps the West wants to preserve the security apparatus so it can continue to be used as a tool in the “war on terror.” The secular Islamist form of government in Turkey is far more appealing to the people of Syria than, say, the Iranian regime‟s suffocating theocracy and extremist perversion of Shia Islam.557 However, Syria‟s Kurds are very wary, and rightfully so, in regards to the pro-Turkish sentiment expressed by many Syrian opposition groups. To empower the Kurdish community of Syria would lead to an empowerment of the Kurdish community in Turkey‟s own backyard; a community that the Turkish government has been oppressing and murdering for decades. The Kurdish question is critical. The Kurds of Syria have an historic opportunity to provide a blueprint for democratic change, but only if they put an end to both the foreign and domestic abusers that take advantage of them. If they continue to channel their legitimate aspirations into democratic will they can absolutely become a game changer. Sectarian blackmail remains one of the last tools in Bashar‟s arsenal that can still mobilize large segments of the Syrian population to support him.558 The Syrian opposition must continue to unapologetically rip this mantle of minority protection from Bashar al Assad‟s hands and say, “No; we will become the security buffer that Syrian‟s minorities need.” Civilian politicians must fill the vacuum of power, not warlords. Even if Bashar does
552

Molly Crabapple, Syria's war, 3 years on: 'a horror film', in faces of the dead and voices of revolt (The Guardian, March 14, 2014), http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/14/syria-war-3-years-dead-faces-activist-voices 553 Irene Lazareva, Israeli doctor treating Syrians says snipers deliberately shoot children in the spine (The Telegraph, March 14, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10697943/Israeli-doctor-treating-Syrians-says-snipersdeliberately-shoot-children-in-the-spine.html 554 Molly Crabapple, Syria's war, 3 years on: 'a horror film', in faces of the dead and voices of revolt (The Guardian, March 14, 2014), http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/14/syria-war-3-years-dead-faces-activist-voices 555 Frederic C. Hof, Syria: Stopping the Carnage (The Atlantic Council, December 18, 2013), http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/menasource/syria-stopping-the-carnage 556 James Miller, A Russian Plan For Syria Is Two Years Too Late (The Interpreter, September 12, 2013), http://www.interpretermag.com/a-russian-plan-for-syria-is-two-years-too-late/ 557 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 127. 558 Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 106-107.

100 not fall and an internationally negotiated solution keeps him around the regime will have no choice but to incorporate opposition elements, and a united opposition will be able to push for reforms. Warlords will not accomplish this.559 For some the worse-case scenario is already here, and for others it‟s just around the corner. Syria could very well make a post-Soviet Afghanistan look decent, which is what Bashar wants. Imagine a post-Soviet Afghanistan that‟s even more of an Iranian satellite state. To fantasize about the Iranians and Russians spending billions of dollars to bring Syria back to the 21st century is a pipe dream. In the words of Samar Yazbek, “Indeed, the whole world seems to be in agreement; Syrians must die alone.”560 The severe defects of the post-colonial Arab state have been exposed by Bashar al Assad‟s genocidal campaign of government repression.561 As a direct result of his actions combined with the imperialistic drives of Iran and Russia, and the incompetency of the United Nations in the face of such relentless ethnic cleansing, all the potential is there for Syria to become a failed state, trapped in a civil war, with a rising Al Qaeda-inspired element.562 The apocalyptic devastation we are witnessing today was not inevitable, but the Arab Spring was. The Syrian people have thrown off the chains of the Turkish and French occupiers previously. Once Hafez al Assad was six feet under his son didn‟t stand a chance. When the son falls it will be one step in the Syrian peoples‟ journey towards reconciliation. Abandoned by the West, such an undertaking will span decades. The Ba‟athist kind of, dare I say, tribal imperialism, can only rule through brutal terror and oppression. This is exacerbated when a minority rules. Every undermining of the government, no matter how slight, is seen as a challenge to the neo-Ba‟athist tribal hegemony. Such a security state apparatus, by its very nature, is destined to be immersed in a bloodbath of its own making. Should we believe in sects, tribes, and states or should we believe in principles? Is nationhood the ultimate victory for a people, or is it when they are able to be in a position in which they can treat one another with common decency, respect, and integrity? This is the failure of Pan-Arabism; there is no Arab people, but there are people who are Arab. There is no one convenient box in which they can all be placed. Every sect and tribe and village and city has an inalienable right to live in peace and security, but this cannot be found within the prison of the imposed nation-state. A precious autonomy for many is desperately needed. Any attempt to politically solidify the Arab people, as if they actually are all one people, only results in even further painful splintering, shattering, and fragmentation. These sharp boundaries cannot, and will not, be softened by corrupt politicians and warlords. It is the culture, religion, and history that make up the genuine outlines of the many different little pieces of the mosaic that is Bab al Shams, not the tyrants that rule over them. Every tile of this mosaic must be and deserves to be acknowledged, accounted for, preserved, and protected from the many number of styles of imperialism that are coming their way. A new Nakba is here, and the only option left for the people of Syria is the Palestinian option; to resist and, more importantly, to remember. To resist against those who will attempt to rewrite the history books and say, "You brought this on yourselves." To remember the names of the ancestral villages they were forced to flee while their newest generation is born in refugee camps. To remember which Arab faux solidarity proponents were more loyal to Tehran and Moscow than to Deraa and Baniyas. To remember that the world is radically unfair, and therefore, requires radical change. It requires revolution.

559 560

Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad, 199. Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution (London: Haus Pub., 2011), 179. 561 Fouad Ajami, The Syrian Rebellion (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2012), 126. 562 David Lesch, Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press 2012), 238.

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