As Assad fall is approaching, we thought it might be a good idea to do some objective comments on what is going to happen in Syria.
Chaos and sectarian strife
This will happen, of course, everyone say it will and everyone is always right. Truth is, it will not last for long and will certainly will not be as big and as long as one may think. Actions will be taken against members of the Shabihas and, because these members are Alawis, the headline will be « Syria revenge against alawis ».
This phase although bloody will not last for long. For the simple reason that any war is followed by peace. France forgave collaborators, Germany forgave the Nazis, Rwanda forgave genociders etc. People forgive because they have no choice and there is no reason to assume that Syrian are different from other human beings. Neighbours have to live together no matter what and neighbours will live together in Syria as they do in any other country and as they did before Assad.
There will be, almost certainly in Syria a phase of cleansing from remnants of the old regime. Also revenge against shabihas that massacred families. And against traitors, neighbours who denounced neighbours and also innocents that will be wrongly held accountable for the regime’s wrongdoings. It is the case in every revolutionary / postwar instance. And it will not last as it did not last in any revolutionary / postwar instance. The fate of Syria is not a massive bloodshed after Assad fall, it is a massive national reconciliation and reconstruction effort.
However anyone who predicted chaos and destruction after Assad will put emphasis on this particular chaotic phase. Orientalist scholars, doomsday predicators, reactionnary pessimists, pro-assad consipartionists and islamophobic extreme right will all work together to present the future of Syria as horrible as they can.
The bloody phase will be emphasised in the news and every bad news announcing the forthcoming of the sectarian civil war will make headlines. Local and meaningful efforts of reconciliation will be given little attention in the media. Media narrative is going to focus on the origins of the victims and revenge perpetrators (Sunnis are killing Shias) on worrying prospects (what will happen to the chemical weapons) and on chaos and uncertainty rather than reconciliation and reconstruction effort.
It is what happened to Libya after Gaddafi: all emphasis put on militia fighting each other, Gaddafi’s weapon’s falling in the wrong hands and tribal rivalry. The first national elections in the country held peacefully and the only instance of a revolutionary country not to choose an islamic government has received very little attention.
Division in the opposition / not organised opposition able to take over
Division in the opposition is a very stated fact although very untrue. All the elements in the so called « opposition » are at present united for a very common and very simple goal : Assad has to go. Once that purpose is achieved, divisions will start to emerge again on who wants what for the future of Syria.
Analyst and commentators will say these divisions are the seed for the armed chaos and long lasting civil war to come. What they will forget to say however is that these division, in an unarmed context, are also the seed for the peaceful and fruitful democracy and mutipartism that could flourish in Syria.
These divisions are political and thus can be resolved in two ways :
1) The armed way were a long lasting civil war will happen « like in Lebanon » between political militias.
2) The peaceful way where these forces agrees to abandon the weapons, to agree on the formation of a political body to write a new constitution and to follow the rules of this constitution to fight democratically on the political arena.
Many are quick to say the first solution is inevitable. This belief lies upon two arguments (that are not really powerful when they are deconstructed)
The « inevitable » argument : it is inevitable because there is no way to avoid it. Like if the civil war, killing and fighting was a natural thing for the Arab. There will be sectarian war because there are multiple sects in Syria plain and simple. After a long and detailed description on what sect believes what coupled with a percentage and a number, the argument assumes that these sects will fight each other on sectarian basis.
Alawis are an ancient shia offshoot and represent 10% of the population and are supported by Iran Shia power and they are very different from sunnis…
Christians have a long last presence in the middle east and where protected by Assad’s regime so they are afraid of Sunni takeover…
Sunnis except for a small business elite have been oppressed under Alawi rule so now they seek revenge backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar “sunni” power.
This argument reduces Syria to a simple aggregation of different sects held together by dictatorship and simply assumes that they will fight against each other as soon as the dictator is toppled. The fact that Syria is a country with history, flag, borders, currency, human citizens, political movements, historical independence struggle against colonial power, economy, cultural and intellectual production etc. is left aside. Only the sectarian and ethnico-religious aspect is considered.
What will happen is that the fall of the dictator will unleash all the forces who has been oppressed under dictatorship. It will also reduce the power of the forces that were used by the dictatorship for oppression. And the sects, tribes and Salafi terror groups will look very weak without a dictator to play their puppet-master. If anything, the sectarian divide will cease to widen with the absence of the dictator to widen it. On the other side, freedom of expression, political opposition, intellectual thinking will emerge with the end of the dictatorship. One can expect that syrian society perfectly knows sectarianism and salafi terrorist groups were used by the regime as tools of oppression and it is very possible that Syrian society fights to reject them as such.
The second dubious argument will say it’s going to be sectarian strife like in Irak, Lebanon or Libya.
Here is the consequence of a long Orientalist tradition that considers sectarian strife as natural in the middle east and disconnected from any political roots or colonial involvement. Also comparing Syria with Iraq and Lebanon negates the revolution as no revolution happened in those countries (yet).
In Irak the US empowered political opposition against Saddam on a sectarian basis for more than 10 years, then they invade the country and divided it in three sectarian part (one kurdish north, one sunni middle and one shia south) and the sectarian war happened. US did that because they think that it is how the Arabs are working so you have to treat them that way if you want to understand.
In Lebanon the civil war also was not as « natural » as it may seem. Once has to remember that Syria and Israel invaded the country and played militia proxy war in the country for very long.
Eventually Libya had a revolution and is doing surprisingly well but its success receives almost no media attention. There is a depressing lack of news on Libya for the only reason that no tribal war or country partition has happened yet. Syria can expect the same media treatment after Assad.
Now we have established that the sectarian civil war has not that much chance to happen, let’s examine the second solution : the peaceful one.
When Assad falls, many will drop their weapon and start rebuild the country. They will stop fighting simply because the main reason for them to fight is gone. Assad soldiers won’t fight for Assad when he is gone and FSA soldiers won’t fight against Assad when he is gone.
There are other reasons to fight that will keep some radical armed elements in the country (Shabihas will keep weapon just not to be killed, die hard regime supporters that will put their hopes on someone else, some salafis willing to establish an islamic state, some sectarian radicals seeking ethnic cleansing etc.) but these elements will be mathematically overwhelmed by the 20 million Syrians who wants to rebuild their homes so they can have a roof, and get the economy back so they can have food on the table.
The unity that held all FSA groups together against Assad can be transformed into the basis for a Syrian Army fighting against the civil war, disarming militias, keeping security in the country and prevent sectarian revenge.
Also radical elements are tied with the old regime narrative : Assad played the sectarian card, the salafi card, the Shabiha card etc. Assad did everything to empower them so they weaken the revolution. Although it is impossible to know for sure how these trends are rooted in the Syrian society, one has to keep in mind these trends are not natural nor cultural. They were political tools used by the dictatorship and no one can say they will survive after the dictatorship is gone.
To put it simple : the number of the people willing to put down the guns will outnumber the one who will want to keep it… as it did in Libya.
The new dictatorship
There will be attempts from former regime members to perpetrate the system and establish a new « sunni » or whatever dictatorship. It comes from the outrageous number of comments and analysis that stated :
1) this is a Sunni rebellion against Alawi regime
2) Syria is incapable of / not ready for / not used to / not culturally suited for democracy
This analysis has prevailed in the Regime’s circles and propaganda and any late defector has this belief graved in his mind and will be unable to see Syria otherwise.
This is probably what the Tlass family are thinking along with other big heads of the regime who defected lately.
It is also the case for US diplomatic advisor, political analysts, Neighbouring powers etc.
Some will probably try to establish themselves or proxies as new dictators. It will be called « the new strongmen needed to lead the transition to democracy. » It is a very common argument that has been used by Saif al Islam in Libya, by the SCAF in Egypt and by Assad himself (reforming Syria since 2000). It failed every time proving that this argument is not really catchy for the Arab people unless it is backed by a powerful network of mukhabarat, state army and mafia police forces.
Such attempt will fail because a revolution is not done against one man but against his very throne. Maybe Assad inner circle can try to remove him and impose a new head as a smooth palace coop. There is no certitude that would stop the revolutionaries from continuing their fight until hated figures of the old regime are ultimately removed from power. In a revolutionary context, any power that does not match the will of the people will have to face demonstrations. If this new power chooses to suppress them, then revolution continues until dictatorship is entirely removed.
The extension of Syria crisis and threat to regional complex stability and alliances
Some analyst are also quick to get in deep and complicated geopolitical analysis over what is going to happen in the region. What will happen to the « Shia crescent » and to the Russian alliance and to the peace with Israel and to Qatar and Saudi? “Syria crisis could go beyond border” from that starting point, anyone can play with the very complicated middle eastern chess game.
This is what British colonialism described as “the great game”.
The expression and usages do not come from British colonialism by chance: the “great game” in the middle east is a colonial game.
Let’s be straight, the “great game” is over. Or at least it is on the way to end. Together with complicated geopolitical analysis of the middle east. The great game is a colonial expression and Assad’s end (together with other revolutions in the Middle East) is also the end of the long colonial era. If no dictator can control the people, then the complicated and secret shifts in geostrategical alliances are no longer to be applied. Revolution pushes Syria toward the end of colonialism and so goes the end of complex Geostrategical game played by foreign neocolonial powers.
Geostrategy is a science which, from its German school, gave to the Nazis the concept of Lebensraum. (The vital space needed for a state). We will publish more on that later but Geopolitics is based on interpreting powers and nations as if they were living Darwinist organism. In this science, the will of state power is one, unchallenged, uncontested and subjected only to state interests. There is no people, no citizens, no shift of policies between a left government and a right government. In other words, geopolitical analysis is perfect to apply to dictatorships and convey the idea of the superior interest of the nation-state or empire power.
With Assad gone, geopolitics in Middle East becomes much less relevant than before. There is no longer a complicated chess game between power but the emergence of the people’s will as a game changer.
The middle east is no longer a chess game but the battleground of two forces: one revolutionary and democratic, the other neocolonial, anti revolutionary, absolutist and oppressive. Difference is not between Russian and US’s interests. Both are fighting the same neocolonial fight and Russia is doing with Assad what US are doing with Israel establishment. Both imperialisms are trying to reimpose their opposition to the revolution by claiming to help some while helping repressing other. But ultimately revolution can be considered as a third power that is fighting both imperialisms together.
Tunisia revolution fuels Egypt revolution fuels Yemen revolution fuels Syria revolution fuels Bahrein revolution fuels Saudi Arabia revolution fuels Israel’s revolutionary movement. Repression of a movement in any of these places helps absolutist and repressive power in every other. Difference between who is backed by Russia and who is backed by US thus, became completely irrelevant to understand the future of the middle east.
With Syria getting rid of Assad we get closer to a very simplified middle east where basic class fight applies: rich/poor, elite/people, dictatorship/freedom. Of course, this simplification is threatening hundreds of thousands of people all over the world (regimes benefactors, elite, self proclaimed experts in the middle east in the Media, orientalists diplomatic advisers, foreign neocolonial interests, reactionary forces all over the world, extreme right movements, herds of conspirationists sheep). This is why these people all agree to start their analysis by “it’s more complicated”.