Introduction: Basic Historical Facts (The Unbiased Guide to Understanding The Civil War in Syria)
PRIOR TO THE CIVIL WAR
- 70% of Syria’s 23m citizens are Muslim Sunnis (Over 16m citizens). The majority are devout Sunnis and have no affiliation with fundamentalism or extreme Islam. Those who veer from that reality quickly find themselves rotting in one of Assad notorious prisons. The more educated Sunnis living in large metropolis, like Damascus and Aleppo, are mostly secular.
- Of the 70% Muslim population, the Kurds represent about 12% of the Sunni Syrian population. The Kurds lean strongly towards liberalism and/or secularism, which makes them a natural ally of the west.
- Of the 70% Sunni Muslims, The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) represented approximately 5% of the population. The MB has been trying to overthrow the Assad regime since the seventies culminating in the Hama massacre when Hafez al-Assad cornered thousands of MB conspirators and bombed the city for two weeks straight.
- The other 30% of Syrians are represented by religious minorities. 10-12% are Alawites. 10% are Christians the majority of whom represented the Orthodox Church. The remainder 8% are split between the Druze and other Muslim minorities like the Shia. The minorities lean strongly towards liberalism and/or secularism. The leadership in Damascus could have been a natural ally with the west. Except that the Assad family wants to annihilate Israel.
- The Assad regime garners its support mostly from the 30% minorities of Syria. About half of the Kurdish population supports the Assad regime. Additionally, a tiny Sunni Muslim population representing prominent merchant families whose interests are tied directly to the regime also support the government. The majority, though, support a freedom-based government to exclude torture and imprisonment as its tools of craft.
- Sunnis and Shia have been sworn enemies for over fourteen centuries. The enmity is based on a dispute of who should rule after the Prophet Mohammad. His kinship (Shias) or the most qualified (Sunnis).
UNBIASED GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA: IMPORTANT FACTS
- The Alawites rule Syria today backed by the religious minorities and the wealthy Sunni mercantile families.
- The Alawites are strong allies of the Shia in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon.
- There is a deep mistrust between the Alawites and the Sunnis dating back to several centuries when the Ottomans ruled the region.
- The Alawites have accused the Sunnis of past discrimination and mistreatment.
- The majority of Syrians, including the minorities, do not support violence or tyranny and are afraid of religious fundamentalism.
- The Assad regime has a long history of terror spanning five decades across the Middle East and Europe. Example: When the EU levied some economic sanctions against the Assad regime, Assad flooded Europe with Syrian migrants.
- The Assad regime has maintained strong relationships with the past Soviet Union and today’s Russia.
- The first Assad, Hafez, traveled to the Soviet Union in 1957 for pilot training. This is when many Syrians believe he received Russian support for the Alawites to run and control Syria.
- This Russian policy in support of the Alawites remains in place today.
- The Orthodox Church has deep roots in Syria, and Russia defends its interests.
UNBIASED GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA: WHY THE CIVIL WAR BROKE OUT
- On March 15, 2011, some 15 boys from Deraa (all aged less than 15 years old) painted some graffiti on their school walls in support of the Arab Spring raging across the Middle East.
- The Assad regime detained them, and subjected them all to torture, which resulted in Hamza al-Khateeb, a 13 years old boy, dying under torture.
- When their parents went to the Mukabarat HQ (Intelligence Services), the head of the center told them to forget about their children, go make new ones, and if they are impotent to send their wives to him and his aides to make new children for them.
- Hamza’s gentle boyish face became the face of the Syrian Uprising against the Assad regime.
UNBIASED GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA: SYRIAN UPRISING TO SYRIAN CIVIL WAR
- Syria’s Civil War started as a peaceful class-driven uprising pegging the disfranchised masses (Majority Sunnis) against the elites (Alawites and Christians).
- The Syrian Government, ruled by the dictator Baschar al-Assad and aided by a multi-ethnic security and military apparatuses, used extreme violence against mostly Sunni peaceful protesters killing thousands in a matter of months.
- The extreme violence against the Sunnis caused the defections of thousands of Syrian army officers and conscripts. They formed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with its base of operations in the Hatay region of Turkey.
THE LIBERAL FREE SYRIAN ARMY
- The core beliefs of the Assad army defectors were based on liberal policies. Otherwise, they would have never made rank in the national army Assad controlled.
- Met by more extreme violence, the Syrian Uprising turned into a Syrian Sectarian Civil War quickly. Outside actors like Iran, Hezbollah, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar played a role. President Barack Obama chose not to help the liberal Free Syrian Army.
- As the FSA began winning the war, the Assad regime released its most hardened Islamists, which formed the core of ISIS.
- The Assad regime helped ISIS grow and prosper. It permitted the organization to occupy the oil fields to become a global threat.
- The Assad strategy to foster ISIS aimed at showing the world who his replacement might be if the west insisted on regime change in Syria. While ISIS grew, Assad attacked and killed all the FSA moderates with help from Iran and Hezbollah.
- Eventually, only Assad and ISIS remained standing in the fields of battle. The West had no choice but to acquiesce to Assad and start its own war against ISIS.
UNBIASED GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA: OUTSIDE PLAYERS AND THEIR ROLES
- Several brigades have been formed in Syria under the FSA umbrella. They are actively fighting the Assad regime. However, since Russia entered the war in 2016, the Russians decimated the FSA. The goal was to keep Assad viable and his liberal alternatives sidelined permanently.
- Fundamentalist Islamic groups with affiliations to al-Qaeda have entered Syria in drove to help their Sunni brothers in Syria fight the Assad regime.
- Sunni religious leaders, in Saudi Arabia, are subtly instigating Sunnis in the Arab world to play a role in stopping the oppressors (i.e. The Assad regime).
- Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are both actively fighting in Syria on the side of the Assad regime. Iraq is facilitating the shipment of arms to the Assad regime.
THE SECTARIAN AND NON-SECTARIAN ACTORS
- The main sectarian actors are: Iran, Hezbollah, and Iraq (Shia) in addition to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda (Sunni).
- The main non-sectarian actors are: The United States, Russia, and France.
- Saudi Arabia is attempting to install its own puppet regime led by a strongman who may claim to be democratic. But more likely will institute a dictatorship subservient to a Wahhabi ideology.
- Both Turkey and Qatar are attempting to install their own puppet regime led by the Muslim Brotherhood which claims to be democratic but more likely will institute a dictatorship with a religious extreme ideology.
- Iran, Iraq, Hezbollah, Russia, and China are sustaining the Assad regime.
- The United States, under President Obama, has outsourced its Syria policy to Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. France is following but to a lesser extent.
- Israel is not interfering in the Syrian Civil War but is diplomatically active to see Iran, the Assad regime, and Hezbollah dismantled in favor of regimes in Syria, Iran and Lebanon that do not threaten its security or its people.
SYRIA BROKE TO PIECES
- The civil war took the lives of about 600,000. The majority by the Assad regime, followed by ISIS.
- It caused the displacement and forced exile of half its population (Over 11m Syrians).
- It destroyed the country as some estimates believe Syria may require anywhere from $400B to $1Trillion to rebuild.
- The civil war is not over. Small pockets of resistance against the Assad regime and Iran occupying Syria remain active throughout the country.
- Idlib, a large province bordering Turkey, remains in the hands of Muslim extremists (About 10,000 fighters) and civilians escaping Assad (About 3 millions).
- The Kurds aligned themselves with the U.S. in the hope of carving a Kurdish autonomous State. Turkey and the Assad regime oppose.
This is the unbiased guide to understanding the civil war in Syria.