Who will win in Syria? PDF Print E-mail

By Pinhas Inbari

The end to the United Nations inspectors’ mission in Syria, against the backdrop of the genocidal atrocities

committed by the regime, has regional and even global repercussions. Syria’s descent into de facto civil war signals the collapse of pan-Arabism in the region as well as the decline of the nationalist socialist ideology of the Baathist regime, which aimed to cure Syria of its two fundamental ills - sectarian and religious fault lines - while preserving the superiority of the Alawite minority as the ruling sect.


Pan-Arabism was meant to unite the various religious streams and sects under a pan-Arab ideology that overlooked sectarian differences. At the same time, the socialist component of Baathist ideology intended to eradicate the advantage of the Sunni majority in Syria in its claim to lead the country under the flag of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Baathist ideology’s many years of success in keeping the country intact under the banner of leftist Arabism radiated outside the borders of Syria and increased the reputation of pan-Arabism across the region. Syria’s success was further magnified by Lebanon’s many failures and splits along its sectarian fault lines.

Today, Syria has succumbed to its neighbor’s fate and has split along sectarian fault lines. Socialism has been long forgotten and the Muslim Brotherhood is leading the claim to overtake Baathist regime. However, the Muslim Brotherhood’s seizure of power in Syria and other states in the Middle East is not the only alternative to pan-Arabism, as the Arab states may well split internally. This option stands in direct opposition to the Brotherhood’s ambition to keep the current borders intact and unite all Sunni states under the banner of the Caliphate, as opposed to re-delineating borders that would create mini-states inside their territory.

Syria’s neighbor Turkey is interested in keeping Syria intact as it is worried it might suffer the same fate. Much like in Syria, Turkey’s border areas are populated by large non-Turkish minorities like the Kurds and the Alawites. The Alawite sect that rules Syria dwells in South Eastern Turkey in numbers that might be exponentially higher than those in Syria. An Alawite state along the Syrian border could also claim the Iskandarun region in Turkey, which is also inhabited by Alawites.

Beyond the sectarian threats to its territorial integrity, ideologically Turkey is interested in replacing pan-Arabism with Islamism by placing the Muslim Brotherhood as the government in Damascus. Ankara hopes that Islamism may be the glue that unifies Syria, and by extension Turkey, in addition to the Brotherhood’s proclaimed aspiration to revive the Ottoman Caliphate.

The situation in Syria and the inability to put an end to the bloodbath claiming the lives of thousands has raised doubts about the actual power wielded by the countries involved in the conflict: Russia and China on the one side, and the United States and the European Union on the other. While the Eastern camp is standing firmly behind Assad – apparently unimpressed by the atrocities committed in Syria, the Western powers remain deeply stirred. However, the West’s apparent inability to prevail puts its common reference as “world opinion and power” into question, as it appears that true global power and influence is reserved for Russia and China.

According to Western diplomatic sources in Tel Aviv, when the Arab Spring erupted, Russia already warned the West against hoping for a positive outcome in which young Arab liberals would prevail. Russian diplomats tried to convince the West that their experience in Chechnya told a different story. "God forbid you experience Chechnya on your soil in Europe. You will then understand our perspective better," they stated.

Accordingly, containing the spread of Islam is high on the Russian agenda. Russia’s support of Assad and its disregard of his brutality are intended to stem the quickly spreading influence of Islam in the region. Whereas Russia currently supports the territorial integrity of Syria, should it come to a choice between splitting Syria or accepting the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood - they are most likely to support the split.




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