Amollo: The complex web that is Syria’s civil war

Benson Amollo

Bashar al-Assad, the sick man of Syria, is deeply sickening himself to a tragic Waterloo. With this Middle Eastern country’s official resignation to a civil war — it is now all and sundry that Assad might be warming his way to what Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was too insane to avoid. The united front by the United States and the United Kingdom, seem to be making all the perfect sense as to predict the calamity that awaits Syria: The world’s greatest powers are sworn to the resolve that Assad must go. And he might go and, perhaps, go like Gaddafi.

When the initial wave of protests rocked the Middle East, catapulting into what became known as the “Arab Spring,” Syria was nowhere close to the equation. But a year and several U.N.-backed ceasefires later, Syria is now engulfed in a full blown civil war. This despite numerous sanctions and a protracted diplomacy by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The events in Syria today have been a product of Assad’s repressive regime characterized in bloody massacres. One thing is, however, striking; that in this regime as sick as to the officialdom of the worst human butchering — women are the elite; the movers and shakers of Syria’s crème de la crème! Who would have thought? Where’s the feminine compassion when it’s mostly sought for? Or is Syria’s feminine inclusion a lip gloss to cover up all the muscle that fuels the heat frying up the innocent souls hungering for freedom? This line has been the least exploited in debating Syria’s debacle.

The contrast Syria poses with regard to human rights by femininity casts the complex web in the face of navigating a way out of the crisis. Why? Unlike Egypt and Libya, Syria’s “some-regard” to women and freedom of religion places it ahead of most regimes in the Middle East. But scores of tens of thousands dead, there’s no larger good than can speak for the unwarranted loss of those innocent lives.

With the United States’ intelligence closing in on Syria’s border from Pakistan and a Turkish regime rearing to go against an offensive Assad, there will be cause to remember the religious complexity that fuels Syria’s troubles. Because this isn’t ending with Assad yet. The ruling elite are Alawite Muslims, a branch of Shia, and as a small minority group, the government has found it useful to promote other minorities, producing progressive results for perhaps the wrong reasons. There are a few Jews, and 10 percent of the population are Christian, 16 percent are Druze, Alawite and Shia, while the 74 percent majority are Sunni. However, it is from this religious mix that much of today’s trouble stems.

In Libya and Egypt, there was a definite opposition and leaders willing to co-operate against the government. In Syria, this is not the case and co-ordination is still desperately lacking. The United Nations want dialogue with representative official figures, but with the pockets of resistance all fighting for different sects, different causes and in different demographics, the likelihood of success is low.

The Sunni-led Syrian National Congress has failed to win support from the large minority groups, who have resisted on the grounds that the SNC is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and unrepresentative of the rest. The Muslim Brotherhood are apparently strong supporters of democracy, of sexual equality and while their belief in internal discipline and support for Sharia law remains a worry to the West, their comparative moderation may be the best compromise in a post-Bashar government.

But moderation seems a long way off; this is a part of the world where revenge is not just sweet, it is a duty. Alawite communities are petrified of repercussions should the Alawite-led regime fall. The most recent atrocities on civilians in Houla, are widely felt to have been the work of the Shabiha, the Alawite militia who support the regime, and revenge attacks are an ongoing concern.

As a strict Sunni monarchy, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf States, now actively finances Syrian rebels and lobbying hard for the United States to step up its involvement against Assad’s regime. But with evidence of al-Qaida participation, and many attacks carrying the hallmarks of those with bomb-making experience from Iraq, the United States finds itself in a tricky situation. It is hard to see any outcome other than further descent into violence and bloody sectarian disaster. No group looks like it can win, and yet no one is prepared to recognize that they can’t.

Ironically, Russia, the regime’s key ally, could now be the key to a path towards a solution. The United States and the United Kingdom have made their stance quite clear from the outset — that Bashar must go. This bold statement, however, gives little room for negotiation; with their backs against the wall, the regime will want to fight to the death. Russia sees its involvement in other countries’ civil wars as a grave mistake and has so far resisted attempts at international action against Syria. But as its patience runs out with the Syrian government, Russia may be the only chance in persuading Assad’s regime it must give up, and exile in Russia is their only hope.