The Syrian Crises-Past,Present,Future
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The Syrian Crises-Past,Present,Future

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Explains the backgroud to the present Syrian crises,highlighting the role of history,geopolitics and resource scramble in the conflicts going on in the Middle East in general.Also describes in......

Explains the backgroud to the present Syrian crises,highlighting the role of history,geopolitics and resource scramble in the conflicts going on in the Middle East in general.Also describes in detail the interests of global and regional powers in aggravating the siotuation and finally comes up a solution

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  • Middle east has been aptly called the fertile crescent as it is the cradle of several ancient civilizations and birth place of three great religions of the worldBefore discovery of oil, me was not considered worth occupation by colonial powers. mainly a religious destination and cradle of civilization just a passage way for the trading caravans or marching armiesIts economic importance started after the discovery of oil in early 19th century. it produces 60 % of world oil and gasIts political significance started when Israel was created to solve the Europe's Jewish problemIts recent claim to fame is the potential resource other than oil as well as its growing populationAlthough oil is losing its importance after the technological breakthroughs of shale gas, ME will remain important in geopolitical terms
  • The rivalry between Iran and Turkey is not new. It is in fact the legacy of the historical conflict between two empires, the Ottomans and the Pahlavis. Both of these empires had been struggling for the hegemony of the region and their inheritors are obviously carrying out the mission of their forefathers to dominate the Middle East, Central Asia and of course the Islamic world. Viewed from sectarian angle, it is also a fight between a predominantly Shia state and the one which, despite its secular moorings is representative of the Sunni one. At the philosophical plane it is a battle between two philosophies of life. Iran espouses Islam with modern tinge while Turkey stands for secularism with Islamic hue. Geopolitical compulsions aside there are another reason for their mutual acrimony. Iran considers Turkey as an outpost of USA, which Iran perceives as its mortal enemy while Turkey thinks Iran as a state destabilizing the region. It is the start of the new cold war, whose first major battle is being fought in Syria, where their traditional rivalry can be seen in full galore. Lastly it is the Taliban factor which is a cause of tension between two neighbours.Iran hates Taliban while Turkey has a soft corner for moderate Taliban. At one point it offered Taliban to open their political office in Turkey, which was later on shifted to Qatar where secret negotiations are going on between the Americans and the Taliban.


  • 1. Shahid Hussain Raja Independent Consultant-Public Policy March 05,2014
  • 2.  Introduction  Middle East and Global Politics  Nature and Origin of the Present Crises  Global/Regional Powers Interests  Likely Scenarios  Way Forward  Conclusion
  • 3. ―He who rules the Near East rules the world; and he who has interests in the world is bound to concern himself with the Near East," Albert Hourani
  • 4.  What is happening in Syria is a snapshot of what is happening in the Middle East due to its geo strategic location, abundant resources and regional/global power politics  Several conflicts, crises and wars presently going on in Syria with deep rooted causes have serious implications for regional stability and global security  This presentation explains the nature, background and possible future scenarios of the present Syrian crises and their likely repercussions,
  • 5.  Middle East, the fertile crescent, is the cradle of several civilizations and birth place of three world religions  Before discovery of oil, it was not considered worth occupation, mainly a religious destination or just a passageway for the trading caravans or marching armies  Its political significance started with the construction of Suez Canal, discovery of oil ,creation of the Zionist state of Israel and escalation of the cold war
  • 6.  Location-Geostrategic location of Middle East is its biggest strength and also its weakness. It is not blessed with African remoteness or American isolation. Whatever happens anywhere affect Middle East more than any region. Similarly whatever happens here affects the global politics.  Boundaries-Cartographic blunders of the colonial powers creating arbitrary nation-states with artificial boundaries containing divided social, ethnic and sectarian composition and loyalties  Resources-Discovery of oil and building of Suez Canal increasing its geo-economic and geo-political significance.
  • 7.  Ideologies-Creation of Israel and onset of cold war, which introduced ideological conflicts other than religion, making it the playground of the global powers which are using the politically non representative regimes as pawns and Israel as the bully.  Modernization-Modernization and globalization, stoking the aspiration of the middle class without providing them adequate channels of expression and empowerment in countries historically governed by authoritarian elites  Underdevelopment-Overall sociopolitical and economic underdevelopment in the backdrop of rapidly increasing population and unemployment, stalled state building and nation building–a legacy of the colonialism and neo colonialism
  • 8.  Modern Syria(Syrian Arab Republic) ,with a total land mass of more than 185,000 sq km, is a part of ancient Syria, located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea in southwestern Asia.  It borders with Turkey(north),Iraq(east), Jordan(south) and Israel/Lebanon(west).  Around 1000 Sq km of Syrian territory in Golan Heights is under Israeli occupation. Part of this annexed territory is claimed by Lebanon
  • 9.  Hatay province, currently known as Iskenderun ,is under Turkish suzerainty ,awarded to Turkey by the French occupation forces. Syria does not recognize this occupation  There are two main rivers whose water apportionment is a bone of contention between Turkey and Syria on the one hand and between Syria and Israel on the other  All the above issues are part and parcel of present Syrian crises
  • 10.  Because of its strategic location at the crossroads of three continents, Syria has been scene of internal conflicts and external invasions throughout its more than 6000 years of recorded history, absorbing the best and the worst of all these great civilizations  Rivaling contemporary Mesopotamian, Indus and Egyptian civilizations, it can boast of giving alphabets to the world and home of the oldest Semitic language-Aramaic. Akkadians gave it the cultural foundations and racial stock- the first dimension of the present crises i.e. racial and cultural schism among the communities living in the country  Alexander and his successors introduced the western ideas long before the British and French. Romans introduced the authoritarian governance structure, improved by the Ottomans- second dimension of the crises i.e. rule by the oppressive and authoritarian oligarchies
  • 11.  Muslim conquest of Jerusalem with consequent stoppage of land routes to India/China resulted in start of Crusades which though destructive in nature, sowed the first seeds of Arab nationalism, the defining feature of modern day Middle East  Islamic conquest introduced three crucial elements- religion, sects and language-the third dimension of the present crises i.e. religious conflicts, sectarian divide, linguistic differences
  • 12.  Ottoman rule resulted in creating the nationalistic feelings in hitherto diverse communities and invited ,by default, the penetration of European colonial powers-the fourth dimension of the crises i.e. Pan-Arabism and anti-imperialism feelings of the rulers and the ruled  Colonial era gave it the boundaries as well as the oppressive, extractive state apparatus-the fifth dimension of the crises i.e. creating an arbitrary nation-state with artificial boundaries containing divided social, ethnic and sectarian composition and loyalties being ruled by authoritarian regimes to contain their centrifugal aspirations  Post colonial era introduced cold war power politics, ideological conflicts other than religion, resource scramble and non-state violent actors bent upon pursuing their own agenda
  • 13.  Syrian population of 25 million growing @2.2 % per annum is creating a huge educated and informed youth bulge, thanks to compulsory primary education and spread of computer literacy.  Life expectancy at 70 years and a literacy rate of above 70 % make it a fairly modern country  Racially,90 % of population is of Arab origin,9 % are Kurds and remaining are Armenians, Turkmans and others  Sectarian/religious divide-75 % are Sunni Muslims, 12% are Alawi Shias,10 % Christians and 3% are Jews, Druze and others  Arabic, the official language is mother tongue of the majority while English and French are understood by the urbanites
  • 14.  Republic in name, authoritarian in substance, Syria is a microcosm of overall Middle Eastern governance style  Heavy dominance of armed forces and security agencies in policy formulation and implementation  These institutions have over representation of Alawi Shias who are only 12% of population  Limited powers of 250 members strong uni-chamber legislature, elected by universal suffrage of 18 years  Centralized governance structure with one party rule although 08 parties are represented in National Alliance  Freedom of expression if you do not speak against the government
  • 15.  History being a continuum, origins of the present Syrian crises can be traced to any era depending on how far you want to go up the historical stream  1967 War, when Israel finally established its supremacy in the Middle East, annexed vast Arab territories including Golan Heights and displaced millions of Palestinians from their homeland, can be conveniently taken as the starting point  1973 war resulted in Egypt and Jordan concluding separate peace treaties, isolating Syria which blamed Egypt for treachery and vowed to continue the struggle against Israeli hegemony
  • 16.  It also exposed the vulnerability of US and its allies in terms of their overdependence on Middle East oil and necessitated establishing Israel as a regional power, protecting friendly Arab states and ousting USSR as one of the active players in ME-main drivers of present crises  Fall of Shah of Iran and the rise of anti American ruling elite in Iran with threats of exporting anti Arab version of Islam added another dimension to the jigsaw puzzle which became more complicated by the rise of Taliban in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of USSR and concentration of anti west militants there
  • 17.  Fall of Saddam and of Taliban in Afghanistan resulted in an unintended but crucial consequence- emergence of Iran as one of the regional powers and the main rival of Israel in the Middle East, to challenge American hegemony  Putting together all the pieces, the picture that emerges is that before sorting out Iran, it is necessary to fix its allies namely Syria and Hezbollah which may pose any threat to Israel when the final assault is made on nuclear ambitious Iran
  • 18.  Ideological Clash-Wider global ideological clash between capitalism and anti-capitalist forces  Regional Hegemony-War among aspirants of regional hegemony using different factions as proxies  Arab Spring-Public aspirations for good governance, empowerment and better quality of life  New cold war- among two old power blocks with China as a new entrant
  • 19.  Resource Scramble-Scramble for water, hydrocarbon and other resources  Ethno-religious Conflicts-Centuries old ethnic, religious and sectarian conflicts adding fuel to the fire by the non state violent actors  Nationalism-Nationalistic aspirations of suppressed and divided communities for self determination
  • 20.  USA/Europe  Russia  China  Turkey  Israel  Iran  Saudi Arabia
  • 21.  Regime change with replacement of a pro-west and not an overtly anti-Israel government in Syria  Neutralizing Syria as a military force in ME and destruction of its chemical weapons to pave way for Israeli hegemony  Resource denial to China  Expulsion of Russia from Syria, its last outpost in Middle East as well as its military base  Reducing threat of international terrorism to USA/West  Neutralizing Hezbollah as a threat by cutting its supply routes before taking on Iran-the final threat to Israel
  • 22.  Cutting Iran to size, curbing its hegemonic designs by destroying its nuclear ambitions, installing pro west regime and making the Gulf safe oil transit route  Establishment of a friendly regime in Syria which will conclude separate peace treaty with Israel, ceding parts of Golan heights forever, give water rights to Israel and withdraw its support to all anti Israel militant groups  This regime will also make peace treaty with Turkey, withdrawing its claim on Hatay province and forego substantial water rights of Euphrates river as a lower riparian state
  • 23.  Closing of Russian bases and ouster of all Russian advisors and stationing of American and European ones, meting out the same treatment Russia got in Eastern Europe  Checking Chinese advances in Middle East and restricting its supplies of raw material which is affecting recovery of USA and Europe  Installing regimes in the area which could effectively curb the rising Muslim militancy and terrorist activities of footloose Jihadis
  • 24.  Maintaining its military bases and influence in its last outpost in Middle East  Enhancing credibility of new Russia, inheritor of Soviet Empire, as a defender of its friends  New cold war, checking American hegemony  Stopping ‗regime change dramas‘ which might be enacted in its sphere of influence or in Russia itself  Keeping ME in turmoil to keep the oil prices high and ensuring Europe relies on Russia for its energy needs
  • 25.  Presently China is only interested to ensure its resource security  However it is worried about the creeping total hegemony of the Middle East by the USA particularly after Libyan fiasco  It is also interested to flex its muscle and to be taken seriously as a future global power  Also interested that USA and NATO forces are bogged down in another conflict in a far off battleground rather than pestering her near home
  • 26.  Regime replacement with a friendly Sunni regime  Countering Iran ,its old rival in ME since millennia  Flexing its muscles as a regional power  Prelude to its entry to EU  Settling three issues in one shot-water dispute, Hatay annexation and Kurdish question
  • 27.  Asserting its regional hegemony by destroying one of the best fighting forces in ME and destroying its chemical weapons armory  Finishing pro-Iranian regime before sorting out Iran  Securing its security by fixing the main supporter of anti Israel militant groups in ME i.e. Hezbollah by cutting off the land route of Iranian assistance to them  Regime change to have a neutral if not pro Israeli government in Syria, who would conclude separate peace treaty with Israel like Egypt and Jordan  Sorting out three strategic issues in one go-Golan Heights, water apportionment and Palestinian question
  • 28. ―And this military [Syrian], which is a huge threat to Israel , is now also weakening and, in a way, disintegrating. We still have risk from Syria– a risk of being an Al Qaeda country, a Somalia-type country — but from military point of view, each one of these are less dangerous than the Syrian regular army.‖ Amos Yaldin, former Israeli Intelligence Chief ‗it was of vital importance not only to secure all water resources feeding the country, but to control them at the sources ― Chaim Weizmann water ―the blood flowing through the arteries of the nation‖ Levi Eshkol
  • 29.  Sectarian affinity with Shia regime, one which sided with her during Iran-Iraq War  Safeguarding its flanks by providing assistance to its militant outposts in Lebanon and Gaza through the only land route open to her via Syria  Countering USA and Israel-its main foes  Asserting its hegemony in ME- centuries' old rivalry with Turkey and Saudi Arabia  Ensuring that western forces land in Syria and get bogged down there instead of sorting Iran out
  • 30.  Regime change-having a Sunni regime in a predominantly Sunni society  Countering Iran-the Shia and the rival  Fixing Shias,to contain its own restive Shia community and appease its own Salafi clergy  Siding with its old American/Western friends  Old tribal war ,clad in sectarian colour
  • 31.  Assad dug in with the help of internal tribal alliances, armed forces and security apparatus support within Syria  Externally, propped up due to diplomatic assistance by China which do not want to repeat the Libyan fiasco while Russia is providing full support to Assad- intelligence, weapons and finance  Iran-physical support through Hamas and Hezbollah, weapons and finances and intelligence, encouraging Kurds to outflank Turkey  Russia, China and Iran are interested to prolong the fighting, necessitating attack by NATO forces as it will give them some respite from American machinations in their respective spheres of influence and control as well as draining out USA energy
  • 32.  USA and its allies are not interested in sending their troops in Syria as it will result in full scale war which may bog them down for a year or so, delaying their ultimate aim of fixing Iran  Third war front against an Arab state will not go well with their allies in the Middle East, turning many of the footloose Jihadists against NATO forces, instead of their cooperation in war against Iran  USA is trying to oust Assad by supporting rebels i.e. foreign forces, state as well as non-state, from every source by providing intelligence ,weapons and finance, preparing for all out attack once the regime shows signs of weakness, UNO or no UNO
  • 33.  Stalemate -business as usual, more of the same  Violent Overthrow of Assad regime by the rebels with the help of foreign forces  Voluntary abdication of Assad as a result of UNO or friendly selloff by Russia
  • 34.  Negotiated settlement through the auspicious of UNO and backed by regional and global powers  Withdrawal of all foreign forces, disbanding of armed groups and destruction of chemical weapons  Voluntary abdication of Assad and formation of an interim government to suitably amend the constitution  Holding of elections by independent election commission supervised by the international observers  Launching of Marshall Plan style development package to rehabilitee the economy  Start of comprehensive Middle East peace package
  • 35.  Syria‘s social composition, economic underdevelopment and political governance in the backdrop of regional alignments is the root cause of present crises  These have been aggravated by the onslaught of Arab Spring, Iranian ambitions for nuclear parity with Israel and resource scramble  There is an urgent need to amicably solve the Syrian Crises by the world powers as the situation is getting out of control  Regime change by force will result in state collapse by default ,resulting in civil war which will invite regional powers and may result in full scale war and ultimately Balkanization of the country which is already showing signs of tearing at the seams  Resultant economic mayhem, social unrest, capital flight, brain drain and flood of internally displaced refugees will make the situation even worse
  • 36.  Thank you for viewing the presentation  Its article version is available at my website  It is also being updated at my blog i.e.  Kindly do visit the above and leave your comments there