Thursday, March 29, 2012


Old Syria is Over


The Position Of The Arab Left

In The Syrian Crisis



By Dr Salim Nazzal

28 March, 2012

It was obvious from the very beginning that the Arab left have a problem of how to respond to the Syrian protests. There was no problem in the case of Tunis and Egypt because both regimes were extremely corrupted and evidently agents to the Us and Israel. They have no achievements to convince anybody to disagree about their fall. All Arab left wing was united in supporting the revolutions in both countries.

In Syria the problem is obviously more complicated to deal with from an Arab left point of view. This which explains the division in the Arab left movement towards the crisis in Syria. Even though nobody considers Syria an Arab Hanoi in the conflict with Israel, there is no doubt that the Syrian regime protected the minimum of the Arab pride in the conflict with the Zionist occupation.

Bearing in mind that Syria was almost alone in this position after Egypt and Jordan singed peace treaties with Israel and withdrew from the conflict.

Syria defied the Us in Iraq and much of the support to the Iraqi resistance came from Syria. It supported the Palestinian resistance movement and allowed it to operate politically in Syria with relative freedom, and supported the Lebanese resistance against the Zionist occupation. All these are undeniable facts despite the attempt of the opposition to underestimate it obviously to delegitimize the regime. And the regime in its turn accuses the opposition in getting support from the enemies of Syria like Israel to delegitimize the opposition.

And there is nothing considered that bad in the Arab world more than accusing a state or a party or a person with dealing with the Zionist state.

(The new left) criticize the traditional left silence in the past about the oppressive nature of the one party system regime.

Their argument is that the Syrian support to the resistance against the Zionist occupation must not have legitimated the corruption, the lack of freedom or the absence of independent media in Syria.

But it is difficult to find any credibility in this accusation because the traditional left has always been critical to the regime in questions like the lack of freedom, and corruption and the liberalization policy of the Syrian economy which increased the numbers of the poor and weakened the middle class in Syria. And its leaders such as Michel kilo and Abd al Aziz al khaier were among the best customers of the Syrian jails.

The (new left) believe that it is time to remove the rule of the one party system which ruled Syria more than 40 years, and there is no way left for any compromise with the regime.

The (new left) trend composed of left wing generation involved in revolution does not seem to be unaware of the fact that the revolution might be kidnapped by the Islamists as the case in Tunis and Egypt.

But they think that the revolution has a long way to go and the Syrian society is opened now to all sorts of conflicts.

They also think they are aware of the fact that the support of non democratic Arab countries like Saudi Arabia or Qatar is not a good sign for the future. In their view the popular revolution initiated by ordinary people in the neglected and marginalized areas of Syria, is the most important thing and the rest is only details. This is one of the questions that raise much debates because one apparently cannot ignore the nature of the regional players and their intention .Would a country like Saudi Arabia that prohibit woman of driving cars support a change for democracy in Syria, some ask? Or the other argument which says would the Syrian revolution becomes less legitimate if the Us known for its support to the oppressive regimes show support to the Syrian revolution?

This picture is not the same for the pan Arab left wing who though recognizes the necessity of the reform in Syria and increasingly critical to the excessive use of force by the regime; believes that the real aim of the west is to destabilize Syria and weaken the resistance against Israel.

They bring the example of Iraq to support their argument that the western intervention lead only to more problems. And they are increasingly skeptical towards the role of the islamists in the Syrian revolution believing that the success of the Islamists would mean the end of the secular nature of the Syrian state.

They argue that if the regime has made some gestures towards Israel the western pressure would not have been the same. Besides they link it with the Israeli continuous threats to attack Iran accused to intend to develop military nuclear power. For them the plan to weaken Syria is a part of an overall plan to attack Iran and to divide Syria into several states for the benefit of the Zionist state which never conceal its intention to play off the social fabric of Arab societies with the aim to put the region into endless conflict.

In the view of this trend the political compromise is the best solution which stops the conflict and opens up towards gradual and peaceful change especially after the change of the Syrian constitution which ends the domination of the Bath party.

Others go as far in their pessimism to the extent that the Syrian crisis which obviously brought back the atmosphere of the cold war might be the spark toward total confrontation between Russia and china on one hand and Europe and the US on the other hand.

Despite of all these contradicting views the concern that Syria might fall into chaos is one of the things all agree upon. Many express their concern over the future of Syrian territorial integrity probably more than about the future of the Syrian regime. The militarization of the revolution has also consolidated that concern and more voices are wondering to where all this would lead.

Many Arab political analysts in the region points out to the possible danger of expanding the conflict outside the Syrian territory. Iraq and Lebanon who share borders with Syria and have the same ethnic and cultural variations are probably the most concerned about a political compromise despite the fact that the 14 march political block in Lebanon openly supports the Syrian opposition mostly for its own reasons.

The concern of these countries are not without reason, Lebanon experienced 14 years of civil war which took the life of more than 100,000 and Iraq is witnessing a civil strife that killed hundreds of thousands since the occupation of Iraq in 2003. And in general one observes that Arab countries such as Algeria, Sudan, and Iran and Lebanon which experienced civil strives are the most skeptical to the Syrian revolution

One of the problems that the developments are taking the form of either a winner or a looser in a multi ethnic and multi cultural Syria that might lead to more problems even if the regime falls. This is expressed in the opposition position which rejects to talk with the regime until its fall, and this is in the view of many a recite for the continuation of the conflict. This in my view should encourage both sides to search for creative solutions that can lead to some breakthrough in the conflict.

Nevertheless the fact which has become obvious to all is that that the old Syria is over, and the era of the one party system has become history, but the real challenge for Syrians is how to transit towards the coming period with the minimum loss.

And the question remains, would be there a political compromise which opens the road towards a sort of political solution which moves Syria towards the hopeful democracy? the certain answer is that there is no indication in the present time which points out to this possibility. The absence of a political compromise, means that the Syrian crisis would become more complicated which endanger the unity of Syria and opens the road towards the Iraqization of Syria.

Note:

The term traditional left wings is used to describe a variety of views of some left wing which tend towards a political compromise, while the term new left wing loosely used to describe the views of left wingers critical to the views of the old generation of the left wing and tend to continue the revolution until the fall of the Assad regime.

Dr. Salim Nazzal, a Palestinian-Norwegian historian on the Middle East, He has written extensively on social and political issues in the region.


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