Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya… it is no coincidence that these troubled nations lie in Orwell’s “Disputed Regions” in “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. They are, inherently, Tribal Nations. (Orwell understood this very well in “Nineteen Eighty-Four” hence his label and description about the wars that were undertaken there, this is, however, another post for another time.)
These tribes have been held together by the iron grip of Dictatorship and bound within unnatural borders, alien to the tribal communal thought process…it is, after all, easier to have one man representing one country seated at the dining table of the UN and not 50 babbling tribesmen.
So, we have established that the people of this entire region are culturally not defined by any nationality. They do, however define themselves by their religion.
So… who do we have fighting in Syria?
On one side, we have The (Ba’athist) Syrian Government. It’s never that simple though.
The government’s militia consists of government forces, Hezbollah (Hizb’Allah, the Party of Allah, has been funded by Syria and Iran. This Sh’ia organisation has been classified as a terrorist organisation by most of the Western world) and Iranian forces.
It has also been reported that after decades of covert support, North Korea has stepped into the ring, providing ground support, operational plans and logistics.
It is no secret that Russia has supported the Syrian government, indeed it has done for many, many years. There are operational Russian military bases still within Syria. It is no coincidence that Russia has increased its presence recently in this region.
On the other side we have, what David Cameron has described as “the legitimate spokespeople of the Syrian People”. Here’s where the tribal problem crops up. The opposition is made up from many groups:
Muslim Brotherhood; Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians;Damascus Declaration; the Kurdish Democratic Front and the Movement of the Future; The Movement for Justice and Development in Syria; Syrian Democratic People’s Party;
Free Syrian Army; Free Syrian Navy; Al-Tawhid Brigade; Liwaa al-Umma.
Amongst others. Worryingly, it is known that there are hundreds of British and other European Islamists who have flocked to the region to fight alongside the local Islamists. We have seen these actions previously in Afghanistan.
In addition to the Syrian Opposition we also have Kurdish Militia holding several strategic towns and cities within Syria. These are not counted as part of opposition gains.
At the moment, the rebels are fighting one common enemy, the Government. Should Assad retain power, which given recent strategic gains, and no external intervention looks likely, it will prove to be the stability that the region needs. Should the balance swing by means of external intervention, this will lead to unrest and instability similar to what we saw and still see in Iraq, Libya et al. The power vacuum that could open would enable one of the more organised and established groups within the opposition acceding to power.
David Cameron stated in Prime Ministers Questions on 12 June 2013 that whilst there are no plans to “arm” the opposition, we should provide help, transport and technical advice to the opposition with the aim of “(helping) to tip the balance (so) there is a greater chance of a political transition succeeding”.
Political transition.. the removal of the one party that has kept the country united on an international front.
It is right that we do not put boots on the ground and intervene militarily in this conflict. If we in the West do this, the whole region, not least the country will react violently to the west. If military peacekeeping is required, then it should be from other Arab states.
Either way, through military intervention or not, should the opposition come to power, we will be opening a whole new can of extremist worms.
In conclusion, what should happen is that international support should guard the borders, make sure it doesn’t spill over, and leave the country to decide its own future.