The Real Story on Syria, and Why It Matters
By now, literally thousands of protesters in Syria have been killed by President Bashar Assad's forces, beefed up with Hezbollah fighters from next-door Lebanon.
Recently, a U.N. Security Council resolution backed by the Arab League that condemned the violence and called for Assad to step down was vetoed by Russia and China after U.S. and European officials rejected a series of Russian amendments to the draft resolution that U.S.-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said were "unacceptable."
The Russians and Chinese vetoed a similar resolution back in October that left open the option of U.N. sanctions against Syria.
In the meantime, Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has issued a fatwa against Russia and China on his al-Jazeera show after the veto, calling them "enemies of the Arab people."
Let's break down what this all means.
Syria has always had a thuggish, violent regime even before Bashar's father Hafez al-Assad took over. Throughout all the occupation of Lebanon by the Syrian Army and the brutal murders of Lebanese politicians, journalists, and public figures, the Arab League never uttered a peep, and the U.N. was its usual ineffectual self. The same thing occurred when Syria openly violated U.N. Resolution 1701 and rearmed Hezb'allah. So why all the angst now?
The Middle East is basically in the process of dividing into some distinct spheres of influence. Thanks to our intervention in Iraq, a Shi'ite bloc consisting of Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon is forming up, and a Sunni bloc is coalescing consisting of Libya, Egypt, Gaza, and whatever areas in Judea and Samaria the "Palestinians" end up occupying (which will likely end up being ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood), with the possible addition of Jordan. The Saudis, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the Emirates will likely retain their close ties to each other as Sunni oligarchies situated between the two...and in the case of the Saudis and Bahrain, Sunni oligarchies with restive Shi'ite populations that will be used by Iran to foment unrest and perhaps even to topple the established order in those countries.
Syria is where the spheres of influence meet.
Bashar Assad and many of the regime loyalists are members of the minority Alawite sect, a Shi'ite offshoot. The rebel groups like the Syrian Free Army are almost exclusively Sunni and mostly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
That's the real backstory in Syria, and depending on who prevails, Syria will either remain part of the Shi'ite bloc dominated by Iran or become part of the Muslim Brotherhood Sunni bloc.
That's why the Arab League is so exercised, and that's why Qaradawi issued a fatwa. The aim is to foment unrest among the largely Sunni Muslims in Russia and Western China and, more to the point, to encourage Sunni fighters from other countries to launch a jihad and provide a veneer of religious justification for any brutalities meted out to Assad's forces or even Alawite civilians.
This is standard Muslim practice. Before the Pakistani Army went into what's now Bangladesh back in the 1970s and committed what amounted to genocide and mass rape of the civilian Bengali Muslim population, they had their mullahs pronounce fatwas naming the Bengalis as "kuffars" (non-believers) to legitimize the Pakistani atrocities against said Bengalis.
Based on the reality of Assad's forces in action versus the rebels, if there is no outside help from the West, odds may well be on Assad prevailing. Syria is a key link between Iran and its colony in Hezb'allah-ruled Lebanon, and the Iranians are going to do whatever it takes to keep it in friendly hands.
So will the Russians, for that matter. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a quick trip to Syria after the veto to meet with representatives with the Assad regime, an important export market and buyer of Russian weaponry as well as the source of an important Mediterranean port for the Russian Navy at Tartus. The message he likely gave to Assad was to wrap this up as quickly as possible so as to avoid the embarrassment to the Russians of another U.N. veto, along with tying up a few loose ends on the latest Syrian arms shipments from Russia.
Rob Miller writes for Joshuapundit. His work has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The San Francisco Chronicle, American Thinker, Andrew Breitbart's Big Peace and other publications.