Syria: the Battle for Democracy or Something Else?


by Levon Urumyan

For many months already the situation around Syria is among the headlines of all mass media around the world. There is hardly a single news agency in the world that does not project news about the violence in Syria. Indeed, the intensity of hostilities in Syria has been growing steadily and lately reached such a point that even eclipsed the international tensions around the Iranian nuclear program. In fact, the tension around the Iranian nuclear program is steadily decreasing throughout the last several months. Of course, it is not to say that it is forgotten or ignored completely, but it definitely does not attract so much attention as it did months ago.

Meanwhile, the violence in Syria escalated to the degree of a full scale civil war. The number of casualties according to international observers is estimated to be in excess of 10 000 people and still continues to mount. The attitudes about the conflict are quite mixed. The international community is very much divided about the real causes of the conflict and who bears the main responsibility. The West headed by the US portrays the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad as autocratic, repressive and criminal, and blames it for all the faults imaginable and unimaginable. In contrast, among the great powers Russia and China are those who greatly oppose this view. Although, Moscow and Beijing accept the fact that the Assad regime is autocratic with all the following consequences and deserves a fair share of criticism, they also point out that the Syrian opposition too is far from being a “symbol of democracy,” since, as it was revealed lately, there are Al-Qaeda or pro-Al-Qaeda forces fighting among the ranks of the opposition. Hence, as Moscow and Beijing insist, both governmental and opposition forces share the responsibility for the bloodshed in the country. Moreover, Russia and China also pursue that the conflict within Syria should be solved exclusively by the Syrian people themselves, that is, without any political, financial, and, especially, military interference from abroad.  However, the West remains obstinate and insists that Assad must surrender his leadership, and that it is the only way to bring the country back to peace and establish democracy. This is despite the fact that neither legally, nor morally does the West have the authority to decide whether Assad should or should not leave. Moreover, an increasing number of Western politicians, especially in the US, suggest that given its unchallenged and overwhelming military superiority, the US can afford to lunch a military operation against Syria without any UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution, just like it was done against Iraq in 2003. After all, even if it severely violates the international law and constitutes an aggression against a sovereign state, who is going to do anything about it, who is going to impose a price? In 2003 nobody did. And, as a matter of fact, in 2003 among NATO allies France and Germany harshly opposed the aggression against Iraq. As for the case with Syria, there is no such opposition at all. However, in contrast, it appears that Russia and China are not the same in terms of their influence in the international arena as they were in 2003. Moreover, Russia has a naval base in Syria through which it projects its influence throughout the Mediterranean region. Hence Russia will hardly give away its strategic ally easily. In addition, Syria by all means is not Iraq, it has much stronger defenses, especially in the area of anti-aircraft missile systems: Russia took care of that too.

One way or another, without a thorough analysis of all the factors, as well as the roles of all the actual actors – both openly and covertly – involved in this bloodbath, it is impossible to reveal the real picture in true colors. To do that, Western and Russian-Chinese approaches should be thoroughly scrutinized in chronological order to reveal the real motivations of the key players, and discover whether they are as sincere as they seem.

Out of the two diametrically opposite approaches, the Western one seems to be rather familiar. The West explains its motivations by humanitarian causes and propagates its standpoint with the very active use of such slogans as democracy, human rights, fight for freedom and the like. The West insists that overwhelmingly it is the Syrian President Assad who is to blame for the bloodshed, while presenting the increasingly better armed opposition as freedom fighters and merely the only hope for democracy in the country. The West continues to insist that the only chance to stop the violence is to force – politically or militarily – the Syrian president to surrender his powers and leave the country. Even military invasion scenarios are being proposed out loud. It seems that for the West the idea of forcing Assad to leave his post has become some kind of an obsession, and it leaves the impression that the main thing that the West is really after is another regime change. Strange isn’t it? Now, to reveal whether it is just an inaccurate impression, it is crucial to scrutinize the Western foreign policies in the regions of Middle East, North Africa, and Balkans. In addition, it is essential to concentrate on the developments that occurred throughout the last two decades, that is, since the diminution of the Soviet Union and subsequently, when the half a century long strategic balance between two superpowers came to an abrupt end that produced a new reality. Indeed, the end of the bi-polar world produced a fundamental shift in the balance of power in the political arena around the world, or, to be more specific, a global disbalance of power. In fact, when we examine the entire post-bi-polar world history it becomes evident that there was not a single case when an American-led Western aggression, intervention, colonization, and occupation ended up with democracy, stability, prosperity, etc. There is no need to go far to bring vivid examples. The list of the following countries clearly demonstrates this trend.


This was the first major instance in the post-bi-polar era history when the international law was severely violated which led to a full fledged aggression against a sovereign state. “Humanitarian” slogans were exploited to full maximum, and used as a “justification” for arguably the most barbaric bombardment of a European capital city since the end of the Second World War. Now, even if the Serb forces were responsible for atrocities or war crimes against the Albanian population of Kosovo, the bombardments of Belgrade cannot have any legal or moral justification at all: Belgrade is located more than 100 kilometers away from Kosovo. Moreover, even if the Serb atrocities against Kosovo Albanians were put to an end, the atrocities committed by the Kosovo Albanians against the Kosovo Serb minority never did.

Worse, according to many independent experts, the Western-backed Kosovo Albanian regime is very heavily involved into drug business and other types of criminal activity. On December 12, 2010 the Council of Europe published and investigative report called “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo.” The investigation was carried out by Dick Marty, the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE) special rapporteur for human rights. The investigation reveals that Kosovo leadership represents a 'mafia-like' Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through Eastern Europe. All this criminal activity has been carried out by the leadership of the then Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leader, and nowadays Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci (PACE report AS/Jur (2010) 46, December 12, 2010). More than that, this horrifying reality has been revealed by other independent investigators. According to William F. Engdahl, a well known American freelance journalist, what Dick Marty revealed was actually just the “tip of the iceberg.” Thaci made his career within the KLA well before the 1999 NATO aggression against Serbia. According to Engdahl, Already in 1996 the KLA began its “liberation crusade” by bombing refugee camps of Serbs fleeing from wars in Bosnia and Croatia. The KLA repeatedly declared to “liberate” territories within Montenegro, Macedonia and even Northern Greece. Even US President Clinton’s Special Balkans Envoy, Robert Gelbard, in 1997 described the KLA as, “without any question a terrorist group.” As for Thaci himself, in 1990s he was no more, no less than the Clinton Administration Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s personal protege when he was already a “promising” young man. Already by mid-1990s he headed the “Drenica” criminal syndicate in Kosovo with ties to Albanian, Macedonian and Italian organized crime.   In the 1990s the CIA and the German intelligence agency – BND – already patroned the KLA. During the 1999 NATO bombardments the KLA, headed by Thaci were already directly supported by NATO. Now, a question might arise: why would the US – the global “beacon of freedom and democracy” – involve itself into such dirty geo-political affairs? The answer is simpler than it is thought to be: the US is involving itself for the sake of broader and greater geopolitical achievements. After all, in politics the ends justify the means. Moreover, the US/NATO military control over Kosovo simultaneously serves several objectives. Right after bombing Serbia in 1999 the Pentagon seized 1000 acre large piece of territory in Kosovo at Uresevic near Macedonian border. It is noteworthy that immediately the well known US Government-patroned Halliburton company with it’s the then CEO Dick Cheney were awarded the contract to built there one of the largest US overseas military bases in the world – Camp Bondsteel – with more than 7000 troops today. With the emergence of Camp Bondsteel in Ksovo and its newly upgraded Croatian and Macedonian Adriatic navy harbors the US completed the militarization of the Balkans region. In addition, such a colossal military presence in the Balkans allows the US to increase its control over the potential oil and gas pipeline routes into the EU stretching from the Caspian and Middle Eastern regions, not to mention the control over the transport corridors linking the EU to the Black Sea. However, the findings of Engdahl’s investigation do not stop there. It appears that the US-NATO control over the Balkans accomplishes another major geopolitical objective. It appears that Kosovo and Albania constitute major heroin transit routes from Afghanistan into Europe. According to the 2008 US State Department annual report on international narcotics traffic, Kosovo is mentioned as a key point for the transfer of heroin from Turkey and Afghanistan to Western Europe. Needless to say, that these operations materialize with the full participation and control of the Thaci government. Thus, this state of the affairs insures that the Thaci leadership will play by the US-NATO script, while the US-NATO establish domination over another strategically vital area in southeastern Europe, which even more tips the already existing disbalance of power in the favor of the US and NATO. In this respect Russia’s negative reaction is quite understandable because all these developments make the strategic encirclement of Russia stretching from Central Asia and Afghanistan via the Caspian Region and the Balkans well into East Europe even more overwhelming (Engdahl, April 12, 2012; Burghardt, December 21, 2010; BBC, February 23, 2010; FRANCE 24, February 16, 2011; Media Freedom International, June 9, 2010; The Telegraph, July 24, 2012; Naim, January 24 – 25).


To begin with, the entire war was absolutely illegal from the standpoint of the international law, and both de jure and de facto constituted a full fledged aggression against a sovereign state with further occupation of it together with the robbing and looting of its natural resources. All this was illegitimately conducted under the guise of democracy, freedom, human rights, as well as the “horror stories” about weapons of mass destruction that appeared nothing but a thoroughly orchestrated farce. Under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in terms of the socio-economic conditions, human rights, basic freedoms, it was already bad enough. After the West headed by America invaded the country, it made things only a lot worse: terrorism, tribal and sectarian/religious violence, chaos, and so forth, are factors that were absent during Saddam. Not to mention other consequential phenomena as the atrocities against civilians and prisoners committed primarily by American forces. One such vivid example that stood above all the others was the Abu Ghraib prison where the American personnel regularly tortured prisoners. Only after the disgusting photos revealing the horrifying truth were demonstrated, the American high command admitted the fact of torture and all kinds of abuse. None of the criminals involved received any reasonable punishment.


Despite the despotic nature of Col. Qaddafi’s regime, and its brutal suppression of peaceful demonstrations, the UNSC never authorized any military action against or intervention into the country’s sovereign affairs. Specifically, among many things, the UNSC Resolution 1970 established arms embargo banning all the states from exporting arms to Libya, while the Resolution 1973 established a no-fly zone over the entire airspace of the Libyan state, i.e. all Libyan aircraft, especially the military ones, were banned from even taking off.    

As the time passed, it became evident that the actions of this Western coalition overstepped way beyond the bounds of UNSC Resolutions. Similarly to Iraq, the “humanitarian” slogans were exploited to full power again. In essence, the world witnessed another Western-led “crusade” the actions of which had nothing to do with, say, protecting civilians or maintaining a no-fly zone, established by the Resolutions, but, actually constituted an open military support to one of conflicting sides – the rebels – against the other. Bombing just about any vehicle in sight became a famous Western military tactic in Libya (Falk, April 7, 2011). Worse, the targets for bombing were not limited to the Libyan ground forces only. As the onslaught evolved, it became obvious that the intervention turned into a hunt for Qaddafi’s “head” (or his family members’, relatives’, or close associates’): on April 30th, NATO carried out an air strike on Colonel Qaddafi’s residential villa in Tripoli, as a result of which Colonel’s youngest son – Sayf al-Arab Qaddafi – and three grandchildren were killed, while the Colonel remained unharmed. As the Libyan Government Spokesman Moussa Ibrahim defined during the press conference held the same day, such a brutal act can have neither legal, nor moral justification whatsoever (BBC Mobile, April 30, 2011).            But the severe violation of the Resolutions did not stop there. The US, for the sake of the “justification” of its actions in Libya, went further by perverting the meaning of the arms embargo established by the Resolution 1970: on March 10, 2011, when asked whether the Resolution restricts the US to supply arms to the Libyan rebels, Jay Carney – the White House Press Secretary – said directly that the Resolution assumes certain “flexibility” regarding the arms embargo, and presupposes the possibility of arms supplies to the Libyan rebels (www.rosbalt.ru). And this is exactly what was done: the Western-armed Libyan opposition took the power into its hands, captured Col. Qaddafi and after a violent torture brutally murdered him without any trial.

Those who think that after the death of Qaddafi the troubles of Libya came to an end are more than naive. As a matter of fact, it is not the end but just the beginning of it. Nowadays the country is left to the mercy of the opposition. However, in Libya – just like today in Syria – there never has been such thing as a homogeneous opposition unified under one command, ideology or system of values. There always has been a vast array of diverse factions and people within the opposition, ranging from those with liberal/democratic mindset up to the ones with pro-Al-Qaeda views and values. As long as they had Qaddafi as their enemy, they were more or less united, but with Qaddafi gone they already began fighting one another for spheres of influence. Like packs of vultures fighting one another for a piece of bone, they will begin to tear one another apart, and the entire country as a consequence too, drowning the country into an endless “spiral” of unrest, tribal, religious and ethnic violence, and even civil war. At least, during Qaddafi the living standards were a lot higher than in most countries of the Middle East and North Africa regions (Kanbolat, February 22, 2011). It is highly unlikely that the armed factions of the opposition will establish the same living standards and economic development in the observable future. To put it differently, Libya has sufficient chances of tuning into a disaster that Iraq is, if not more disastrous. The reason behind this is that no one can guarantee that, not unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, the real power will not be taken by a radical Al-Qaeda led group(s), ripping the country apart, while the Western-installed puppet will continue to play the fictitious role of a national leader, instantly hiding behind his masters’ back in a case of a slightest trouble. 


Unlike the wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya, the war against the Taliban regime of Afghanistan was carried out with the approval of the international community, since it was recognized by all that the Taliban regime and the closely linked Al-Qaeda terrorist organization constitute a mortal threat for the whole civilized world. As a result, the international coalition forces headed by NATO launched their offensive and with close cooperation with anti-Taliban forces of Northern Alliance successfully toppled the Taliban regime. Of course, the hopes were high; everybody was enthusiastic about the long awaited peace and supposedly democratic elections held. Since then ten years past, and what kind of picture do we have there now? Well, the picture, frankly speaking, is awfully grim. The reality is that the Western coalition forces are bogged down in a war that they cannot possibly win for many years already. The popularity and influence of Taliban and Al-Qaeda are higher then ever since they were toppled in 2001 by the coalition forces. The inaccurate NATO bombings that only increase the death-rate among the Afghan civilians together with the alarming scale and frequency of atrocities carried out by Western troops against the Afghan civilians, including the murder of women and children, make things only worse (Stebner and Durante, March 12, 2012; Wight, March 21, 2012; King, March 12, 2012; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 9, 2012). Not to mention other outrageous acts of behavior such as burning Quran by US soldiers which infuriated the Afghan public to the degree of protests and violence of massive scale, since it constituted blasphemy. These factors only contribute to the already high degree popularity and influence enjoyed by Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Another factor worth concentrating on: drug business. It is rather shocking but according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007, in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was toppled the production of opium from 2001 to 2007 increased staggering 44 times (from 185 to 8200 metric tons yearly)! As a result of this, under Western occupation and reckless policies, Afghanistan became the producer and supplier of the 93% of opium in the world. Throughout the next seven years the situation did not improve. Although, there is some evidence that the tonnage of the produced drugs witnessed some decrease, however this trend was accompanied by the rapid increase of the drug prices.

Now, it is not news that the revenues from drug sales have been used by Taliban and Al-Qaeda via which they cover their expenses, purchase new equipment, create training centers, recruit volunteers, etc. However, as astonishing as it may seem, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Afghanistan Opium Survey 2011 only about 10 – 15% of the drug revenues are being collected by Taliban and Al-Qaeda. It appears that the rest of the funding comes from foreign donors. Now, if Taliban and Al-Qaeda get only about 10 – 15% of the Afghan drug revenues where does the rest go? Well, it appears that when the West headed by the US intervened into Afghanistan with the colossal assistance of the US-patroned Northern Alliance, the warlords and field commanders comprising the backbone of the latter very quickly got their hands on the extremely profitable drug business that earlier belonged to their foes. Many independent experts around the world continue to establish that the drug production within Afghanistan continues to relate to the US policies and the true nature of the American-installed government, the structure of which is heavily involved into drug business that began to flourish right after 2001. This is a lot more than just corruption; it is about the long standing US foreign policy pattern of supporting, or, at least, tolerating the local tyrants, war lords and thugs for the sake of broader foreign policy objectives. Moreover, it appears that some key allies are involved too. Pakistan is among the perpetual ones, since the powers of the war and drug lords from both Taliban/Al-Qaeda and the former Northern Alliance are heavily enrooted in there. In addition, rather interestingly, according to the same UN Office on Drugs and Crime Afghanistan Opium Survey 2011 Turkey constitutes a “‘central hub’ through which Afghan opiates reach Europe.” Maybe before blaming Taliban for all the mortal sins NATO should take care of the one from its own backyard first?      (Mercille; Peter, Tom A., October 11, 2011; Thorn, November 24, 2008).

As it becomes evident, none of these aggressions, interventions, occupations, and colonization “crusades” ever brought real democracy, and most importantly, to long-lasting stability, even though very “humanitarian” slogans were, as always, exploited for their “justification.” Moreover, apart from lecturing the rest of the world about democracy and human rights and imposing these at a “gunpoint,” the West and the United States, in particular, are perfectly well known for their long-standing history of not only tolerating, but also supporting, as well as installing a vast array of autocratic and even murderous regimes stretching from South America up to South-East Asia. Let us recall the brightest examples.

It is safe to say that most of us remember a “nice gentleman” named Augusto Pinochet. Essentially, a bloody butcher and a mass murderer, he drowned his own people in blood for merely two decades and occupies a “special place”: he headed a military coup organized by the US CIA (The Hutchinson Paperback Encyclopedia) that toppled President Salvador Allende – popular and the first democratically elected Marxist President in Latin America. Of course, then, it was portrayed as a glorious victory over “vicious” Communism, despite the bloodbath organized by Pinochet.  Regardless of the economic developments that took place in Chile during Pinochet, he is remembered as one of the bloodiest dictators and mass murderers in the entire post-World War Two history. 

Now, certainly we all remember well Saddam Hussein. He was a bad guy, wasn’t he? Well, it appears that it was not always the case. In 1980s when the Iran-Iraq war was on it appeared that Mr. Hussein was a “good guy” and was the good friend of the West, and the US in particular. This is because he was seen as a useful asset, a weapon that had to “slay” “vicious” Iran. Why “vicious”? Because Iran dared to be insubmissive, since in 1979 the Islamic Revolution toppled the Iranian Shah who, in essence, was an Anglo-American installed puppet. As for the Shah, he was installed by an Anglo-American organized coup that toppled Iran’s first democratically elected would-be President – Mohammad Mossadegh, –– who, despite being a pro-Western politician, attempted to nationalize the Iranian oil reserves, owned by overwhelmingly British-dominated Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) that allowed the Brits to effectively drain off all oil profits out of Iran. As a result of his “unseen boldness,” Mossadegh was toppled, while the Iranian Shah – a person that played by the “script” that Washington and London gave him – satisfied both the Americans and Brits (Kinzer, 2003).  As a result, the West and the Anglo-American tandem, in particular, not only have a vivid history of supporting and installing tyrants, thugs, and even mass murderers, but even a clearly visible record of toppling democracies and installing puppet autocracies instead.

In the West it is fashionable to portray the Syrian President Assad as the monster of the Middle East. However, aren’t there regimes in the region far more autocratic and repressive than the one in Syria? Of course there are. In October 2011, in Bahrain the Shia majority tired of endless policies of discrimination, oppression and violence practiced by the Sunni royal minority – the Al-Khalifa royal family – organized demonstrations against this injustice. The royal minority responded with violent crackdown against the protesters. However, being unable to deal with the righteous anger of their citizens the authorities asked for foreign “assistance.” On March 14 such “assistance” arrived in the form of about 1000 Saudi Arabian and 500 United Arab Emirate soldiers who drowned the protesters in blood. According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, from October 7th, 2011 to April 5th, 2012 throughout the Bahrain uprising 79 people were killed. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia Shia protesters also were violently suppressed the authorities during the same period (BBC February 11, 2012; Law, April 6, 2011; Bronner and Slackman, March 14, 2011; Shrivastava, March 15, 2012).

However, one may ask that how come nobody harassed, threatened, bombed or toppled these regimes, and where was the Western “humanitarianism”? The answer is simple: these repressive regimes constitute American client states that ensure American geopolitical interests in the region. Not to mention that the US has military bases in these countries and through which projects its supremacy throughout the Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf regions. These conditions ensure security and impunity for these autocracies. More than that, as the WikiLeaks Cables reveal, Saudi Arabia constitutes a major “cash machine” for international wahhabist terrorists. Even the US State Secretary Hillary Clinton is quoted saying that “more needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terrorist groups, … donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide"(The Guardian; IAGS). This, dismal picture should leave lots of food for thought, and sober up those who still believe in those “noble” and “humanitarian” slogans used regarding Syria.    

Despite the propaganda sprayed globally by the Western corporate media, independent sources with increasing frequency report that the Syrian rebels have been regularly armed mainly by such US client states as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and even “newly liberated” Libya and all this is done via American blessing and coordination (Escobar, July 10, 2012; DeYoung and Sly, May 16, 2012; Weiss, May 22, 2012; Cunningham, July 3, 2012; Cartalucci, July 8, 2012). Moreover, on June 22, 2012 Turkey accused Syria in shooting down a military reconnaissance aircraft of the Turkish Air force over a neutral airspace area. Syria responded with a declaration in which it recognized that the Syrian anti-aircraft defenses shot down the aircraft, however insisted that it was destroyed while being over the Syrian airspace, and that the Syrian actions were purely defensive. Nevertheless, this increased the already high degree of tension between the countries. Some speculate that this could have been a provocation by Turkey with the aim to exploit this incident as an aggression against Turkey and, as a consequence trigger NATO’s Article 5 of the Washington Treaty which presupposes a collective military response by the entire alliance in case one of the members is attacked. However, as it later appeared, NATO does not have the “appetite” for another direct military intervention: Syrian anti-aircraft defenses appeared to be a lot stronger than that of Iraq and Libya, the Russians took care of that just in time. Moreover, why would Syria shoot down an aircraft over a neutral airspace and, thus, add a new headache to the vast array of the already existing ones? This logical question leads to the assumption that the flight of the Turkish aircraft over or close to the Syrian airspace was a reconnaissance flight, testing the Syrian readiness to repel an air assault. As a result the incident did not bring to direct foreign military involvement.  

Meanwhile, quite recently the Syrian government announced that it may use the chemical weapons in its possession if the country is attacked from abroad, while declaring that it will not be used against internal forced opposing the regime. Now, the attitudes towards this development are quite mixed. Some think that this may, indeed, constitute a firm guarantee from foreign invasion. However, there is no guarantee that the Assad regime will emerge victorious from this seemingly endless bloodshed. However, more and more soldiers and officers from the Syrian army and Syrian diplomats desert and join the opposition. Worse, lately a suicide bomber, who later appeared to be one of Assad’s bodyguards, managed to blow himself up together with Syria’s Defense Minister and some other high ranking officials related to the Assad clan. The Syrian opposition forces already managed to take under control some districts of Damascus, although, later they were thrown back by the Syrian army forces. These developments demonstrate that the powers the of Assad regime slowly, but steadily, are waning. If the Assad regime collapses there are all the chances that the opposition with all the wahhabists and Al-Qaeda forces within its ranks will get its hands on the chemical weapons. This may lead to catastrophic and unpredictable results of unprecedented scale. After all, the opposition is not homogeneous, and no one can guarantee that one opposition faction will not use it against another for the sake of seizing the control over the country. This may well turn into a Middle Eastern Armageddon. If the wahhabist or Al-Qaeda forces get these weapons, then several Armageddons, or, at least, attempts to materialize ones in various parts of the globe can be guaranteed. These grim prospects may well force the West and Israel to conduct military interventions into Syria to prevent the weapons falling into the hands of radical or terrorist forces. Alternatively, given the good relations between the Syrian regime and Russia, Assad may prefer to transfer the stockpiles of chemical weapons to Russia, if it comes to the point of its seizure by the opposition.   

Meanwhile, the Kurdish minority in northern Syria is becoming increasingly active. Apparently, the Syrian Kurds have their own agenda autonomous from that of both the Syrian government and opposition. Now, it is not news that even the slightest activation of Kurds, especially by the Turkish border, makes Ankara very nervous. In this case Ankara’s nervousness grew into an absolute fury, since the Syrian Kurds, obviously backed by their Iraqi compatriots, declared about the creation of Kurdish autonomy in North Syria, that is, right by Turkey’s border. By the way it appears that the Syrian Army command, in fact, abandoned the Kurdish populated northern regions voluntarily. In this respect, the famous Russian political scientist Stanislav Tarasov predicts hard times for Turkey. According to Tarasov, apparently the Assad regime, knowing that the Kurds are a perpetual threat to Turkey, decided to exploit this newly emerging development to the maximum possible extent. Instead of keeping large armed forces in the northern Kurdish populated areas, why not to allow the Kurds to defend themselves, especially if they enjoy the colossal support from the Iraqi Kurdistan? Moreover, it seems that Assad is not particularly against the creation of a Kurdish autonomy in the north, especially given that the Kurds do not trouble the Syrian regime much. Moreover, if this trend even greater activates the Kurdish guerillas within Turkey’s south, and thus, presents Assad a great opportunity to take the fight to the enemy’s – Turkey’s – ground, then why not?  Even if Turkey comes up with countermeasures, it will still mark the beginning of the time of troubles for Turkey, especially if the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan and Syrian north get united. As Tarasov concludes, Turkey may face the prospect of “Lebanesation,” when one considerable segment of the population – Turkey’s Kurds in the current instace – may find a colossal support from their compatriots from the other side of the border to establish their supremacy over the Kurdish populated southern regions of Turkey (Tarasov, July 27, 2012).

Speaking of minorities, it is essential to point out the Christian minority of Syria comprising from 8 to 10 percent of the country’s entire population. These days they feel increasingly vulnerable as the bloodshed continues, especially given the fact that there are radical Al-Qaeda or pro-Al-Qaeda forces within the opposition. Rather interestingly and, maybe, paradoxically, the fact is that despite its autocratic nature the Assad regime traditionally was very tolerant towards the Christian minority of the country and ensured a widespread cultural and religious freedom. In addition, it appears that in Syria throughout the rule of the Assad family the major Christian feasts were nationally practiced holidays, Christians were free from going to work on Sunday mornings, churches and monasteries together with mosques were provided with free electricity, and even sometimes were given state lands for new buildings. These factors ensured the level of security and stability for the Syrian minorities that in the neighboring states the minorities would only dream of. This is something that definitely sets the country apart from all of its neighbors. The reason for this was that the Assads are Alawites – followers of a distant evolution/derivation form of Shia Islam, considered by many Sunni Muslims as heresy, often despised and even hated, as a result (not to be mixed with Alevis and Alevism, correspondingly another form of Shia Islam of Turkic origin) – that constitute a minority in Muslim world and comprise 12 percent of the Syrian population (Dalrymple, August 9, 2012; Black, July 31, 2012).

It appears that for the past century, long before the Assad family rose to power in the country, Syria was a reliable safe haven for the Middle Eastern Christians. During the First World War Syria welcomed and provided sanctuary for the Ottoman Armenians, fleeing from the genocide instigated by Young Turk Ottoman regime. In 1948 the country provided sanctuary for the Palestinians – both Muslim and Christian – when they were forced to find refuge after the first Arab-Israeli war and the subsequent creation of the State of Israel. Throughout the war in Lebanon during the 1970s and 80s the country became a shelter for Orthodox Christians and Maronites fleeing from sectarian violence. Even in the 21st century when the Americal-led Western aggression against Iraq took place, as a result of which the country got overwhelmed by chaos, lawlessness, and sectarian/religious bloodshed, Syria became a sanctuary for the Iraqi Christians (Dalrymple, August 9, 2012). In this respect it is rather unrealistic that the opposition, mostly comprised of Sunnis, especially the radical and Wahabist exported into Syria from Persian Gulf autocracies and even Turkey, will demonstrate tolerance and respect towards the Christian minority as the Assad family has. None of these countries tolerate Christian and even Shia minorities in their domestic affairs; naturally, they will not have to tolerate and take care about them abroad. Not accidentally, such utmost xenophobic and atrocious slogans as “Alewites to the grave, Christians to Lebanon” have been increasingly popular among the opposition even since the earliest waves of the anti-government revolt, not to mention that the radical and Wahhabist groups are already busy materializing them (Black, July 31, 2012; Shakaryants, August 7, 2012). Meanwhile, Christians are forced to take arms into their hands to defend themselves, since the number of attacks against them carried out by radical Sunni or Wahhabist groups within the opposition began to mount lately. Similarly, Armenians – essential part of the Syrian Christian community – with arms in their hands organized defensive measures for protecting their quarters from lawless extremists from the opposition. This seems to be the only logical decision: unity and organized defense are the best response to radicalism and terrorism. After all, this option is a lot better than just sitting and doing nothing, hoping that neutrality will ensure safety, and just wait till they eventually will come to slaughter everybody. By the way, positive examples of united and effective self-defense are well known to Armenians. Apart from the example of the Nagorno-Karabakh, where the overwhelmingly Armenian population skillfully managed to defend itself from complete extermination, there is the example of the organized and effective defense conducted by the Armenians of Lebanon, where too they where forced to defend themselves from radical or terrorist groups that sought their destruction (Shakaryants, August 7, 2012).

As for Russia’s involvement, its motivations are quite simple. Syria remains the very last ally Russia is left with in the Middle East region: a vastly important Russian naval base is located in Syria. That is, if the Assad regime falls, Russia will be virtually “kicked” out of Middle East. Moreover, Syria has been a paramount component within Iran’s Middle Eastern policy. In Tehran, Syria is viewed as a gate towards Iran’s “doorsteps,” despite that both countries do not share a common border. Apart from that, Syria has been the only true ally of Iran in the Arab world. To a large extent, it is also through Syria that Iran influences Middle East. Tehran will do everything possible to keep the Syrian regime in power. Now, if the Syrian regime survives, this would be thanks to Iran, as well as the Russian-Chinese tandem. As a result of such outcome, Iran’s authority, influence, and, consequently, credibility as a regional power will rise colossally in the Middle East region and the whole Muslim world. Moreover, if Syria is subdued, then Iran logically has all the chances to become next target, and after Iran, and it is not unlikely that further the South and even North Caucasus will be in the “menu.” That is why Iran’s strategic interests fully coincide with that of Russia and China regarding Syria. After all, who needs a global mess in a form of an endlessly expanding Middle Eastern conflict, having the potential of reaching Caucasus and even Central Asia? Once open, “Pandora’s box” will hardly be closed sooner, if at all. For that reason, it is better to keep it close by all means possible.    



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Call for Expert on Policy Communication and Instruments

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“Green light” for environmentally neutral business development from Lisbon to Vladivostok

On March 3, 2021, the first meeting of the GreenDeal Task Force created under the Initiative Lisbon-Vladivostok was held. In the videoconference format, more than twenty authoritative experts in the field of ecology and business from Austria, Armenia, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, Russia, France, as well as the representatives of the largest business industry associations supporting the Initiative Lisbon-Vladivostok, discussed common approaches to harmonizing the activities implemented by the EU and the EAEU on the path to sustainable development, including a radical reduction in greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by 2050.

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Youth Expo Catalogue

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