Friday, December 28, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: The Fall of Syria - The Winners and the Losers

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

According to all indications, the days of Bashar Asad are numbered and the end of the dynasty of the house of Asad appears closer than ever. The bloody regime that began in November 1970 ends its life drowning in the endless blood-letting  of Syrian citizens. The rule of the ‘Alawite sect over the Muslims was never legitimate because they have no right to rule, since they are a minority, and it and is very doubtful whether, according to Islam, they even have the right to live, since they are heretics, idol worshipers. The fall of their regime, which seems inevitable, raises the question: who are the winners and who are the losers as a result of the collapse of Syria. The answer is fairly complex.

The Citizens of Syria

These are the greatest losers. Until now, taking into account casualties from both sides,  about fifty thousand people have been killed in the civil war. The number of wounded is several times larger – and the number of refugees, those outside of Syria and those who have remained within – is more than two million. The number of housing units (houses and apartments) that have become piles of rubble is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. The damage to the infrastructures of electricity, water, sewage, education, health and roads amounts to many billions of dollars, and repairing the damage – even if work continues day and night – will take years. The country is in a  state of clinical death resulting from systemic collapse, and for a long time there has been no tax collection in Syria, no organized economic system or effective government. The military is crushed by the desertions of officers and soldiers and the destruction of military bases by the rebels.

The ‘Alawite sect is a big loser because it might lose its controlling status in Syria, and for months the Sunni jihad fighters - Syrians as well as infiltrators from outside – have been carrying out serial massacres against this heretical sect , which has ruled Syria since 1966. Each massacre brings another massacre in revenge, which itself brings about a massacre, and so it continues for the past year and a half. Many ‘Alawites have been slaughtered as of today, and many more will be slaughtered in the near future, after the jihadists bring the country to its end.  The last thing that the Islamic jihadists care about is human rights, and when they get the opportunity, they will execute their plot against the ‘Alawites to the bitter end.

The other small sects as well – the Christians and the Druze – are among the losers, because the ‘Alawite regime protected them. Now they too will be easy prey for the jihadists knives, and therefore many of them are fleeing beyond the borders of Syria.

However, the citizens of Syria are also great winners from the collapse of the regime, since they have succeeded – at a very high price – to overthrow the regime, which was dictatorial in style and feudal in structure, and  only interested in promoting the rights of the Asad and Makhlouf families. The citizens of Syria purchased their freedom at a high price, because freedom is not a natural thing, especially in the Middle East. The question hanging in the air is “who will rule Syria after the war”, because if it is the jihadis, the Syrian citizen might find himself in an Islamic-religious dictatorship after having managed to rid themselves of a nationalist-secular dictator. The civil society in Syria, which is mostly composed of educated people with some economic means, will apparently have no influence on the future of Syria, because even if there are many differences of opinion and trends among the people, the main thing is that they are not violent, and therefore they are treated as if they don’t exist. 

Syria will dissolve into a number of political entities: the Kurds in the Northeast, in the Hasaka area, and the Druze in the south, in Jibal a-Druze. An ‘Alawite state may arise in the northwest of the country, to protect the surviving members of the sect. The Bedouins in the east may demand autonomy as well, and the people of Aleppo will be able to establish an entity for themselves separate from the people of Damascus, those who controlled their lives in the past and whom they despise. These homogeneous states have a good chance to establish alternative governmental systems  and to achieve – not without difficulties – a state of peace and prosperity, relatively speaking.


This country stands to lose the most from the fall of the Syrian regime, which was Iran’s Trojan horse into the Arab world. Syria was the supporting pillar of the Iranian coalition that extended to Hizb’Allah in Lebanon and streamed weapons, ammunition, missiles, money, fighters and advisers to the Shi’ite terror organization. Despite its economic  difficulties stemming from international sanctions, Iran has sunk an estimated twenty billion dollars in Syria during the past two years  in weapons, ammunition and payment of Syrian soldiers’ salaries in an effort to keep them from deserting. Now, with the collapse of the Syrian regime, all of the investment has gone down the drain, and the Iranians  understand that the gamble on Asad and his regime was a bitter mistake.

The disagreements among the regime of the Ayatollahs about whether to support Asad have been going on for quite a while, and the collapse of the Syrian regime might cause these disagreements to boil over and shift from nonbelligerent  discussion to violence. This situation could cause the controlling elite in Iran to implode, and the world will be unexpectedly freed of the Iranian threat.

The emergence of a Kurdish state from the ruins of Syria might heighten the desire of the Kurds of Iran to intensify their opposition to the Iranian regime and free themselves from the control of Teheran by the use of force. Such a development might also encourage the Baluchis in the south of Iran to escalate their struggle against the Iranian regime, and thus bring about the collapse of Iran as a multi-national state under Persian hegemony.

Another matter of great concern to the Iranians is that in the wake of the collapse of the Syrian regime, documents may be discovered that reveal and prove the Iranian-North Korean participation in the secret Syrian nuclear project, which, according to foreign sources, was firmly and decisively dealt with by Israel  on the 6th of September, 2007. Moreover, there is also a possibility that proof will be found of Iranian involvement in terror attacks that have been carried out since the Ayatollahs took over Iran in the beginning of 1979, because Syria may have been involved in these actions in some way.

The Arab Peoples

The collapse of the Asad regime will encourage the Arab peoples in general, and those of the Arabian Peninsula in particular, to stand up to Iran, and this will cause Iran to be even more isolated. Other Arab peoples – of Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq – might be encouraged by the success of the Syrians, and surge into the streets to achieve their own freedom from domineering rulers . The Palestinians might take an example from the Syrians and begin a third intifada with the hope of duplicating the Syrian success in Judea and Samaria.

One of the biggest losers is the concept of Arab nationalism. This idea – that there is such a thing as an Arab nationality with a unified character and distinct characteristics – served as a fig leaf to hide the sins of the dictators, and as a source of the hollow, empty nationalistic slogans, that the dictators – mainly Asad, the father and the son –  used to justify  their corruption and cruelty towards the citizens. They presented Syria as the stronghold of Arab nationalism in order to justify their negative deeds towards the citizens: denial of human rights, cancelling political freedoms, shutting mouths and murdering their critics. Anyone who speaks positively about Arab nationalism these days is seen as someone who fell asleep thirty years ago and hasn’t seen or heard that the idea of Arab nationalism was hijacked by dictators and has now become bankrupt.

Arab countries that supported the Syrian rebels – Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan – have won the battle against the Syrian and Iranian regimes. And emir of Qatar, the most powerful man in the Arab world, will now become even stronger. The Al-Jazeera channel, which he runs, the channel that has kindled the flames in these inflamed arenas – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria – has succeeded in eliminating their rulers and removing their very powerful presidents. Undoubtedly, the Al-Jazeera channel is one of the greatest winners in the war against the Asad regime.


During the last two years, mainly since the American withdrawal one year ago, the Shi’ites, who control Iraq have entered their country into the coalition between Iran, the Syrian regime and Hizb’Allah, and have supplied Asad with weapons, ammunition and cash for the payment of salaries for its military personnel. If and when the Sunni  jihadis take control of Syria – or its components – they may  take revenge on Shi’ite Iraq by sending weapons, ammunition, explosives, moneys and perhaps even fighters in order to shore up the Sunni minority in Iraq and to further upset the already shaky stability. As a result of this, the land of the two rivers might sink once again into a swamp of blood, fire and tears, which characterized it from 2003 until the end of the previous decade, and the horrors of that era may still occasionally shock the Iraqi streets with powerful explosions and dozens of innocent dead and wounded civilians.


There are hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan today. This situation is a great burden on the Jordanian economy because of the needs of the refugees, especially during the present winter season. There are some in the Jordanian government who fear that there may be negative and dangerous elements among the refugees, such as agents of the Syrian regime who might take revenge on Jordan for its support of the Syrian rebels. There might be also Islamist terrorists among the refugees, who may act against the government in Jordan if a wave of protest against the king breaks out, as an extension of the “Arab Spring”. 


One of the big losers from the collapse of the Asad regime is the Hizb’Allah organization, because it is reasonable to  assume that the land bridge to Iran will be closed off, and Hizb’Allah will need to find more difficult paths for the transfer of weapons and ammunition from Iran to Lebanon. Even the political support that the Asad regime granted to Hizb’Allah will disappear, and this might have an influence on the Lebanese forces who oppose Hizb’Allah and demand them to disarm. Such a demand might heat up the internal Lebanese front and sink this war-torn country once again into a blood bath.

Because of Hizb’Allah’s involvement in the suppression of demonstrations and rebellion in Syria, the jihadis might try to harm Hasan Nasrallah personally, to take public revenge upon him.

On the other hand, it is possible that in order to prevent a civil war, from which there can be only losers, Hizb’Allah will agree to surrender some of the tokens of control in Lebanon and agree to a different division of powers in the country. However, the conflicts that often break out in Tripoli are an indication of the increasing internal tension in the Lebanese internal arena, and give the impression  that agreements are not the name of the game, but rather shootings and attacks. 


This country finds itself in a complex situation: on one hand, it strongly supported the overthrow of the infidel and anti-Islamic regime, and Erdoğan, who is motivated by radical Islamic political ideas, has succeeded in the complex battle against Asad the heretic, murderer of Muslims. However, as a result of the collapse of the Syrian regime, a Kurdish state might emerge in northeast Syria, right under the noses of the Turks, and this state might intensify the motivation of the Turkish Kurds to escalate their opposition to the Turkish regime in order to finally achieve independence.

The Turkish regime is concerned by the more than a hundred thousand Syrian refugees presently on Turkish soil, because they are a burden on the budget, and Turkish willingness to host them and fill their needs is not unlimited.


According to Syrian government spokesmen, the civil war is a Zionist-American plot that is intended to vanquish Syria after Syria has triumphed over Israel in every battle and war that has occurred since 1973. The collapse of the Syrian regime will remove one of Israel’s sworn enemies, which, despite the quiet that has reigned on the border since June 1974, has helped and supported every terrorist organization acting against Israel for the past forty years: The PLO, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, the General Command, as-Sa’iqa, al-‘Asifa, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizb’Allah. All were trained, equipped and armed by the Syrian regime, and its demise means the elimination of one of Israel’s cruelest and most difficult enemies.

But the alternative is not yet clear, because if the ruthless jihadis take over in Syria they might turn Syria into a terror country that will take action against Israel and perhaps even against other countries, just as Afghanistan of the Taliban and al-Qaeda until 2001. If the chemical weapons that are now in Syria fall into the hands of these organizations, they may be quite dangerous, and if Hizb’Allah takes over the chemical weapons, this might represent an effective deterrence against Israel.

Therefore, one may say that Israel will take Asad’s collapse with mixed feelings: satisfaction over the removal of a sworn enemy and fear of a more dangerous enemy.


Even now, thousands of Syrian refugees are knocking on Europe’s doors, which are closed to them, so that they can open a new chapter in their miserable lives. In Europe they know well that an Arab refugee who comes to Europe will never leave, and therefore – with every sympathy for the refugees and their problems – Europe fears the flow of Arabs into its territory and is slowing down their immigration as much as possible. The European hypocrisy towards the Syrian citizens is glaring because of NATO’s reluctance to become involved in Syria, contrary to the massive support that Europe gave to the rebels in Libya. The explanation of the difference is hidden in the matter of oil: Europe wanted to assure the continuation of the flow of Libyan oil to Europe and therefore supported the Libyan rebels, while in Syria there is no oil and therefore – from Europe’s cynical point of view – the blood of the Syrians could be freely spilled in the streets of Homs, Damascus and Aleppo. 

If and when the jihadis do turn Syria into a terror state, Europe – which felt no need to protect the Syrians from their own government’s weapons – might eventually have to pay damages, or to suffer an all-out war with these organizations. 

Another matter that worries Europe today is what will become of the European investments in the Syrian economy, such as factories in the West that have transferred some of their production lines to Syria. According to the precedent set in Iraq, the new regime has the right to renounce debts incurred by a previous regime, and if the new regime in Syria acts according to the Iraqi precedent then Europe might lose a lot of money.


The collapse of the evil regime in Syria opens an opportunity for many organizations with new ideologies to advance to center stage and take over. The fluidity of the situation creates a governmental and organizational vacuum, which might cause Asad to be remembered as very young, with a nice head of hair and pleasant looking, compared to the jihadis who may succeed his rule. If the jihadi script plays out, the whole world will lose.


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.

Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the author.

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