Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Struggle for Syria. By Majid Rafizadeh.

The struggle for Syria. By Majid Rafizadeh. Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2013.


My cousin, Ramez, was dead before the echoes of the gunshot that killed him stopped ringing. His 4-year-old daughter, Zeynab, watched him fall on a narrow street in Damascus, but she never heard the shot because she is deaf. She held onto his lifeless hand until a second bullet tore into her chest. She survived.

I tell this story to make it clear that my family and I have experienced the civil war firsthand. Ramez was just one of several family members who lost their lives in the battle against Bashar Assad’s police state. My mother, sister and brother, alongside millions of other war-torn Syrian refugees, were forced to flee to Lebanon and then on to Baghdad.

But despite the seriousness and severity of the situation, I don’t believe that the United States should intervene militarily in Syria. Any direct or indirect intervention by the U.S. would exacerbate Syria's internal conflict and increase the number of people being displaced and killed.

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Another argument for intervention holds that it could pave the way for a democratic system of governance in Syria, which would then be strategically and politically allied with the United States. But those who make this case should more carefully consider the sociopolitical fabric of Syrian society, as well as the process by which democratization happens in the Middle East.

It is unlikely that intervention would lead quickly to the creation of a democratic government. If regime change came about because of U.S. intervention, Russia, China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Arab gulf states would feel a need to exert their influence more strongly as well, in order to protect their own geopolitical interests. The country could well become the battleground for an international proxy war in a way the world hasn’t seen since Vietnam. In addition, fundamentalists and Al Qaeda-backed groups would view U.S. intervention as a call to arms and would capitalize on the instability and insecurity to advance their fight against the West.

The sources of strife in Syrian society emerge from not just religious differences but also ethnic ones, and there’s no way of imposing an outside cure for those divisions. Religious sects within Syria include not only Alawites and Sunnis; there are Christian, Druze and Shiite populations as well. Tensions between different ethnicities, such as between Arab and non-Arab, would add fuel to the battle. There are Syrian Kurds who are Sunni, but there are also Syrian Alawite Kurds. The complexities make it extremely difficult for the United States to have a positive role in the conflict.