Will London, Paris And Tel-Aviv Be Sanctioned By Moscow And Washington?

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On 17 September 2018, France, Israël and the United Kingdom carried out a joint operation against Syrian targets. During the brief moments of combat, a Russian reconnaissance plane was brought down by Syrian ’friendly fire’. Study of the recordings shows that an Israëli F-16 had flown hidden behind the Ilyushin Il-20 in order to confuse the Syrian Air Defences.

The destruction of a Russian military aircraft by the fault of Israël, during a joint operation by the United Kingdom, France and Israël, caused consternation in all the chancelleries. Since the start of hostilities in Syria seven years ago, if there were a ’red line’, it was that the different protagonists should never endanger Russian, US, or Israëli forces.

We are sure about very little of what actually happened, except that :

- a British Tornado took off from Cyprus to land in Iraq. During the flight, it violated Syrian air space in order to scan the Syrian defences and make the allied attack possible.
- less than an hour later, four Israëli F-16s and a French frigate, L’Auvergne, fired on targets in the Syrian governorate of Lattakia. The Syrian air defences protected their country by firing their S-200s against the French and Israëli missiles.
- During the battle, an F-16 used a Russian Ilyushin Il-20 as a shield. The Ilyushin was flying a surveillance mission over the area, localising jihadist drone launch sites. The Syrian defences fired a missile, aiming for the thermal signal of the Israëli aircraft. Theoretically, therefore, it could have destroyed the Russian plane by mistake.

This is, however, implausible, because S-200 missiles are equipped with a reconnaissance system able to distinguish between friendly and enemy targets, which the Russian Minister for Defence successively confirmed, then denied. In any case, the Ilyushin was destroyed, without our knowing for certain how, or by whom.

The cowardice of the British and French leaders led them to censor all information concerning their responsibility in this operation. London made no comment, and Paris denied the facts. Neither the BBC, nor France-Television dared to mention the subject. For these two countries, more than ever, the reality of external politics is excluded from the democratic debate.

Immediate interpretation of the events

We do not know if the destruction of the Russian aircraft (causing the death of the 15 men on board) can be blamed on the Israëli pilot – which seems highly unlikely – on the Israëli army, or on the alliance which carried out the attack.

Il-20
Russian aircraft  Ilyushin Il-20

On the answer to this question hangs the possibility of conflict between four nuclear powers. The situation is therefore extremely serious. It has no precedent since the creation of the Russian Federation, at the end of 1991.

The British-French-Israëli aggression is the response by these three countries to the Russian-Turkish agreement signed only a few hours earlier at Sotchi. It came into play after the US refusal, at the beginning of September, to bomb Syria under false pretences, and the sending of a US delegation into the Arab world in order to express its disagreement with the British-French initiatives.

The Sotchi agreements were signed by Turkey under intense pressure from Russia. In Teheran, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had refused to sign the Memorandum concerning the withdrawal of the jihadist and Turkish forces in Idlib. This had not pleased President Vladimir Putin, who answered first of all by reaffirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and, furthermore, by underlining for the first time the illegitimacy, under international law, of the Turkish military presence in the country. Ten days later, a very unsettled Mr, Erdoğan accepted an invitation to Russia.

The Sotchi agreement, while distancing Turkey a little further from NATO with its energy contracts, forced Ankara de facto to withdraw from a part of the territory that it occupies, allegedly to better protect the pseudo-« rebels » gathered in the governorate of Idlib. Besides this, Turkey only has one month in which to confiscate the heavy weaponry of its friends from Al-Qaïda and Daesh in the demilitarised zone.

This agreement was obviously unacceptable for London, Paris and Tel-Aviv :

- in the end, it plans for the disappearance of the jihadists as an army, while London has been supervising, training and manipulating them for decades;
- the end of the dream of a French mandate over Syria and of the creation of a new French colony in the North of the country, under the phoney name of Kurdistan (Kurdistan is legitimate only within the frontiers which were recognised by the Sèvres Conference, in 1920.) In other words, not in Iran, nor Iraq or Syria, but only in what is now known as Turkey).
- the end of the regional domination of Israël, faced with a stable Syria under Russian protection.

Mid-term interpretation of the events

The British-French-Israëli military alliance has not entered into action since the Suez Canal crisis in 1956.

Image result for Suez Canal crisis in 1956

At that time, Anthony Eden, Guy Mollet and David Ben Gourion joined their forces in order to humiliate the Arab nationalists, particularly the Egyptian Gamal Abdel Nasser, and to re-establish the British and French colonial empires (« Operation Musketeer »).

This is exactly what happened with this new attack : as was confirmed by the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, none of the targets under attack were linked in any way to Iran or Hezbollah. This British-French-Israëli action had nothing to do with the international struggle against the jihadists in general and Daesh in particular. It also had no connection with the overthrow of the Syrian Arab Republic or its President, Bachar el-Assad. Its main objective was to kill military scientists, in particular the rocket specialists from the Institute of Technical Industries in Lattakia.

This is therefore the resumption and continuation of the policy of targeted assassinations waged by Israël for the last twenty years, successively against the Iraqi, Iranian, and now Syrian scientists. It is one of the pillars of colonial policy : to prevent the submitted populations from attaining the same level of education as their masters. In former times, the Westerners forbade their slaves from learning to read under pain of death. Today, they eliminate their scientists.This policy was relaunched with the British-French-US bombing of 14 April 2018, in which the only target destroyed was the Scientific Research Centre in Barzeh, then with the breakdown of the 5+1 agreement with Iran (JCPoA) which forced the country to close its nuclear physics faculties (May 8, 2018).

It was a joint initiative : the jihadists destroy the past, the Westerners destroy the future.

Long-term interpretation of the events

Since the deployment of Russian troops in Syria, on 13 September 2015, to help Syria in its fight against the terrorists, the allies of the United States have understood the impossibility of carrying out the US plan without risking a world war. With the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House, they have progressively questioned their war objectives, abandoned the plans of the « Friends of Syria » and fallen back on their respective historical strategies.

It is this logic that led them to reform the alliance which provoked the Suez crisis, and it is this same logic which pushed Germany to distance itself from them.

At the beginning of the First World War, the British, French and Russian empires decided on the partition of the world which they would implement as soon as they had gained victory. The treaty was negotiated by Mark Sykes, Georges Picot and Sergueï Sazonov. During the course of the World War, however, the Tsar was overthrown by the Bolcheviks, which meant that the areas of the world originally reserved for the Russian empire were once again up for grabs. Finally, at the end of the World War, only the part of the plan relative to the Middle East was applied, under the name of the « Sykes-Picot » agreement.

The return of Russia to the international game obviously brings into question the British-French colonial sharing of the Middle East. The foreseeable clash has just occurred, either accidentally or deliberately, with the destruction of the Ilyushin Il-20 during the joint British-French-Israëli military operation.

How to react

The bewilderment of the international community in the face of this brutal awakening of a century-old conflict can be measured by the Twitter silence from the White House.

During the Suez crisis, the Israëli troops engaged were twice as numerous as all the British and French forces together. The total number of coalition forces was about 250,000 men. This was therefore a very large-scale operation compared to that of Lattakia. But it remains true that the two sequences work from the same diplomatic logic, and may lead to the same developments.

During the Suez crisis, in the middle of the Cold War, the Soviet Union threatened the United Kingdom, France, and Israël with a nuclear riposte if they refused to withdraw from Egypt. At first, NATO supported the Europeans in threatening Moscow with a World War, before changing its mind. In the middle of the Cold War, therefore, the United States temporarily supported the USSR in order to halt the European folly.

For Washington, allowing the Europeans to pursue their plans was the equivalent of pushing all the Arab nations into the arms of the Soviets. Apart from that, it simply was not feasible to accept the French-British intervention at the same time as they were denouncing the repression of the Hungarian revolution by the Warsaw Pact.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice-President Richard Nixon launched a monetary attack against the pound sterling, sent their naval and airborne forces to interfere with the British-French-Israëli complex, and forbade the use of French military material financed by US funds.

International peace was preserved thanks to certain third parties such as the Secretary General of the UNO, Dag Hammarskjöld (who was assassinated three years later, and was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize); the Canadian Minister for Foreign Affairs Lester B. Pearson (who also received the Nobel Peace Prize); and the leader of the non-aligned nations and Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Suez crisis profoundly upset not only international political life, but also the national reality of the United Kingdom, France and Israël.
- Circumventing the European vetos at the Security Council, the UNO General Assembly called for the withdrawal of the invaders and created the first United Nations intervention force.
- In the United Kingdom, the House of Commons demanded the end of colonial politics to the profit of the promotion of the economic interests of London via the Commonwealth.
- In France, the Communists, the Gaullists and the Poujadists (including Jean-Marie Le Pen) united against the Centrists and the Socialists; a configuration that has never been seen since. Six years later, President De Gaulle considered that by recognising the independence of Algeria, he would put an end to military collaboration with the colonial state of Israël and restore the policy of friendship and collaboration with the Arab peoples, which had always characterised France, apart from its colonial period.

The position of the Western powers concerning the aggression on Lattakia is all the more difficult because, in violation of their agreement with Russia, the Israëlis only informed Moscow of their operation a long time after it had begun, and only one minute before they began firing. As for the Pentagon, they affirmed that they had not been warned at all. But let us not forget that the Israëli-Russian mutual non-aggression pact in Syria only exists because Israël is the US arsenal for the Middle East, housing (with Italy) the stocks of US weaponry for the entire region. If Israël truly did not inform the Pentagon of its actions in advance, then it can not benefit from US protection, and consequently the mutual non-aggression pact may be called into question by Russia.

The Russian response depends on the position of the White House, which we do not know for the moment. It must be guided by a desire to lessen tension, if possible, and also to maintain dissuasion by punishing the guilty party or parties as soon as the Kremlin names them. It is not necessary for Russia to make this sanction public as long as the chancelleries concerned are informed.

The Russian response

Russia has the choice of seeing in the destruction of their aircraft nothing more than a mistake by an Israeli pilot, or by the Israëli army, or again, by all three of the states implicated (the United Kingdom, France and Israël). The Russian Minister for Defence, Sergueï Choïgou, telephoned his Israëli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman to inform him that he held Israël responsible for the accident, and reserved the right to riposte. A little later, President Putin declared « This is a series of tragic events, because our plane was not shot down by an Israëli aircraft ». He was careful to distinguish this situation from that of the deliberate destruction of a Sukhoï 24-M by Turkish fighters in November 2015. We are therefore heading towards the public designation of Israël as the sole responsible and a secret sanction against the three states involved.

The Israëli chargé d’affaires in Moscow, Keren Cohen Gat, was summoned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, while in a knee-jerk reaction, Israëli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to shovel the responsibility for the accident onto Iran. An Israëli delegation, led by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Amikam Norkin, rushed off to Moscow with unprecedented haste. They contested the claims of the Russian Minister for Defence, affirmed that Israël was innocent, and that all the blame belonged to the negligence of the Syrians.

General Amikam Norkin in Moscow
Moscow, 20 September 2018 – the Chief of Staff for the Israëli Air Force, General Amikam Norkin, arrives in a hurry to present his version of events. Once these proofs were checked and compared with other recordings, it transpired that Israël was lying straight-faced.

President Donald Trump, a great admirer of Richard Nixon’s foreign policy, was thus provided with the perfect occasion to finish with the British-French-Israëli support for the US deep state. However, in the middle of his election campaign, he can not afford to give the impression of supporting the Russian rival while he beats up his allies. He is therefore seeking a way of presenting his internal public with this major change of direction. From this perspective, during an interview with Hill TV, he condemned the US engagement in the Greater Middle East which was decided by his predecessor George Bush Jr after the attacks of 11 September 2001.

On 23 September, the spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defence, General Igor Konashenkov, presented the synthesis of Russian intelligence and the information transmitted by Syria and Israël.

- He accused the Hebrew state of having deliberately violated the mutual non-aggression agreement of 2015 by not giving Russia advance notice of its attack and by lying about its targets.
- He accused it of having endangered civilian flights present in this zone of the Mediterranean, and of being responsible for the destruction of the Ilyuchin Il-20.
- He denounced its non-assistance to the Russian soldiers when their plane stalled.
- He also accused General Amikam Norkin of lying by pretending that the Israëli jets had already returned to Israël when the Russian plane stalled and crashed.
- Finally, he deflected the accusations of amateurism laid at the door of the Syrian Anti-Air Defence System.

However, he abstained from publicly blaming the United Kingdom and France, who were nonetheless just as concerned by his remarks against Israël.

In case the White House should find an acceptable narrative of the facts for its electors, Russia could forbid the United Kingdom, France and Israël from making any intrusion into the maritime, terrestrial and aerial space of Syria without the authorisation of Damascus. London and Paris would have to cease their threats of bombing under whatever pretext at all (false chemical weapons) and withdraw their special forces. This measure would be valid for all protagonists in general, except for the United States and, in Idlib, for Turkey.

Source: Voltaire Network

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If I Were MBS, I’d Be Cynical About This Visit

Robert Fisk

08-03-2018 | 10:52

Thank heavens Theresa May is giving a warm welcome today to the illustrious Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, His Royal Majesty Mohammad bin Salman. For it is meet and right that she should do so. His Royal Highness is a courageous Arab reformer, keen to drag his wealthy nation into the 21st century in a raft of promises – women’s rights, massive economic restructuring, moderate Islam, further intelligence gathering on behalf of the West and an even more vital alliance in the “War on Terror”.

MBS

Thank God, however, that Theresa May – in her infinite wisdom – is not going to waste her time greeting a head-chopping and aggressive Arab Crown Prince whose outrageous war in Yemen is costing thousands of lives and tainting the United Kingdom with his shame by purchasing millions of dollars in weapons from May to use against the people of Yemen, who is trying to destroy his wealthy Arab brothers in Qatar and doing his best to persuade the US, Britain and sundry other Westerners to join the Saudi war against the Shias of the Middle East.

You see the problem? When it comes to money, guns and power, we will cuddle up to any Arab autocrat, especially if our masters in Washington, however insane, feel the same way about him – and it will always be a “him”, won’t it? And we will wash our hands with them if or when they have ceased to be of use, or no longer buy our weapons or run out of cash or simply get overthrown. Thus I can feel some sympathy for young Mohammad.

I have to add – simply in terms of human rights – that anyone who has to listen to Theresa “Let’s Get On With It” May for more than a few minutes has my profound sympathy. The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, a very intelligent Richelieu, must surely feel the same impatience when he listens to the patently dishonest ramblings of his opposite number. Boris Johnson’s contempt and then love for the Balfour Declaration in the space of less than 12 months is recognized in the Arab world as the cynical charade that it is.

Human rights groups, Amnesty and the rest are angrily calling Crown Prince Mohammad to account this week. So are the inevitable protesters. Any constable who raises a baton to keep order will be “doing the Saudis’ work”, we can be sure. But I fear that the Crown Prince should be far more concerned by the Government which is now groveling to his leadership. For he is dealing with a Western power, in this case the Brits. And the only advice he should be given in such circumstances is: mind your back.

A walk, now, down memory lane. When Gaddafi overthrew King Idris, the Foreign Office smiled upon him. A fresh face, a safe pair of hands with an oil-bearing nation whose wealth we might consume, we thought Gaddafi might be our man. The Americans even tipped him off about a counter-coup, just as we much later helped Gaddafi round up his opponents for torture. Then Gaddafi decided to be an anti-colonial nationalist and eventually got mixed up with the IRA and a bomb in a West Berlin nightclub – and bingo, he became a super-terrorist. Yet come the “War on Terror” and the invasion of Iraq, Gaddafi was kissed by the Venerable Blair and became a super-statesman again. Until the 2011 revolution, at which point he had to become a super-terrorist once more, bombed by NATO and murdered by his own people.

Talking of Iraq, Saddam had a similar experience. At first we rather liked the chap and the Americans even tipped him off on the location of his communist opponents. He was a head-chopper, to be sure, but as long as he invaded the right county, he was a super-statesman. Hence we helped him in his invasion of Iran in 1980 but declared him a super-terrorist in 1990 when he invaded the wrong country: Kuwait. And he ended up, like Gaddafi, killed by his own people, albeit that the Americans set up the court which decided to top him.

Yasser Arafat – not that we even think of him these days – was a Palestinian super-terrorist in Beirut. He was the center of World Terror until he shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin and Bill Clinton, at which point he became a super-statesman. But the moment he refused to deviate from the Oslo agreement and accept “Israeli” hegemony over the West Bank – he was never offered “90 per cent” of it, as the American media claimed – he was on the way to super-terrorism again. Surrounded and bombarded in his Ramallah hovel, he was airlifted to a Paris military hospital where he conveniently died. The “Israelis” had already dubbed him “our bin Laden”, a title they later tried to confer on Arafat’s luckless successor Mahmoud Abbas – who was neither a super-terrorist nor a super-statesman but something worse: a failure.

It should not be necessary to run through the other Arab transmogrifications from evil to good to evil again. Nasser, who helped to overthrow the corrupt King Farouk, quickly became a super-terrorist when he nationalised the Suez Canal and was called the “Mussolini of the Nile” by Eden – a slightly measly comparison when you remember that Saddam became the “Hitler of the Tigris” in 1990. [His eminence Imam] Khomeini was a potential super-statesman in his Paris exile when the Shah was overthrown. Then he became a super-terrorist-in-chief once he established the Islamic Republic. The French Jacobins thought that Hafez al-Assad was a potential super-statesman but decided he was a super-terrorist when Bashar al-Assad – lionized in France after his father’s death – went to war on his opponents, thus becoming a super-terrorist himself. The Brits quickly shrugged off their loyalties to Omani and Qatari emirs when their sons staged coups against them.

Thus Mohammad bin Salman, may his name be praised, might be reminded by Adel al-Jubeir as he settles down in London: “Memento homo”, the gladiator’s reminder to every emperor that he is only “a man”. What if the Yemen war is even bloodier, what if the Saudi military become increasingly disenchanted with the war – which is almost certainly why the Crown Prince staged a putsch among his commanders last month – and what if his Vision2030 proves a Saudi South Sea Bubble? What if the humiliated and vexatious princes and billionaires he humbled in the Riyadh Ritz Hotel come to take their revenge? What if – dare one speak his name? – a future British prime minister reopened the Special Branch enquiry into the Al-Yamamah arms contract? And, while we’re on the subject, what if someone discovers the routes by which US weapons reached Isis and their chums after 2014?

Or a real war breaks out with Iran? Please note, no mention here of the Sunni-Shia struggle, the 2016 butchery of Shia opponents in Saudi Arabia – most described as “terrorists”, most of them decapitated – and absolutely no reference to the fact that Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist doctrines are the very inspiration of Isis and al-Qaeda and all the other ‘jihadi” mumbo-jumbo cults that have devastated the Middle East.

Nope. The truth is, you can’t just tell who your friends are these days.

Wasn’t it the Brits who double-crossed the Saudi monarchy’s predecessors in Arabia by promising them an Arab empire but grabbing Palestine and Transjordan and Iraq for themselves?

Wasn’t it the Brits who published the Balfour Declaration and then tried to betray the Jews to whom they’d promised a homeland and the Arabs whose lands they had promised to protect?

Wasn’t it – since we are talking autocrats – the Brits who gave Ceaucescu an honorary knighthood and then took it back when he was deposed? We gave Mugabe the same gong and then took it back. Incredibly, we gave one to Mussolini too. Yes, we took it back in 1940.

So have a care, Crown Prince Mohammad. Don’t trust perfidious Albion. Watch your back at home, but also abroad. Thanks for all the arms purchases. And thanks for all the intelligence bumph to help us keep track of the lads who are brainwashed with the Wahabi faith. But don’t – whatever you do – be tempted by an honorary knighthood.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

SYRIAN SOCIAL NATIONALIST PARTY, ARAB NATIONALISM AND CONFLICT IN SYRIA

South Front

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

This analysis was originally released by SouthFront in October 2017

The traditional societies of the Middle East have always been notable for their ethnic and religious diversity. Today, however, the Middle East is on the cusp of a deep schism along ethnic and religious lines. This situation has brought several Muslim Arab states to the brink of collapse, is provoking new difficult to resolve conflicts, and continues to undermine the secular aspect of Arab nationalism to the benefit of strengthening its Islamic component, the replacement of nationalism as such with ultra-religious extremism and ethnic separatism.

An Iraqi Army M1A1M Abrams battle tank destroyed by Kurdish Peshmerga forces during the recently sparked Arab-Kurdish tensions in northern Iraq:

The current range of conflicts, which revolve around the struggle for power and territory, showed their destructive potential. The difficulty in resolving such conflicts is due to their roots in history, which further complicate the search for peace. There is also another, no less important, problem. Most of the current Arab states’ political organizations are based on the principle of nationalism. This is the principle that was used to form the post-Ottoman independent states. Their multi-religious and multi-ethnic nature was also the aftermath of the rather arbitrary drawing of borders during the colonial period.

The Evolution of Arab Nationalism

By the end of the late ‘30s and early ‘40s of the 20th Century, the influence of Islam on Arab nationalist movement began to grow. This was to a large extent due to a deep disappointment on the part of a sizable proportion of liberal secular Arab elites in the “civilizing” mission of the secular and enlightened West. As a result of Middle East policies of Western powers, Arabs were not able to establish a single state. Their lands were arbitrarily divided between Great Britain and France, the newly founded states became colonial dependencies. Simultaneously, Western powers actively supported the creation of a national Jewish nucleus in the Palestine, which only worsened the already tense situation.

After WW2, this process continued, receiving its expression in the concept of urub, or the spirit of Arab national consciousness, in order to strengthen the ties between Arab nationalism and Islam. The struggle over the future course of political development that raged in Arab states in the 1950s and ‘60s in the context of establishing independent states and modern societies brought to power secular Arab nationalists (Ba’athists, Naserites), who tried to pursue development using socialist ideas.

In spite of that, the Islamist trend within Arab nationalism did not vanish but merely receded. Even the most progressive and secular Arab leaders were forced to seek legitimacy in adherence to Islam and respect the interests of religiously active parts of society when forming own base of support.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad (portrait) wave Baath Party flags during a pro-government rally in Damascus. FILE IMAGE: Louai Beshara – AFP

The lack of a charismatic mainstream leader with regional appeal capable of offering a pan-Arab model of secular development respecting the interests of the Arab Muslim majority, the rights and desires of national and religious minorities, and attract regional elites and the broad masses, caused Arab leaders to encounter problems in the early 21st century. The long-serving leaders were  concerned continuity of their political course, in order to guarantee their own interests were preserved. Young Arab leaders inherited power from their fathers. This was achieved through intra-elite compromise, achieved not so much through free agreement or a democratic choice, but rather through clever intrigues and strong-arm tactics used to neutralize possible competition. Therefore the young leaders were forced to mostly worry about forming their own governing team, balancing between various power centers and regularly proving their legitimacy and the ability to govern the state to both domestic and international actors.

In the 1990s and early ‘00s, economic problems and the desire to demonstrate pro-democracy leanings led some Arab leaders to strengthen own legitimacy through elections. But the main winners of this liberalization were Islamist political movements, whose adherence to Western democratic norms was dubious.

As an alternative to hereditary power transfer, a whole range of moderate Islamic movements (for example, Tunisian An-Nahda Islamic party led by Rached Ghannouchi) entered the fray with the aim of democratizing Islam. They called for a “democratic Islamic state” within the existing borders. They also favored renouncing violence as a means of political struggle, condemned terrorism, supported the principle of open parliamentary elections, questioned the idea of divinity of authority, supported democratic power transition procedures, and also spoke in favor of expanding the role of women in the traditional Islamic society while in general actively promoting human rights.

But here the reformers of Islam ran into a problem. There were and are too few supporters of democratic Islam in the strongly traditional Arab society. And one can readily say the society is not ready for them. Can one seriously view the ideologues of moderate Islam the pioneers of democracy in the Arab world? Can a democratic Islamic state ensure political and religious pluralism, which is one of the fundamental aspects of democracy? How does one reconcile the norms of Sharia with human rights in the way they are understood in the West? To what extent can women’s rights be expanded? They could not answer these questions, and therefore the political fray was joined by supporters of Islamic fundamentalism who called for a return to the sources of Islam and build a modern society on this foundation.

Modern Islamic fundamentalism was formed as a reaction to such secular ideologies as liberalism, Marxism, and nationalism. For Muslim fundamentalists, an Islamic state was an ideological state, expanding its authority into every aspect of human life. It would control social, political, economic, and even cultural interactions. Sovereignty in such a state belongs to God, which in practical terms means Sharia law. Fundamentalists spoke in favor of democratic elections not for the sake of establishing democracy or individual freedoms, but in order to establish the rule of Islam. And when fundamentalist theorists touched upon the question of democracy, they were not talking about its compatibility or incompatibility with Islam, but about how difficult it was to reconcile Western democratic principles with Islamic governance that could only be based on the revealed laws of Islam—Sharia.

But even here there were problems. Principles of “pure Islam” adhered to by Wahhabites and Salafites were most applicable to the environment of early Middle Ages. When one had to overcome tribal conflicts and built a centralized state. The assumption of power in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood did not resolve societal problems, but rather made them worse. ISIS implementation of Islamic state ideas in Iraq and Syria showed how savage the application of Islamic norms can be in the context of 21st Century. The only example of successful functioning of a theocratic state is Iran. But here the overwhelming majority of population are adherents of Shia Islam which is based on the principle of vilayat al-fakih. This principle assumes that the leadership over the Shia is to a certain extent centralized and is being implemented by authoritative and competent Shia clerics whose authority is beyond doubt.

Given the proliferation of ideas and Islamic movements, the question of how (and whether) one can reconcile secular Arab nationalism with Islam, in order to develop the basis for a new national ideology, gains in importance. Or perhaps might it not be better to reject the idea of Arab national state with Islamic leanings?

It may be now is the time for concepts based on national, religious, and territorial principles, which could found the basis of a new political system capable of neutralizing obsolete medieval vestiges of Islam, unify states whose borders were drawn by Western powers without considering local issues, ensure justice among various ethnic and religious groups, stabilize international relations in the region.

One of such movements which might be ready to solve above-mentioned problems is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

Party History and Program

The idea of a Syrian nation within clearly defined borders is not new. In the 19t century the proponents of a Syrian state included Butrus al-Bustani, who believed that a unified Syrian nation ought to form an autonomy within the Ottoman Empire that required reform. His follower Henri Lammens, a prominent Arabist of the late 19th-early 20thcenturies, claimed that Greater Syria existed already in ancient times in the Fertile Crescent. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the establishment of an Arab state became a very real possibility. But the intervention by Western powers in the affairs of former vassals of the Porte and the Sykes-Picot delineation of spheres of responsibility ended plans for creating such a state.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Antoun Saadeh

But the idea did not die, and in 1932 the Lebanese journalist and Christian Antoun Saadeh created the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). It was founded as an anti-colonial and liberation organization. Saadeh rejected language and religion as defining characteristics of the new nation, and instead clamed nations are formed through joint developments of peoples inhabiting a certain geographic area.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SOURCE: Stratfor.com

The Syrian national state, as imagined by the party founder, should cover the Fertile Crescent and the area of current Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Sinai, south-east Turkey (Alexandretta and Cilicia), parts of the Zagros mountains on Lebanese territory, and regions in Saudi Arabia’s north.

According to Saleh, “the aim of the SSNP is a Syrian social renaissance which will accomplish unification and breathe life into the Syrian nation, organizing a movement seeking full independence of the Syrian nation and defense of its sovereignty, creating a new social order to protect its interests and increase its standard of living, seeking to form the Arab Front.”

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

A map of Greater Syria. SOURCE: theweichertreport.com

Its main principles are separation of mosque and state, keeping the clerics from involvement in political and legal processes, removing religious barriers, removing feudal relics from social life, transforming the agrarian economy into an industrial one, protection of worker rights, of national and state interests, and the establishment of strong, effective military.

When it comes to relations with Jews, SSNP is strictly anti-Zonist, since Saadeh believed Jews were unable and unwilling to assimilate. He also criticized assertions that the Jews could be a foundation for a national state. According to SSNP Jews were not a nation because they were a heterogeneous mixture of nations.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SSNP flag. Click to see the full-size image

The party emblem is whirlwind (Arabic “Zawba’a), which according to party members is a fusion of Christian cross and Islamic half-moon. Emblem arms represent freedom, duty, discipline, power. The black backdrop reflects the dark past as part of Ottoman Empire, colonialism, national and religious fragmentation, and backwardness.

Here one needs a caveat to clarify the party’s name and its emblem. There is no similarity between it and the NSDAP. SSNP was formed long before NSDAP. Saadeh visited Axis powers during WW2 and was arrested by French colonial authorities, but released after they couldn’t find evidence of collaboration, and Nazi leaders said they had no dealings with him. He was also in favor of French colonial authorities over Nazi rule.

The creation of Israel in 1948 and its militant, aggressive policies pursued with Western approval caused worry in Arab states. Israel’s actions caused as an attempt to meddle in Arab matters using Jewish hands, and once again redraw the borders. Arab leaders’ incompetence caused their defeat in the 1947-48 war. Saadeh criticized their actions, and in 1949 SSNPR attempted a coup in Lebanon which failed. As a result of collusion between Lebanese and Syrian governments, and with active British intelligence support, Saadeh was executed. The party was delegalized. Prior to the start of the civil war, SSNP attempted another coup in 1961, fought against Arab nationalists. The civil war the party viewed as the consequence of dividing the Syrian nation into separate states. Until the end of the war, SSNP fought alongside Hezbollah against Israeli occupiers and their Lebanese supporters. Only in the early ‘90s did the party become legalized and, starting in 1992, it participates in Lebanese parliamentary elections.

In Syria itself, SSNP was a significant force since independence. But ideological disagreements with the ruling Ba’ath Party and the Syrian Communist Party led to SSNP leaving Syria’s political arena.

Current Situation

In the spring of 2005, SSPN was partly legalized in Syria and allowed an observer in the National Progressive Front which is headed by Ba’ath.

The party viewed the start of anti-government demonstrations as yet another effort to fracture the country along ethno-religious lines. It organized demonstrations in support of the current government. On February 26, 2012 the majority of Syrians supported a referendum that amended the constitution by removing Ba’ath Party from the post of the leading political force, equalizing its status with other parties. This allowed SSNP to fully participate in political struggles. Between March 2012 and May 2014 the party was part of the opposition Ba’ath National Front For Change and Liberation. But in May its leader stated SSNP would leave the National front and support Bashar Assad in presidential elections.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Ali Haidar

The current leader of SSNP in Syria is Ali Haidar, who also the Minister of National Reconciliation in Syria’s government. The party secretary is Joseph Sweid. He also has a ministerial portfolio. In Lebanon, SSNP is headed by Ali Halil Qanso who is also the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs

The party currently is the most numerous political force in Syria, after the ruling Ba’ath, with over 100,000 members. In 2012 elections the party won 4 out of 250 seats in Syria’s parliament, in 2009 Lebanese elections it won 2 seats out of 128.

Here is what Ali Haidar said in an interview with the Al-Mayadin TV channel concerning the civil war in Syria. “Throughout the war, the US headed the anti-Syrian campaign and tried to destroy Syria’s national existence using terrorist groups such as ISIS and an-Nusra. US airstrikes on ISIS terrorists on one hand, and sponsoring and training “opposition” fighters simply amount to replacing uncontrollable terrorism with US-controlled one.” In his view, US regional strategy has not changed. They seek to change Middle East’s political structure to guarantee Israel’s security and legalize its existence. As to reconciliation, Haidar said that it’s not a political tactic but the fate of all Syrians, the result of governmental effort on the national level, even though in some regions of Syria it is encountering resistance due to the presence of foreign mercenaries.

Armed formations and their role in the Syrian war

SSNP’s armed formation is the Nusur al-Zawba’a (Eagles of the Whirlwind). It was formed during the Lebanese civil war in 1974. The main motivating factor for SSNP member participation in the war was the ongoing war against Wahhabism and Israel which supports it, in order to preserve the multicultural and multi-religious Syria. Since 2014, Eagles of the Whirlwind are considered the most effective pro-government force, after the SAA.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size map

Eagles’ strength is eastimated at 6-8 thousand. They operate in Raqqa, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Sweida, Deraa, Deir-ez-Zor, Idlib, Latakia, Jobar, Damascus, East and West Ghouta provinces. They are armed mainly with small arms and improvised armored vehicles. This is due to them fighting mainly in urban confines, where rapid movement is required, every  house is a fortress, and tanks are an easy and sluggish target.

Eagles differ from other formations in that they don’t have a single commander. Each unit has its own commander and each region its administrator. Their names are unknown, only their pseudonyms.

The heaviest fighting experienced by SSNP units took place in northern Latakia, in Salma, Ghamam, and Deir Hanna. This region was strategically important since it is adjacent to Turkey and provides supply and reinforcement routes for an-Nusra. Moreover, controlling this region blocks militant movement into the province and also opens a route for government forces into Idlib.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

Another region where Eagles were active is the al-Ghab plain. This plain runs along western coastal mountains, and is in close proximity to Hama province capital. Controlling the plain creates a buffer zone which is crucial to ensure the security of coastal regions. Next to al-Ghab there are several cities with mainly Christian population, Mahardah and al-Suqaylabiya. Mahardah, in particular was the site of heavy fighting since the start of the war. Since 2015, Islamists launched attacks here nearly every day. The approaches to the city were nominally held by SAA’s 11thDivision. But in the 6 years of war, the unit had practically ceased to exist. The division had under 500 soldiers and officers in March-April 2017. SSNP was able to field about 1500 fighters from among local inhabitants, and only their presence allowed the SAA to hold this important sector.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

The Homs province includes the mostly Christian city of Sadad, which was also a test for SSNP fighters. An-Nusra first took Sadad in October 2013. According to Human Rights Watch, 46 inhabitants, including 14 women and 2 children, were murdered, some of the bodies were dropped into a well, and churches were looted. After intensive clashes, the SAA ejected Islamists from Sadad on October 28, 2013.

Two years later, in October-November 1015, ISIS appeared on Sadad outskirts after capturing nearby Muheen. The city was defended by local population, SAA, and 500 Christian fighters. They were helped by 200 SSNP fighters. Fighting together, they were able to stop ISIS advance.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

The Sadad visit by Syrian Orthodox Church Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem Karim II was an important event. He met with the fighters to raise their morale and take part in funeral rites. The defense of the city is significant because it is one of the few remaining Syrian cities with predominantly Christian population, fighting against a huge number of jihadists.

SSNP units are recruited from among Orthodox Lebanese and Syrian Christians. At first, most of the recruits came from Lebanon, then their number decreased as the number of Syrians grew. One should not think, however, the Eagles consist only of Christians. Muslims and Christians are fighting side by side. This was evident in Sadad fighting, where SSNP units contained many Muslim volunteers. This fact is yet more evidence of the level of support the idea of Syrian state has among its adherents, and SSNP does nto segregate along religious lines.

At present time, due to the large-scale government offensive, Eagles units maintain order in cities liberated from the militants.

The party’s future in Syria’s political life

In order to determine SSNP’s role in Syria’s and Middle East’s political life, one must deal with several difficult to answer questions.

SSNP’s strong aspects. Spring 2011 demonstrations were caused by external factors but also the internal political stagnation. The Ba’ath party has been in power since the early ‘60s. Sooner or later the war will end and Syria will have to make a choice—what political forces will govern the country? Secular and radical Islam have shown its true nature, and there is no return to it. USSR collapsed over 25 years ago. Without its support, there is also no future for a return of socialist parties in the Middle East. Therefore SSNP has a good chance to gain power and show its abilities. By Middle East standards, SSNP is a political veteran. It has a clearly defined program, which it follows. There is an advanced ideology with a future, which is important when no other political force can offer anything new. Seeking dialogue with the ruling party (Ba’ath in Syria) means that in extreme conditions SSNP will not seek confrontatios and is ready to aid its former rival. Participating in the war against Islamic and international terrorism, in deed and not word, gives the party considerable weight and popular support.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

Weak aspects. Since its start, the party has been underground. This is reflected in its low level of participation in legislative activity in Syria and Lebanon, as mentioned earlier. Apart these two countries and Jordan, where SSNP has been active since 2013, the party has no significant presence elsewhere.

Political democratization in post-imperial nation-states, first secular and then religious, meant the transfer of power into the hands of the majority. The question of religious or national minorities was addressed in different ways by various countries but, as a rule, these approaches tended to rely on force. Some nations had to emigrate, others took up arms. Given progressive state weakness and near-universal drive for autonomy, one can draw the conclusion the region is continuing its process of tribalization. Overcoming the remnants of clan and tribal systems and the minorities’ desire for own sovereign states will be very difficult for SSNP. This is further complicated by the persecution of Christians and their mass exodus from Lebanon in the past and Syria right now. But the local Christians were the most opposed to any forms of violence, and represented the intellectual and entrepreneurial elite. They made the party into what it is today: ready for dialogue, to offer a new path of development, to defend own country with force of arms.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SOURCE: RIA

There are also external factors which cloud the future of SSNP. How will regional powers, like Turkey or Israel, react to the appearance of a new actor, the Greater Syria? Will they allow it to appear at all? Will the leaders of countries in SSNP zone of interest be willing to give up own power, population, and territory?

Internal and external factors make SSNP’s future extremely uncertain. The idea of establishing a state on the basis of the common aspects of the people populating the region is still ahead of its time. But even if SSNP fails for some reason, it will represent a big step toward creating a new-model Arab state.

Conclusion

Unlimited nationalism as foundation of state system has sparked a trend toward anarchy and therefore can no longer be used as an effective means of political organization and preserving societal stability. Arab leaders who survived Arab Spring find it difficult to ensure own legitimacy, internal stability, and good relations with more powerful neighbors. Some have left the stage peacefully. Some were forcibly removed. Others are fighting to remain in power. Wars, coups, mass unrest, and outflow of refugees are boosting the trend toward anarchy and threaten not only the Middle East but the whole world. The recent history of Middle Eastern countries contains many examples of struggle between and cross-pollination among religious (pan-Islam, Islamic Modernism) and secular (Pan-Arabism, Arab Nationalism) currents. This trend to a certain extend determined the evolution of the Arab political thought and helped to, up to a certain point, adapt to the ideas borrowed from the West. But as noted above, they were unable to avert the fracturing of the Middle East and address the conflict among ethnic and religious groups. This fracturing is made worse by the arbitrary nature of borders of countries which qualify as Arab. These states control the territory they do largely due to powerful external pressure, and not as a result of internal processes. It means the current system suffers from a delay-fuse bomb planted under it. It may be now is the time to implement new political ideas and to establish a state based on a historic sense of community among people living in a certain area, irrespective of their language, religion, or nationality.

Brotherhood, Wahabism: Two Faces of the Same Coin

 

Apr 13, 2012

قراءة في حديث الرئيس بشار الأسد

صابرين دياب

نوفمبر 21, 2017

حين يتحدّث الرئيس بشار الأسد عن العروبة من دون ورقة، ولا حتى رؤوس أقلام، فذلك أبعد من السياسة بفراسخ، بمعنى أنّ الأمر انتماء وفكر وثقافة، وليس بالأمر الشكلاني قطعاً.

حين كتب ساطع الحصري كتابه المبكر والمميّز «العروبة أولاً»، كان بدون أدنى ريب – يقصد أنّ العروبة نبتٌ سوري صرف، كيف لا، وقد فكَّكت «سايكس – بيكو» الوطن العربي، إلى قطريات، وكانت سورية وحدها التي تمّت تجزئتها من الداخل، حيث اقتطعت منها دويلتان قطريتان لتوابع أعراب، بينما تقرّر اغتصاب جنوب سورية، أيّ فلسطين.

وهكذا، حين تحدّث الرئيس الأسد، في الملتقى العربي لمواجهة الحلف الأميركي الصهيوني الرجعي، ودعم مقاومة الشعب الفلسطيني، والذي عُقد مؤخراً في دمشق، فقد أكد على أنّ المستقبل العتيد هو للعروبة وقيمها النبيلة، ولعلّ حجر الأساس في حديث الأسد بشار، أنّ العروبة حالة حضارية ثقافية، لم تنحصر ولم تحصر نفسها في العرب، بل في جميع الشركاء في الوطن، وهذا تأسيس لمواجهة معسكرين: داخل الوطن وخارجه.

داخل الوطن، موجّهة ضد قيادات الاتجاهات الإقليمية والقُطرية والطائفية، التي أفلتت من اللجام إثر تراجع المدّ العروبي بعد الخمسينيات والستينيات، وأعلنت حرباً لا هوادة فيها ضدّ القومية العربية، سواء بتجلياتها في أنظمة أو قوى سياسية، أو حتى ثقافية شعبية.

وضدّ التيارات المتخارجة او المتغربنة من ليبراليين وحداثيين، وخاصة قيادات إثنية، تثير النعرات «الإثنية والقومية والدينية» سواء في المشرق العربي أو في المغرب العربي، تحت غطاء تسمية «المكوّنات»، زاعمة أنّ القومية العربية شوفينية، وبأنّ تلك المكوّنات لها حق الانفصال.

هذا مع العلم بأنّ أياً من هذه المجموعات، عاجزة عن الحياة والاستمرار بقواها الذاتية، ما يؤكد أنّ المقصود ارتباطها التابع بالغرب الرأسمالي الإمبريالي، الذي يستهدف الأمة العربية منذ قرون، وضدّ أنظمة وقوى الدين السياسي التي قادت العدوان ضدّ سورية، وهي التي قاتلت سورية نيابة عن العدو الغربي وخاصة الأميركي و»الاسرائيلي».

وهذه سابقة هائلة، كرّست ظاهرة الإضرار الذاتي او أبدية الإضرار، وهي قيام عرب بتدمير قطر عربي لصالح الإمبريالية والصهيونية بلا مواربة! ظاهرة هدفها تقويض المشترك القومي، وبالطبع ضدّ مشغلي هذه المجموعات والقوى والاتجاهات، ايّ الإمبريالية والصهيونية. وأكد الاسد، في هذا السياق على عدم ترك الدين أسيراً بأيدي قوى الدين السياسي، بل يجب استرداد الدين فهو عربي وبلغة العرب، بل واسترداد المسيحية والإسلام في مواجهة توظيفهما ضدّ العروبة.

وكان الحديث ضدّ اليسار المعولم، اللاقومي الذي تورّط في مواقف ضدّ الوحدة العربية، مواقف لم يسبر المروّجون لها غور الفكر، الفكر الماركسي الذي لم ينفِ المرحلة القومية بل يؤكد حضورها وكفاحيتها في البلدان المستعمَرة، فما بالك بالمغتصبة!

أما ما يخصّ معسكر الثورة المضادّة ولا سيما الإمبريالية والصهيونية والتوابع العرب الرسميين والثقافيين، فكلّ الحديث ضدّهم..

وأكد الأسد أنّ الجيش السوري، جيش عقائدي، ولم يقصد الرئيس تأكيد المؤكد، أيّ عقائدية الجيش، بل أكَّد على أنّ ما سمّي انتهاء عصر الإيديولوجيا، ليس سوى وهم وزيف، قصدت به أميركا بشكل خاص، موت مختلف العقائد، وبقاء وحدانية الثقافة الرأسمالية الأميركية ووثنية السوق، أي بقاء إيديولوجيا السوق، لذا أكد الرئيس على ضرورة تكريس القومية العربية والاشتراكية، وهذه النقطة تحديداً أو خاصة، إشارة تأسيس لما ستنتهجه سورية لاحقاً، وكأنه يقول: أمامكم معارك مع ظلاميّي الداخل، وضواري الغرب الاستعماري.

أما وسورية تتجه نحو حالة من الراحة ولو النسبية، فقد نبَّه الرئيس ولو تلميحاً، إلى جيوب التقرّحات الرجعية والقُطرية داخل سورية نفسها، والتي تجرّ معها طيبين وبسطاء من السوريين، وراء مقولة أنّ سورية ليست عربية، لأنّ «عرباً» غدروا بها وحاربوا ضدّها، ولا شك في أنّ الرئيس تعمّد التأكيد بأنّ العرب الذين غدروا وخانوا واعتدوا على سورية، هم عرب الأنظمة الحاكمة، وخاصة ما يسمّى «التحالف العربي»، أيّ ممثلي «القومية الحاكمة»، وهي عدوة لدودة للوحدة والقومية، ولو كان هناك مجال لاستفتاء الجماهير العربية، لجعلت من دمشق عاصمة الوطن العربي الموحّد.

لذا نقد الرئيس بل كشف خبث مَن يطالبون بتغيير اسم سورية، من الجمهورية العربية السورية إلى جمهورية سورية! أو إلى سورية الفيدرالية، في تمهيد لتقسيم سورية، ولذا أكد أنّ سورية ستبقى موحّدة ولن يتمّ التهاون مع اقتطاع بوصة واحدة من أرضها.

فضلاً عن السخرية ممن يطالبون بجيش «محترف» غير عقائدي! والجيش المحترف هو مطية لأية سلطة تحكم، محيَّد سياسياً، يمكن أن يكون وطنياً وأن يكون لا وطني، وهو أشبه بحكومات التكنوقراط، التي تضع محفوظاتها العلمية في خدمة سيدها أيّاً كان.

وثمّة جوانب لم يقلها الرئيس مباشرة، لكن قراءتها من بين السطور ليست صعبة، لعلّ أهمّها أنّ التركيز على محورية ومصيرية البعد القومي، هو الردّ المتماسك على الذين يروّجون بأنّ سورية غدت تابعة للجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران، منطلقين من بعد طائفي مقيت، فالتركيز على البعد القومي هو تأكيد على التحالف ونفي للتبعية، وينسحب الأمر نفسه على العلاقة بالاتحاد الروسي من دون ذكر الدولتين في هذا السياق.

بقي أن نقول بأنّ الرئيس، أدار نقداً في العمق من دون حِدَّةٍ، حين اشار إلى أنّ كثيراً من المؤتمرات القومية قد عُقدت في الماضي، وبأن المطلوب اليوم مؤتمرات فعل وشغل، وكأنه يقول بأنّ «القومية الأكاديمية» لا تكفي. وهذا ما لفت انتباه كثير من الشباب، لا سيما السوري والفلسطيني المنشغل في مواجهة المحتلّ والصمود أمام مشاريعه كلها وتحدّيها، ولا مجال أمامه للمشاركة في المؤتمرات، هذا الشباب الذي قرأ رسائل أسد المرحلة وزعيمها في ميادين التحدّي والصمود والعمل.. فقد طمأنهم الأسد بأنّ سورية ستحيا لتحيا فلسطين والأمة.

كاتبة وناشطة فلسطينية

Game of Nations From Sykes-Picot and Balfour to the Arab Spring لعبة الأمم | من سايكس بيكو وبلفور إلى الربيع العربي

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SYRIAN SOCIAL NATIONALIST PARTY, ARAB NATIONALISM AND CONFLICT IN SYRIA

South Front

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

The traditional societies of the Middle East have always been notable for their ethnic and religious diversity. Today, however, the Middle East is on the cusp of a deep schism along ethnic and religious lines. This situation has brought several Muslim Arab states to the brink of collapse, is provoking new difficult to resolve conflicts, and continues to undermine the secular aspect of Arab nationalism to the benefit of strengthening its Islamic component, the replacement of nationalism as such with ultra-religious extremism and ethnic separatism.

An Iraqi Army M1A1M Abrams battle tank destroyed by Kurdish Peshmerga forces during the recently sparked Arab-Kurdish tensions in northern Iraq:

The current range of conflicts, which revolve around the struggle for power and territory, showed their destructive potential. The difficulty in resolving such conflicts is due to their roots in history, which further complicate the search for peace. There is also another, no less important, problem. Most of the current Arab states’ political organizations are based on the principle of nationalism. This is the principle that was used to form the post-Ottoman independent states. Their multi-religious and multi-ethnic nature was also the aftermath of the rather arbitrary drawing of borders during the colonial period.

The Evolution of Arab Nationalism

By the end of the late ‘30s and early ‘40s of the 20th Century, the influence of Islam on Arab nationalist movement began to grow. This was to a large extent due to a deep disappointment on the part of a sizable proportion of liberal secular Arab elites in the “civilizing” mission of the secular and enlightened West. As a result of Middle East policies of Western powers, Arabs were not able to establish a single state. Their lands were arbitrarily divided between Great Britain and France, the newly founded states became colonial dependencies. Simultaneously, Western powers actively supported the creation of a national Jewish nucleus in the Palestine, which only worsened the already tense situation.

After WW2, this process continued, receiving its expression in the concept of urub, or the spirit of Arab national consciousness, in order to strengthen the ties between Arab nationalism and Islam. The struggle over the future course of political development that raged in Arab states in the 1950s and ‘60s in the context of establishing independent states and modern societies brought to power secular Arab nationalists (Ba’athists, Naserites), who tried to pursue development using socialist ideas.

In spite of that, the Islamist trend within Arab nationalism did not vanish but merely receded. Even the most progressive and secular Arab leaders were forced to seek legitimacy in adherence to Islam and respect the interests of religiously active parts of society when forming own base of support.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad (portrait) wave Baath Party flags during a pro-government rally in Damascus. FILE IMAGE: Louai Beshara – AFP

The lack of a charismatic mainstream leader with regional appeal capable of offering a pan-Arab model of secular development respecting the interests of the Arab Muslim majority, the rights and desires of national and religious minorities, and attract regional elites and the broad masses, caused Arab leaders to encounter problems in the early 21st century. The long-serving leaders were  concerned continuity of their political course, in order to guarantee their own interests were preserved. Young Arab leaders inherited power from their fathers. This was achieved through intra-elite compromise, achieved not so much through free agreement or a democratic choice, but rather through clever intrigues and strong-arm tactics used to neutralize possible competition. Therefore the young leaders were forced to mostly worry about forming their own governing team, balancing between various power centers and regularly proving their legitimacy and the ability to govern the state to both domestic and international actors.

In the 1990s and early ‘00s, economic problems and the desire to demonstrate pro-democracy leanings led some Arab leaders to strengthen own legitimacy through elections. But the main winners of this liberalization were Islamist political movements, whose adherence to Western democratic norms was dubious.

As an alternative to hereditary power transfer, a whole range of moderate Islamic movements (for example, Tunisian An-Nahda Islamic party led by Rached Ghannouchi) entered the fray with the aim of democratizing Islam. They called for a “democratic Islamic state” within the existing borders. They also favored renouncing violence as a means of political struggle, condemned terrorism, supported the principle of open parliamentary elections, questioned the idea of divinity of authority, supported democratic power transition procedures, and also spoke in favor of expanding the role of women in the traditional Islamic society while in general actively promoting human rights.

But here the reformers of Islam ran into a problem. There were and are too few supporters of democratic Islam in the strongly traditional Arab society. And one can readily say the society is not ready for them. Can one seriously view the ideologues of moderate Islam the pioneers of democracy in the Arab world? Can a democratic Islamic state ensure political and religious pluralism, which is one of the fundamental aspects of democracy? How does one reconcile the norms of Sharia with human rights in the way they are understood in the West? To what extent can women’s rights be expanded? They could not answer these questions, and therefore the political fray was joined by supporters of Islamic fundamentalism who called for a return to the sources of Islam and build a modern society on this foundation.

Modern Islamic fundamentalism was formed as a reaction to such secular ideologies as liberalism, Marxism, and nationalism. For Muslim fundamentalists, an Islamic state was an ideological state, expanding its authority into every aspect of human life. It would control social, political, economic, and even cultural interactions. Sovereignty in such a state belongs to God, which in practical terms means Sharia law. Fundamentalists spoke in favor of democratic elections not for the sake of establishing democracy or individual freedoms, but in order to establish the rule of Islam. And when fundamentalist theorists touched upon the question of democracy, they were not talking about its compatibility or incompatibility with Islam, but about how difficult it was to reconcile Western democratic principles with Islamic governance that could only be based on the revealed laws of Islam—Sharia.

But even here there were problems. Principles of “pure Islam” adhered to by Wahhabites and Salafites were most applicable to the environment of early Middle Ages. When one had to overcome tribal conflicts and built a centralized state. The assumption of power in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood did not resolve societal problems, but rather made them worse. ISIS implementation of Islamic state ideas in Iraq and Syria showed how savage the application of Islamic norms can be in the context of 21st Century. The only example of successful functioning of a theocratic state is Iran. But here the overwhelming majority of population are adherents of Shia Islam which is based on the principle of vilayat al-fakih. This principle assumes that the leadership over the Shia is to a certain extent centralized and is being implemented by authoritative and competent Shia clerics whose authority is beyond doubt.

Given the proliferation of ideas and Islamic movements, the question of how (and whether) one can reconcile secular Arab nationalism with Islam, in order to develop the basis for a new national ideology, gains in importance. Or perhaps might it not be better to reject the idea of Arab national state with Islamic leanings?

It may be now is the time for concepts based on national, religious, and territorial principles, which could found the basis of a new political system capable of neutralizing obsolete medieval vestiges of Islam, unify states whose borders were drawn by Western powers without considering local issues, ensure justice among various ethnic and religious groups, stabilize international relations in the region.

One of such movements which might be ready to solve above-mentioned problems is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

Party History and Program

The idea of a Syrian nation within clearly defined borders is not new. In the 19t century the proponents of a Syrian state included Butrus al-Bustani, who believed that a unified Syrian nation ought to form an autonomy within the Ottoman Empire that required reform. His follower Henri Lammens, a prominent Arabist of the late 19th-early 20thcenturies, claimed that Greater Syria existed already in ancient times in the Fertile Crescent. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the establishment of an Arab state became a very real possibility. But the intervention by Western powers in the affairs of former vassals of the Porte and the Sykes-Picot delineation of spheres of responsibility ended plans for creating such a state.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Antoun Saadeh

But the idea did not die, and in 1932 the Lebanese journalist and Christian Antoun Saadeh created the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). It was founded as an anti-colonial and liberation organization. Saadeh rejected language and religion as defining characteristics of the new nation, and instead clamed nations are formed through joint developments of peoples inhabiting a certain geographic area.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SOURCE: Stratfor.com

The Syrian national state, as imagined by the party founder, should cover the Fertile Crescent and the area of current Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Sinai, south-east Turkey (Alexandretta and Cilicia), parts of the Zagros mountains on Lebanese territory, and regions in Saudi Arabia’s north.

According to Saleh, “the aim of the SSNP is a Syrian social renaissance which will accomplish unification and breathe life into the Syrian nation, organizing a movement seeking full independence of the Syrian nation and defense of its sovereignty, creating a new social order to protect its interests and increase its standard of living, seeking to form the Arab Front.”

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

A map of Greater Syria. SOURCE: theweichertreport.com

Its main principles are separation of mosque and state, keeping the clerics from involvement in political and legal processes, removing religious barriers, removing feudal relics from social life, transforming the agrarian economy into an industrial one, protection of worker rights, of national and state interests, and the establishment of strong, effective military.

When it comes to relations with Jews, SSNP is strictly anti-Zonist, since Saadeh believed Jews were unable and unwilling to assimilate. He also criticized assertions that the Jews could be a foundation for a national state. According to SSNP Jews were not a nation because they were a heterogeneous mixture of nations.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SSNP flag. Click to see the full-size image

The party emblem is whirlwind (Arabic “Zawba’a), which according to party members is a fusion of Christian cross and Islamic half-moon. Emblem arms represent freedom, duty, discipline, power. The black backdrop reflects the dark past as part of Ottoman Empire, colonialism, national and religious fragmentation, and backwardness.

Here one needs a caveat to clarify the party’s name and its emblem. There is no similarity between it and the NSDAP. SSNP was formed long before NSDAP. Saadeh visited Axis powers during WW2 and was arrested by French colonial authorities, but released after they couldn’t find evidence of collaboration, and Nazi leaders said they had no dealings with him. He was also in favor of French colonial authorities over Nazi rule.

The creation of Israel in 1948 and its militant, aggressive policies pursued with Western approval caused worry in Arab states. Israel’s actions caused as an attempt to meddle in Arab matters using Jewish hands, and once again redraw the borders. Arab leaders’ incompetence caused their defeat in the 1947-48 war. Saadeh criticized their actions, and in 1949 SSNPR attempted a coup in Lebanon which failed. As a result of collusion between Lebanese and Syrian governments, and with active British intelligence support, Saadeh was executed. The party was delegalized. Prior to the start of the civil war, SSNP attempted another coup in 1961, fought against Arab nationalists. The civil war the party viewed as the consequence of dividing the Syrian nation into separate states. Until the end of the war, SSNP fought alongside Hezbollah against Israeli occupiers and their Lebanese supporters. Only in the early ‘90s did the party become legalized and, starting in 1992, it participates in Lebanese parliamentary elections.

In Syria itself, SSNP was a significant force since independence. But ideological disagreements with the ruling Ba’ath Party and the Syrian Communist Party led to SSNP leaving Syria’s political arena.

Current Situation

In the spring of 2005, SSPN was partly legalized in Syria and allowed an observer in the National Progressive Front which is headed by Ba’ath.

The party viewed the start of anti-government demonstrations as yet another effort to fracture the country along ethno-religious lines. It organized demonstrations in support of the current government. On February 26, 2012 the majority of Syrians supported a referendum that amended the constitution by removing Ba’ath Party from the post of the leading political force, equalizing its status with other parties. This allowed SSNP to fully participate in political struggles. Between March 2012 and May 2014 the party was part of the opposition Ba’ath National Front For Change and Liberation. But in May its leader stated SSNP would leave the National front and support Bashar Assad in presidential elections.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Ali Haidar

The current leader of SSNP in Syria is Ali Haidar, who also the Minister of National Reconciliation in Syria’s government. The party secretary is Joseph Sweid. He also has a ministerial portfolio. In Lebanon, SSNP is headed by Ali Halil Qanso who is also the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs

The party currently is the most numerous political force in Syria, after the ruling Ba’ath, with over 100,000 members. In 2012 elections the party won 4 out of 250 seats in Syria’s parliament, in 2009 Lebanese elections it won 2 seats out of 128.

Here is what Ali Haidar said in an interview with the Al-Mayadin TV channel concerning the civil war in Syria. “Throughout the war, the US headed the anti-Syrian campaign and tried to destroy Syria’s national existence using terrorist groups such as ISIS and an-Nusra. US airstrikes on ISIS terrorists on one hand, and sponsoring and training “opposition” fighters simply amount to replacing uncontrollable terrorism with US-controlled one.” In his view, US regional strategy has not changed. They seek to change Middle East’s political structure to guarantee Israel’s security and legalize its existence. As to reconciliation, Haidar said that it’s not a political tactic but the fate of all Syrians, the result of governmental effort on the national level, even though in some regions of Syria it is encountering resistance due to the presence of foreign mercenaries.

Armed formations and their role in the Syrian war

SSNP’s armed formation is the Nusur al-Zawba’a (Eagles of the Whirlwind). It was formed during the Lebanese civil war in 1974. The main motivating factor for SSNP member participation in the war was the ongoing war against Wahhabism and Israel which supports it, in order to preserve the multicultural and multi-religious Syria. Since 2014, Eagles of the Whirlwind are considered the most effective pro-government force, after the SAA.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size map

Eagles’ strength is eastimated at 6-8 thousand. They operate in Raqqa, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Sweida, Deraa, Deir-ez-Zor, Idlib, Latakia, Jobar, Damascus, East and West Ghouta provinces. They are armed mainly with small arms and improvised armored vehicles. This is due to them fighting mainly in urban confines, where rapid movement is required, every  house is a fortress, and tanks are an easy and sluggish target.

Eagles differ from other formations in that they don’t have a single commander. Each unit has its own commander and each region its administrator. Their names are unknown, only their pseudonyms.

The heaviest fighting experienced by SSNP units took place in northern Latakia, in Salma, Ghamam, and Deir Hanna. This region was strategically important since it is adjacent to Turkey and provides supply and reinforcement routes for an-Nusra. Moreover, controlling this region blocks militant movement into the province and also opens a route for government forces into Idlib.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

Another region where Eagles were active is the al-Ghab plain. This plain runs along western coastal mountains, and is in close proximity to Hama province capital. Controlling the plain creates a buffer zone which is crucial to ensure the security of coastal regions. Next to al-Ghab there are several cities with mainly Christian population, Mahardah and al-Suqaylabiya. Mahardah, in particular was the site of heavy fighting since the start of the war. Since 2015, Islamists launched attacks here nearly every day. The approaches to the city were nominally held by SAA’s 11thDivision. But in the 6 years of war, the unit had practically ceased to exist. The division had under 500 soldiers and officers in March-April 2017. SSNP was able to field about 1500 fighters from among local inhabitants, and only their presence allowed the SAA to hold this important sector.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

The Homs province includes the mostly Christian city of Sadad, which was also a test for SSNP fighters. An-Nusra first took Sadad in October 2013. According to Human Rights Watch, 46 inhabitants, including 14 women and 2 children, were murdered, some of the bodies were dropped into a well, and churches were looted. After intensive clashes, the SAA ejected Islamists from Sadad on October 28, 2013.

Two years later, in October-November 1015, ISIS appeared on Sadad outskirts after capturing nearby Muheen. The city was defended by local population, SAA, and 500 Christian fighters. They were helped by 200 SSNP fighters. Fighting together, they were able to stop ISIS advance.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Click to see the full-size image

The Sadad visit by Syrian Orthodox Church Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem Karim II was an important event. He met with the fighters to raise their morale and take part in funeral rites. The defense of the city is significant because it is one of the few remaining Syrian cities with predominantly Christian population, fighting against a huge number of jihadists.

SSNP units are recruited from among Orthodox Lebanese and Syrian Christians. At first, most of the recruits came from Lebanon, then their number decreased as the number of Syrians grew. One should not think, however, the Eagles consist only of Christians. Muslims and Christians are fighting side by side. This was evident in Sadad fighting, where SSNP units contained many Muslim volunteers. This fact is yet more evidence of the level of support the idea of Syrian state has among its adherents, and SSNP does nto segregate along religious lines.

At present time, due to the large-scale government offensive, Eagles units maintain order in cities liberated from the militants.

The party’s future in Syria’s political life

In order to determine SSNP’s role in Syria’s and Middle East’s political life, one must deal with several difficult to answer questions.

SSNP’s strong aspects. Spring 2011 demonstrations were caused by external factors but also the internal political stagnation. The Ba’ath party has been in power since the early ‘60s. Sooner or later the war will end and Syria will have to make a choice—what political forces will govern the country? Secular and radical Islam have shown its true nature, and there is no return to it. USSR collapsed over 25 years ago. Without its support, there is also no future for a return of socialist parties in the Middle East. Therefore SSNP has a good chance to gain power and show its abilities. By Middle East standards, SSNP is a political veteran. It has a clearly defined program, which it follows. There is an advanced ideology with a future, which is important when no other political force can offer anything new. Seeking dialogue with the ruling party (Ba’ath in Syria) means that in extreme conditions SSNP will not seek confrontatios and is ready to aid its former rival. Participating in the war against Islamic and international terrorism, in deed and not word, gives the party considerable weight and popular support.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

Weak aspects. Since its start, the party has been underground. This is reflected in its low level of participation in legislative activity in Syria and Lebanon, as mentioned earlier. Apart these two countries and Jordan, where SSNP has been active since 2013, the party has no significant presence elsewhere.

Political democratization in post-imperial nation-states, first secular and then religious, meant the transfer of power into the hands of the majority. The question of religious or national minorities was addressed in different ways by various countries but, as a rule, these approaches tended to rely on force. Some nations had to emigrate, others took up arms. Given progressive state weakness and near-universal drive for autonomy, one can draw the conclusion the region is continuing its process of tribalization. Overcoming the remnants of clan and tribal systems and the minorities’ desire for own sovereign states will be very difficult for SSNP. This is further complicated by the persecution of Christians and their mass exodus from Lebanon in the past and Syria right now. But the local Christians were the most opposed to any forms of violence, and represented the intellectual and entrepreneurial elite. They made the party into what it is today: ready for dialogue, to offer a new path of development, to defend own country with force of arms.

Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Arab Nationalism And Conflict In Syria

SOURCE: RIA

There are also external factors which cloud the future of SSNP. How will regional powers, like Turkey or Israel, react to the appearance of a new actor, the Greater Syria? Will they allow it to appear at all? Will the leaders of countries in SSNP zone of interest be willing to give up own power, population, and territory?

Internal and external factors make SSNP’s future extremely uncertain. The idea of establishing a state on the basis of the common aspects of the people populating the region is still ahead of its time. But even if SSNP fails for some reason, it will represent a big step toward creating a new-model Arab state.

Conclusion

Unlimited nationalism as foundation of state system has sparked a trend toward anarchy and therefore can no longer be used as an effective means of political organization and preserving societal stability. Arab leaders who survived Arab Spring find it difficult to ensure own legitimacy, internal stability, and good relations with more powerful neighbors. Some have left the stage peacefully. Some were forcibly removed. Others are fighting to remain in power. Wars, coups, mass unrest, and outflow of refugees are boosting the trend toward anarchy and threaten not only the Middle East but the whole world. The recent history of Middle Eastern countries contains many examples of struggle between and cross-pollination among religious (pan-Islam, Islamic Modernism) and secular (Pan-Arabism, Arab Nationalism) currents. This trend to a certain extend determined the evolution of the Arab political thought and helped to, up to a certain point, adapt to the ideas borrowed from the West. But as noted above, they were unable to avert the fracturing of the Middle East and address the conflict among ethnic and religious groups. This fracturing is made worse by the arbitrary nature of borders of countries which qualify as Arab. These states control the territory they do largely due to powerful external pressure, and not as a result of internal processes. It means the current system suffers from a delay-fuse bomb planted under it. It may be now is the time to implement new political ideas and to establish a state based on a historic sense of community among people living in a certain area, irrespective of their language, religion, or nationality.

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