A Wake Up Call to Supporters of the Syrian Uprising
June 19, 2011
The Syrian uprising is taking a turn, one that is highly predictable and foreseeable by those who know the history and the politics of the area.
I have written a number of articles about this subject and they can all be seen on my wall. They are titled:
The Anti-Syrian Cocktail
The Anti-Syrian Vendetta
The Anti-Syrian Politics
I have received a number of comments about those articles. Some readers discarded them completely and regarded them as pro-Assad propaganda, others have endorsed them fully, and a third group of people considered them as being informative.
It is information that is the objective here. People outside that part of the world have a very little understanding of it. And invariably, this little understanding can result in making uniformed views.
The main concern is that the genuine demands in Syria for liberalisation and democracy are getting hijacked by fundamentalists and their agenda. The other concern is the uprising changing course and turning into a sectarian bloodbath.
In reading the above-mentioned articles, the above concerns and the reasons behind having them are clearly elaborated.
Sadly, there has been a recent development in Lebanon which does not even make it to the news. It is a development that clearly demonstrates that the issues raised in those articles are not a figment of the writer’s imagination.
There has been a military clash in Tripoli (the second largest city in Lebanon) between the Salafists and the Alawites.
So once again, let us look at the recent history and the local politics to understand how significant this escalation is.
Tripoli has been a secular city for centuries despite its Sunni majority. Apart from Sunnis, it is home for Orthodox Christians, Maronite Christians, and Alawites. Up till recently, it also had some Jewish population.
In the 1980’s and during the Civil War, Tripoli fell under the control of Sunni fundamentalists (Tawhid ). As a result, Tripoli turned into a city like Kandahar under the Taliban and most of its Christian population fled away. Even though those fundamentalists were driven out of the city in 1984 by the Syrian army, the city remained under the control of fundamentalism.
The Salafists do not regard Lebanese Alawites as Lebanese citiziens, they see them as an extension of Basshar Assad (an Alawite himself) and are therefore classified as enemy number one. They did not rise to prominence in Lebanon until the Syrian army left in 2005. They needed a home base and headquarters. Tripoli has a Sunni majority and its population has been accustomed to fundamentalist control. With its location in North Lebanon, it is far from the Hezbollah-controlled areas (which are in the south and south-west), and most of all, it has virtually the only city in Lebanon with an Alawite enclave that it can use to taunt and threaten Syria with.
Since then, and despite the relative peace and quiet in the rest of Lebanon, every time Hariri wanted to send a message to Assad, he asked his Salafist henchmen to intimidate the Alawites in Tripoli. That highly impoverished section of Tripoli became the pilot light that never goes out. Up till last week, the last clash was in mid 2008 in response to the Hezbollah-Hariri stand-off and was about internal Lebanese politics.
It goes without saying, the Salafists make themselves appear like the victims. All they want to show the world is the devastation that the random shelling of the Alawites is inflicting upon the city. However, it does not take a genius to see that the Alwaite are a tiny minority group that is virtually besieged from all corners and highly outnumbered and outgunned. They cannot afford to intimidate, even if they wanted to. Any intimidation would cost them very dearly.
Just a few days ago, there was an anti-Assad protest in Tripoli. The protest took place in Bab Al-Tebbaneh, the Sunni area adjacent to Jabal Mohsen which is the Alawites area. The only possible reason for choosing this location is intimidation. Tripoli is a fairly large city and the protesters could have chosen another location that would not lead to any consequences.
In brief, the protest turned into a military escalation. The usual scenario is that the Sunnis intimidate the Alawites, the intimidation escalates, it turns into shelling, and eventually the Alawites defend themselves by random shelling Sunni areas to force the fundamentalists into ceasefire. This is exactly what happened a few days ago. The clash left seven dead, including a child, and tens wounded. “Future TV”, owned and financed by Hariri the Salafists’ benefactor, blamed the Alawites for starting the clash.
This incident is not only the result of the Syrian uprising, but also a pretext of what fundamentalists are planning for Syria. It is not at all surprising. It is further evidence that there is an element within the so-called Syrian revolution with one agenda only; a sectarian agenda that is manned by Sunni fundamentalists with an anti-Alawite objective.
This agenda has got nothing at all do with reform in Syria, nor does it have anything to do with installing democracy, a multi-party system, freedom of speech, and any of the slogans that easily buy the attention and support of the West.