Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"BEFORE" OR "AFTER" By Ghassan Kadi 18 February 2014


Ghassan Kadi
18 February 2014

Less than 24 hours after September 11, I called a friend of mine who lived in Manhattan. At that time, no one had yet been allowed anywhere near Ground Zero and the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq had not yet happened and not even September 11was called September 11. Yet, the event was clearly a huge one, and during the conversation, with clarity, I remember saying to my friend that this day will be marked in history as a turning point and that in the future, we will be referring to events in terms of being “before or after”.

Today, we often hear and use the term “before September 11” and “after September 11” without stopping twice to think that it was only a few minutes that changed the world.

Today also, we are witnessing another history-changing event. It is not one of such short duration, but its outcome, either way, is going to have an effect that will change history.

Ironically, we do not refer to the Levant today as “the Levant of after Sykes-Picot”; but in reality it is. Little has changed since the winners of WWI (ie British and French) divided the spoils of the war and partitioned the Levant. Even an event as big as the inception of Israel did not in effect change that formula and/or the borders of the newly created states of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.

But this post Sykes-Picot formula is likely to change. It will change once we start talking about “before” or  “after the war against Syria”. Historically, Syria has been under attack by many nations over the centuries, but apart from the Crusaders, there has never been a time during which Syria/the Levant has been under such a Biblical onslaught. This is utterly unprecedented.

As the struggle is becoming more and more transparent for those who were refusing to see it in the beginning, the most obvious facet of this war is that it is a war between fundamentalist Islamism and secular nationalism. Divides of this nature are often least spoken about in most nations. They get ignored and shoved away in fear of creating tension and divisions. Even in the United States itself, the schism between the ultra-Right religious fundamentalists and the liberal sector of the community is not one that anyone wants to bring out to the open. The divide will continue and fester, and it may never have a total blowout.

In Syria however, the gloves are off and it is already an all-out war. Reportedly over 140 thousand people have already been killed and more to come. A vicious war of this extent cannot and will not end with half measures and resolutions that are meant to be politically-correct.

This is a war that will have clear edge decisive endings. There will be outright winners and outright losers.

If the fundamentalists win, they will not stop at Syria. They will be unstoppable; they will want to overtake Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. One of their organizations already calls itself ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). They have already declared what is their agenda is and what they will do to the current Sykes-Picot borders.
Fundamentalist Islamic movements have been on the move for a few decades now. Their ultimate objective is to turn the whole world to Sharia law. If they capture Syria, the rest of the Levant will fall like chess tokens, and the rest of the Islamic World will eventually follow suit.

Their win in the Levant will fuel similar actions in the whole Islamic World all the way from Morocco to Indonesia, those states which will be under threat of being overtaken by revolutions seeking the establishment of Sharia law.
This is a critical time for Islamic fundamentalism; it will either gain momentum after the war against Syria or it will be stifled.

On the other hand, the liberal voices in the Levant have been feeling the threats of the Islamists for decades, and for all those decades they played the diplomatic game that American liberals are now playing with the TEA party. But should the Syrian liberals win, they will want to make sure that they have obliterated fundamentalism from its core. There will be no half measures, no diplomacy, and no holy shrines for the Islamists to hide within.

Syria will not be able to live in peace if it kicks them out of its own borders only. They will have to be chased up in Lebanon. Syrian troops will have to enter Lebanon invited or otherwise kissing the Sykes-Picot accord goodbye. With the aid of Hezbollah and Lebanese liberals, the Islamists will have to be crushed in Lebanon. The same will apply to Jordan and Iraq. The Islamists will have no place to hide in except Saudi Arabia, and the tide will change against their favour in the rest of the Islamic World.
If this leads to an all-out war between Syria and Saudi Arabia, then Syria will have no option but to keep chasing them up even if it had to crush them in their final resort, the Shrine of Mecca.

No one can foresee the future, and the above scenario may remain totally hypothetical. That said, there is little doubt that the outcome of the war will be decisive and that we will be talking about the course of history in terms of “before” or “after the war against Syria”.

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