29/05/2013

The Syrian crisis: a catalyst to all regional crises

By Antonin Grégoire, translated from French by Amal El Gharbi

« Extension of the Syrian crisis in Lebanon, » « increasing risk of regional war, » « conflagration in the Middle East », « open war between Sunnis and Shiites, » « possibility of the emergence of an Alawite state as a haven for Assad » …

Persistent and emerging ideas in the opinion that set the mind of the analyst in such a way  that he no longer has the option not to mention, not to go to them, not to be his. The axiom of the risk of a general conflagration in the Middle East becomes, then, the top of the mountain that the analyst must climb. He is free to choose its catchment: geopolitics, with thoughtful calculations of power game leading to the same conclusion, cultural and religious, which leads to the essential difference between Shiites and Sunnis, with a historical litany of wars and conflicts in the region … But the conclusion remains the same: the Middle East with the Syrian crisis goes to the general confrontation of all against all.

And yet, such a thing never happened in the Middle East. Frequently in Europe, but never in the Middle East. Conflicts are very localized and difficult to reach the regional level. Everyone participates, but everyone agrees that the battlefield does not extend. Neither the Palestinian issue nor any of the two world wars have managed to overcome this rule: there is no regional conflict in the Middle East. And for now, the « crisis » does not extend, but the reverse. It is in Syria that are Israeli strikes, promised on Iran, strike, in Syria that Hezbollah’s weapons are used, in Syria that Iran defends its nuclear, again in  Syria that Putin plays his influence, and in Syria that chemical weapons are used. Actually, this is not the « Syrian crisis » that extends to Lebanon, but the Lebanese crisis that is seeping in Syria.

The argument of the Syrian crisis extending to Lebanon is quite convenient in a country accustomed to make the foreigner responsible for its problems. The increase in Syrian refugees is a problem in Lebanon because the Lebanese society is deeply racist; the owners do not hesitate to blow up the rents, housing whole families in small rooms, because there is no government, and because crime increases. The reason for being of Hezbollah’s weapons is not a Syrian problem. It is a Lebanese problem that occurs in Syria. The rise of the Salafists is not due to what is euphemistically called the Syrian « crisis. » It is due to the fact that Saad Hariri has decided to remain the leader of the opposition and the current moderate Sunni exile but that created a political vacuum, in which engulfed the Asir Sheikhs encouraging to … Jihad in Syria.

The Arab Revolution is a historical force that threatens regional balance. It is not intended to question in favor of a new equilibrium, but to overthrow completely and fundamentally. Accordingly, it is the regional balance that completely and fundamentally fights against the revolution. Surrounding countries and the international community, have the same interest to perpetuate this balance, to protect or reproduce it. Balance between Shiites and Sunnis, between Iran and Israel, between Hezbollah and the Israeli army, between area of Iranian influence and Saudi influence, between Moscow and Washington, between the United States and Al Qaeda, between East and West, between « imperialism » and « anti-imperialism ». This balance, always described as delicate, as an integrated and protected system by all regional and international actors and with a cultural hegemony that can be called Orientalism. Besides, it is this system (Nizaam) that wants to overthrow the Arab Revolution by its slogan (Ashaab yurid iskhat al nizam – the people want the fall of the regime). This idea, that we take from the historian Jean-Pierre Filiu, is certainly more elaborated to understand what is playing right now in the Middle East: not a « regional imbalance » or a « threat to stability », but a complete reversal of the system of balance and stability based on colonialism, oppression and dictatorship, fear of Islam, religious divisions and geopolitical calculations.

Finally, it is to perpetuate the system that Bashar al-Assad is killing his people today. It is to maintain this balance that Putin, Iran and Hezbollah are helping the Syrian president. Moreover, it is the fear that this system is reversed which prevents France or the United States to deliver weapons to the Revolution, too easily confused with Al Qaeda. The common idea, as well as to those who supply weapons to Bashar al-Assad and those who remain reluctant to engage the rebels, is the following: there is no revolution in Syria, but only Islamist fanatic Arabs fighting bloody Arab dictators. The balance between the two must continue to persist regardless of the price.