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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Middle-East - The Burning Ember of Hatred - Part 2

Bashir al-Assad

Bashir al-Assad Government
Bashir al-Assad (also spelt as Bashar) inherited the government from his father, Hafez al-Assad, from the Alawite clan.

Hafez al-Assad 

Hafez al-Assad formed part of the Pan-Arab anti-Israeli forces together with Egypt, Libya, Jordan.

Secular Baathist Party
Politically, they profess secular political leaning similar to Iraq, as both countries were under Baathist rule. 

There were initially plans to reunite both Iraq and Syria under secular Baathist rule, but this was foiled as Iraq was unhappy that Syrian President Hafez al-Assad had accepted a UN-sponsored peace treaty with Israel.

This was made worse with revelation that Syria had tried to force a regime change in Iraq. That attempt later put paid to any reunification plans for both countries. (Both Iraq and Syria were previously part of Ottoman Empire which was split up by the British and French in the Sykes - Picot Agreement at the end of World War 1).

The Syrian failed attempt to force a regime change in Iraq had probably pushed Damascus to realign itself together with Iran during Iran - Iraq war. This relationship later solidified with both Iran and Syria working together in Lebanon in training and helping out Hezbollah.

Gulf War
During the Gulf War, Syria became designated escape route for Allied airmen shot down over Iraqi airspace and for Special Forces members. At least 1 known escapee made it to Syria, Colin Amstrong who is better known as Chris Ryan.

Relationship with Israel
Despite accepting the peace agreement with Israel in the 70's after the Yom Kippur War, the failure to regain Golan Height continued to bug Syria. This together with the fact that Syrian military was able to face Israeli military made Syria a formidable opposition to Israel.

Secular Stand
Hafez al-Assad earned the ire from religious groups in Syria when he had constitutionally removed the requirement for the president to profess any particular religion or faith. This brought Syria in a constant insurgencies with several religious-based organisations.

Hafez al-Assad passed away on 10th June 2000, but not before solidifying and passing the reign to Bashar.

Bashar started out as a promising leader for his country. He made promises of decentralising power from himself and to allow more freedom of speech.

However, protesters felt that the progress was too slow or rather insincere. It took 11 years from the death of Hafez till the eruption of Syrian Civil War.

The current Syrian civil war erupted when protesters to the Bashar al-Assad regime were deemed the that there was no true progress to his promise to decentralise power from himself.

The key trigger to the event were the arrest and torture of several youths who were arrested for painting anti-government slogans in the city of Deraa. Protest ensued, and it was believed the government forces took extreme measure, shooting and killing several protesters.

Sectarian Touch
By large, the conflict in Syria is an ideological struggle between the ruling class headed by Assad versus man on the street.

As Assad's ruling class includes all major religious groups, you'll find Sunni, Shiah, Alawite and Druze in his forces.

Similar too with FSA. A very diverse group of people brought together with a common goal of bringing down a ruling class which had denied political emancipation to a large part of Syria.

However, with involvement of Daish, Jahbat al-Nusra and volunteer forces from Iran, the conflict began to gain sectarian touch.

Who started and twisted it into a sectarian war is unknown and unclear.

Daish and Jahbat al-Nusra for example, frequently took opportunity of using videos obtained purportedly from captured Shiah volunteers showing tortures of Sunni population, as a rallying call.

Usage of Chemical Weapons
The first instance of chemical weapons were used was in outskirts of Damascus in August 2013.

Goutha Attack

An estimate of 281 to 1,729 deaths were recorded when Sarin gas was released in the town of Goutha.

The possible international retaliation forced Bashir to destroy all chemical weapons in the Syrian Army inventory.

While the weapons were believed to be destroyed under international monitoring, there were on-going claims that chlorine gas were used in further attacks in rebel areas.

Then, Khan Sheikun happened. More than 80 people died in the 4th April attack.
To-date, Syrian government confirmed they had conducted the air raid, but denied using the banned substance.

To be continued...

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