THE BLOG
21/11/2013 06:36 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

The Stakes Involved in Syria as the Conflict Shows No End In Sight

The Syrian government is embroiled in a brutal conflict against a polyglot insurgency - the best armed, funded, and equipped component of which are Sunni jihadists and Salafists intent on turning the country into a killing field. If they succeed then Syria as a secular, sovereign state in which women's rights, the rights of minorities, and any scintilla of modernity will be no more, plunging the country into an abyss of barbarism akin to that which engulfed Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul in 1992.

Should a similar fate befall it, Syria's destruction would have dire consequences for the region, especially considering the instability that has plagued it on the back of an Arab Spring that is now an Arab Winter, largely due to the West's distorting influence and intervention in the region. At present three interlinked struggles are taking place - an atavistic religious war unleashed by Sunni fundamentalists against Shia communities in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria; a conflict between secularism and Islamism; and a struggle for regional hegemony as the West's allies and proxies - Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Israel - attempt to isolate and neuter Iran. Part of this process involves toppling the Assad government and destroying Hezbollah, which together with Iran constitute three pillars of resistance to the aforementioned constellation of western allies and proxies.

Meanwhile, on a geopolitical level, Russia and to a lesser extent China's support for Iran and Syria is part of a struggle against the West's objective of maintaining Washington's writ as leader of a unipolar world against a multipolar alternative in which Russia, China and the other BRIC group of developing economies enjoy parity.

The stakes involved in the Syrian conflict, therefore, could not be higher.

Over the two and a half years of its duration over 100,000 people have been killed and millions more have crossed Syria's borders into Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, precipitating the worst refugee crisis the world has seen since the end of the Second World War. Moreover an upsurge in suicide bombings in Iraq and in Lebanon - the latest a double suicide bomb attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut - reveals that not only Syria but its neighbours are also facing the same existential threat posed by Sunni extremism.

There is no revolution taking place in Syria. What is unfolding is a foreign funded insurgency which includes thousands of Sunni militants from outwith its borders. Yet what should not be forgotten when it comes to the role of Sunni extremism is that the majority of Sunnis in Syria continue to support Assad and his government. Sunnis make up the bulk of the Syrian Arab Army and many of its officers, while Assad's wife is a Sunnis.

The role of the West in the conflict, which came close to unleashing a disastrous military strike against the country in response to the deployment of chemical weapons in the eastern suburb of Ghouta in Damascus back in August - alleged by Washington, the UK, and France to have been deployed by Syrian government forces, though never proved - has been eminently negative. The West's political and financial support for the opposition is a major contributory factor to the prolongation of the suffering inflicted on the Syrian people. Daily decapitations and the slaughtering of civilians by groups such as the Al-Nusra Front and ISIS has undoubtedly motivated many Syrians to stand behind the Assad government who were originally sympathetic to the obvious need for political reform.

Attempts to kickstart negotiations between the Syrian government and representatives of the opposition have so far met with failure. With Russia playing a positive role in trying to broker these negotiations, the onus is on the West to put pressure on the Syrian opposition to enter them without unrealistic preconditions such as the resignation of current president, Bashar al-Assad. Why should the millions of Syrians who support the Assad government, who've suffered as a result of the conflict, and an army that has proved its willingness over two and a half years to bleed for it, agree to give up their nation's sovereignty?

When we talk about the opposition this obviously does not and cannot include the previously mentioned seventh century Sunni cutthroats whose stock in trade is barbarism and savagery. There can be no place for them in Syria or indeed anywhere in the region. As for the Saudis, whose continued close ties to the West is a badge of shame, the day when this odious clan disappears from the page of history will not be a day too soon.

Some in the West prefer to focus their ire on Assad, believing that in the circumstances described it remains possible to hold to a position of being against the Sunni extremists causing mayhem in Syria and also against the Syrian government. This is not serious politics. In fact it is politics reduced to a parlour game, a clear case of cognitive dissonance. If it wasn't for the government and Syrian army the country would have been destroyed long before now.

George Orwell understood this when he wrote: "Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."

Of course, whether we in the West support or condemn those struggling on the ground against barbarism in Syria is neither here nor there in the scheme of things. But on the level of understanding the stakes involved it matters hugely, especially as we carry the burden of living in those countries responsible for sowing the chaos that continues in Iraq and Libya on the basis of toppling vicious dictators.

For progressive and liberal commentators to follow the same narrative now when it comes to Syria is worse than a mistake it's a crime.