Syria and the Middle East: Peace will not result from a violent approach to violence
“To which faction would you have given your support? Whether on the side of the pure or the wicked, you would only have increased your folly”.
Silo, “Humanize the Earth” (Collected Works), Latitude Press, US.
We publish this opinion article about the conflict in Syria and more broadly in relation to the regional conflict in the Middle East.
Regarding the conflict in Syria and more broadly, in relation to the regional conflict in the Middle East from a historical point of view, discussed in a broad time cycle, we should consider the following:
After the Battle of Zama (202 before year 0 of the Gregorian calendar), towards the end of the Second Punic War, Rome became a strong power in the Mediterranean. It then proceeded to displace and eliminate its rival Carthage (Phoenician colony located in present day Tunis). Two centuries later, Augustus annexed Egypt to the Empire after Caesar’s alliance with Cleopatra, head of the much weakened Ptolemaic dynasty born out of the Alexandrian Empire and its Hellenistic influence. Thus Rome completely ruled North Africa.
In Persia, the Sassanians would build, well into the third century, a new power centre, rival to Rome. The latter soon after became the bearer of the Christian faith.
The rapid expansion of Islam in North Africa and the Middle East can be explained precisely by the decline and weakening produced by the polarized confrontation between Romans and Iranians. It is easy to understand peoples’ adherence to the Mohammedan faith in that area as a release from the two centres of power.
This steep growth and the struggle to work out the succession to power would produce, in turn — practically from the beginning — irreconcilable factions emerging within the Islamic world. The Shiites, supporters of Ali’s Caliphate, became relegated to minority status by the Sunni majority, on which the Umayyad dynasty (whose capital became Damascus) and Abbasid (with its capital in Baghdad) were rooted. From that first schism (actually triple with a third Kharijite faction, now much reduced), derived a constant tension within the Muslim world which today continues to operate.
The Islamic expansion threatened then the West with the Arab advance on the Iberian Peninsula (due to a dynastic change in the Caliphate). It then threatened in the same way the East with the fall of the Byzantine Empire in the sixteenth century and the penetration of the Ottoman Empire into Central Europe.
Attempts to regain influence in Muslim areas (Arabic and Persian) were unsuccessful for the Christian West until the colonial period, with the expansion of European empires (in particular the British and the French). Domination became economic, political and military, but could not remove the core beliefs of the conquered peoples.
Imperial weakening deepened as a consequence of the two world wars, allowing from mid-twentieth century the emergence of independent countries in the area. During this period a strong nationalist tone becomes powerfully manifest in the region. Nationalist leaders and parties arose at this time (such as the Baath in Syria and Iraq, Egyptian Nasserism and Bourguiba in Tunisia) governing then in a repressive way the peoples of the area. The pro-Western Iranian monarchy would fall a few decades later into the hands of the Islamic revolution, leaving standing monarchies allied with the West in Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries.
Saudi Arabia, whose name is closely linked to the founding dynasty — still in power — the House of Saud, stems from a branch that promotes Salafism (also known as Wahhabism), which is an activist version of restorative reform, emphasizing the conservative values of Sunna and Hanbali schools. Through its economic power, the Saudis intend to export and make prevalent this orthodox interpretation of Islam against what they see as a Shiite quasi heresy, being Iran its main representative.
The uprisings in the Arab world can be further understood as part of a process of distructuring of rigid and repressive nation-states, and as such an opening to new times. But they are at the same time, from a meta-historical point of view, a situation welcomed by the West intent on recovering power over the region, lost almost 1400 years ago.
From a geopolitical point of view, a vision circumscribed to shorter times shows clearly that in this distructuring, pan-Arabism and the search for greater freedom gives way to the new Islamist currents of different sign, as seen in Egypt and Tunisia with the electoral advance of Islamic forces with significant structure and social integration such as the Muslim Brotherhood. This phenomenon had already expressed itself similarly in Algeria and Turkey (where it was considered necessary to ban that type of parties and cancel elections). The same happened in Gaza with Hamas’ victory and the decline of Fatah’s leftist nationalism. This forecasts the strengthening of regional Islamic power, a fact not seen favourably by the Christian West, as it heralds the widespread resurgence of religious polarization.
Politically, the uprisings in the area destabilize the Saudi, Hashemite,and Alawite monarchies as well as, of course, the descendants of the tribes of Judah and Israel. To avoid this destabilization and a Shiite hegemony in the region, an alliance of interests has been established between the U.S., Israel and the conservative monarchies of the Persian Gulf led by Saudi Arabia.
Locally the conflict enhances the boundaries between different minorities and majorities within and between faiths.
Globally, the U.S. and its dependent European allies, in turn caught up in the contradictions of the system they promote, reject the formation of this bloc against their interests and values, which would add to the already complex growing multilateralism. Therefore they invade territories in the area, shift governments and try to undermine by all means possible the establishment of this regional axis independent of their sphere of dominance.
In short: this is a global rearrangement scenario in terms of regionalization and multi-polarity.
While people are trying in various parts of the Arab world to shake off the dictatorial splint of governments that emerged in the postcolonial era, the successors of Rome (the American Eagle and its Western allies) are reluctant to lose the hegemonic role they believe has been reserved for them, insisting on neo-colonialism.
In turn, warring factions in the Islamic world position themselves in this fight attempting to prevail on the chessboard of regional power.
Given this complex scenario, with much manipulated information by the media, we believe from our humanist subjectivity:
We welcome the Arab peoples’ clamour whilst struggling to shake off every yoke inherited from the postcolonial stage that perpetuates the same anti-humanist system which prevents the full exercise of political freedoms and access to essential welfare for the populations.
At the same time, we strongly condemn the immoral use made by the U.S. and its allies of social instability in order to maintain or increase their imperialist influence.
While we understand that criticism of the various warring factions could be seen as something that undermines the objectives of the anti-imperialist cause, we believe that true solidarity is not about alignment with any of the violent sides, but a look that aims to promote a future where nonviolence emerges as a way of overcoming previous positions.
We reject war under any pretext and demand the cessation of intelligence manoeuvres in progress, which drawing on old historical wounds, promote a clash between brothers.
We proclaim the need to end arms sales in the region — from which Russia, USA, France, Britain and other exporters of weapons receive inflated economic benefits. We must put an end to profiteering from death and human suffering!
We propose to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East, including Israel of course, promoting the interchange of inspectors between the countries involved, in order to fully verify this agreement and achieve increasing confidence.
We believe it is important to deactivate intolerant factions in each of the countries of the region by effecting full international and diplomatic recognition of Israel and Palestine, as an expression of a new culture of coexistence and cooperation.
The U.S. must dismantle its bases and withdraw its troops and ships from the region. At the same time, the international community must come to a decision to promote nuclear disarmament and the progressive and proportional reduction of warring equipment as an immediate objective and priority.
The human race must stand up and claim their right to live in peace and without violence.