The Truth About Syria’s Civil War
Anyone who has followed the war in Iraq is aware of the bitter religious and political rivalry between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Thus it’s pity that the mainstream corporate media fails to enlighten us about the major sectarian conflict underlying the civil war in Syria. Yes, civil war. For thirteen months, the Muslim Brotherhood, which claims to represent the majority Sunni population, has been fighting to overthrow the predominantly Shiite government of Bashar al-Assad. The US media, which continues to perpetuate the myth that Syria’s only problem is a ruthless dictator who likes shooting unarmed civilians, omits important historical facts essential to understanding the current military conflict:
- This is the second attempt by Syrian Sunnis, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, to overthrow the Shiite government. The first uprising of Sunni Islamists occurred in 1976 -1982, against the regime of Hafez al-Assad (father of the current dictator Bashar al-Assad).
- The civil war in Libya was also Sunni-led, which is the main reason the Muslim Brotherhood, which runs post-Gaddafi Libya, has instituted strict sharia law. The latter is notorious for extremely harsh penalties (including death) for blasphemy, homosexuality, theft, adultery and use of intoxicants.
- Both the Libyan and Syrian rebels have received major financial support from Sunni Gulf States in the Arab League, most notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Qatar also provided the bulk of military aid to the Libyan rebels. Both countries have approved weapons shipments to the Free Syrian Army. However at the request of Secretary of State Clinton, they have postponed delivery to avoid undermining the Annan peace process. At the same time, it’s a matter of public record that Sunni Gulf states are supplying the funds for Free Syrian Army salaries See Gulf States Warned Against Arming Syria. In addition, many former Libyan rebels have relocated to Syria with their weapons.
Most of this background, about Syria’s sectarian divisions and the major support Syrian rebels receive from Sunni Gulf states (as well as CIA trainers and US special operations forces – see Why the US Wants Regime Change in Syria), receives fairly good coverage in the British and international press. In contrast, the US media merely functions as the propaganda arm of the Obama administration.
The Political Agenda of Wahhabi Sunnis
As Tariq Ali outlines in his book the Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, the Sunni Wahhabism practiced in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, is a conservative and austere form of Islam that insists on a literal interpretation of the Koran. Strict Wahhabis believe that Muslims who don’t practice their form of Islam are heathens and enemies. Part and parcel of Wahhabism is the belief that their religious doctrine must also have political expression. This translates into the view of many Sunnis that the only form of government acceptable to Allah is an Islamic state operating according to strict Sharia law.
Wahhabism’s explosive growth began in the 1970s when Saudi and United Arab Emirate (UAE) charities (and US intelligence) began funding Wahhabi schools (Madrassas) throughout the Islamic world. The US government strategically supported the rise of Wahhabism and the Muslim Brotherhood to counter the secular Arab leftists and nationalists who controlled most of the Middle East prior to 1967 (see Israel’s Role in Creating Hamas). The latter were understandably unsympathetic to the corporate interests of US oil companies who were heavily invested in the region.
The spread of Madrassas in Pakistan led to the gradual islamization of a state that was largely secular at the time of its separation from India (see Wikileaks: Saudi Arabia, UAE funded jihadi networks). This was accompanied by increasing religious intolerance and the creation of a jihadist mujaheddin army (funded and trained by the CIA) to repel the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. These CIA freedom fighters would later become the Taliban, who would come to occupy all of Afghanistan and enact an extremely oppressive version of Sharia law.
The US Role in Bringing Sharia Law to Libya
The US and NATO have recently been complicit in bringing a similar Wahhabi government to Libya. Owing to Syria’s close relationship with Iran’s Shia-led government, Obama is extremely gung-ho about pursuing a similar agenda in Syria. Fortunately, thanks to the refusal of China and Russia to go along with UN-sanctioned regime change, the truth about Syria’s civil war is gradually coming out (at least in the international media). Many Syrian civilians, especially Shias, Christians, Sufis and other minorities, are terrified of the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power and subjecting them to the same intense persecution these minorities experience in Saudi Arabia, Libya and other states governed by Whahhabi Sunnis.
Disunity in the Syrian Opposition
It has also come out that there are deep divisions in both the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Free Syrian Army. Both veteran opposition leaders and a new generation of young activists are deeply critical of the lack of support they receive from the Muslim Brotherhood leaders and Syrian exiles who run the SNC. Many of the SNC’s critics are Sunni Muslims who see strong advantages to continuing secular rule in Syria. They just want to end the hereditary dictatorship of the Assad family.
Likewise, members of the Free Syrian Army who have defected from Assad’s forces feel that their military experience makes them the natural leaders of the rebel forces. Yet they are continually overruled by religious zealots who control the purse strings, thanks to their links to Sunni governments in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
A few analysts have speculated that this disunity was the main rationale for the SNC’s urgent request for NATO support. Their leadership believes an international bombing campaign would serve to unify a hopelessly fragmented opposition, as it did in Libya.