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Thu Sep 12, 2013, 09:58 AM

Juan Cole: Top Ten things Americans need to Know about Syria if they’re going to Threaten to Bomb It

4. The Syrian revolution and civil war did not begin as primarily sectarian. It is to some extent a class struggle. High population growth rates and economic stagnation made the state unable to provide jobs to a burgeoning youth population. Droughts and the bad effects of global warming also created a water crisis that harmed farmers and pushed youth off the farms into city slums where, after the 2008 world crash, there were no jobs. The big protests in 2011 originated in the slums around the cities in the center of the country, where young men who had moved there for work from the countryside found themselves locked into long-term unemployment. The governmental and business elite in Damascus benefits from the regime and has mostly remained loyal or neutral, whether they are Sunnis or Alawites. About half of the large northern city of Aleppo is still with the regime, as well. Because the upper ranks of the ruling Baath Party are disproportionately dominated by the Alawite minority, and because so many discontented youth in the cities of the center are Sunni, the conflict took on a sectarian tinge. But its underpinnings are economic.

6. If the US were to intervene in Syria, it certainly would not be about oil. Syria was not a significant oil exporter. By 2009 it was producing less than 400,000 barrels a day. The world produces on the order of 90 million barrels of oil a day, and some countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia by themselves produce in the neighborhood of 10 million barrels a day. Nor is Syria necessary to pipelines in the region. Iraq’s northern fields feed into Turkish pipelines, and Turkey is anyway so far much more stable than Syria. Syria’s production has been more than halved by the war, but the loss to the world markets is minor. Libya’s production has fallen by nearly a million barrels a day in the past year because of oil worker strikes and autonomist, Eastern claims on resources, and this shortfall has barely produced any comment in the American press.

7. Some 60% of Syrians are Sunni Arabs, i.e., adherents of the Sunni branch of Islam who speak Arabic as their mother tongue. Sunni Arabs also predominate in Jordan and Egypt. Large numbers of Syrian Sunnis are secularists, either nationalists or leftists, and not very observant. Many Syrian Sunnis still follow the tolerant, mystical Sufi form of Islam. Others have come under Saudi influence and are known as Salafis, but this is just a euphemism for Wahhabis, members of the intolerant and rigid form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. A very small number of Sunnis have affiliated with al-Qaeda, but they have had the important battlefield victories in the north.



10. Independent Syria suffered from a series of military coups. The March, 1949 coup of Husni al-Za`im may have been encouraged behind the scenes by the Truman administration because his predecessor had objected to an oil pipeline that was to go through Syrian territory. In 1958-1961, Syria was joined with Egypt in the United Arab Republic. In 1963 officers of the Arab nationalist Baath (Resurrection) Party, which claimed to be socialist, made a coup. The Baath is still in power in Syria. In 1970 Air Force general Hafez al-Assad, an Alawite, made an internal coup, and in 2000 he was succeeded by his second son Bashar, an opthalmologist trained in England. The Baath is a brutal one-party state characterized by a secret police that intensively spies on the population and punishes dissent with arbitrary arrest and torture. It raised standards of living and brought the country from being overwhelmingly rural farmers to having a slight urban majority.

http://www.juancole.com/2013/09/americans-theyre-threaten.html

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Reply Juan Cole: Top Ten things Americans need to Know about Syria if they’re going to Threaten to Bomb It (Original post)
pampango Sep 2013 OP
xchrom Sep 2013 #1
dballance Sep 2013 #2

Response to pampango (Original post)

Thu Sep 12, 2013, 10:26 AM

1. du rec.

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Thu Sep 12, 2013, 11:00 AM

2. Good summary article on Syria. Thanks for posting /nt

 

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