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Opinion: Wars within wars | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian protesters chant anti-President Bashar Assad slogans and wave a revolutionary flag in front of their embassy in Amman, Jordan, Friday, May 17, 2013 to condemn a May 10 massacre in Banias, Syria. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

It is the fate of Syria and its people to be the crossing point between regional and international wars. Syria is the place where these wars and the interests of those fighting them meet, at the expense of the Syrian people, their future and their state. This is all thanks to the Assad regime’s war against the Syrian people.

In reality, the current conflict is a number of wars within a war, including the new international cold war, which I mentioned in a previous article. The Syrian war, according to conflicting reports from capitals around the world, seems to be an enduring one with no end in sight. All the conferences and arrangements are nothing more than attempts to gain more time for each party according to their own interests. The Russian Federation seems to be on the way to becoming a new international hub, and will stop at nothing to achieve this ambition. Moscow has tested the United States and the Western states since the start of the Syrian crisis, developing its position gradually each time it sensed weakness from America towards its policies, until the situation reached what is close to a diplomatic impasse.

The other war is Iran’s regional cold war, which has been turned by the Syrian crisis into a hot, bloody, and open war, in which its regional allies move according to a plan drawn up by Tehran. Iran has proven that it will defend its interests in Syria until the last drop of Syrian blood is spilled, if it is not deterred by strong international and regional stances. Its war in Syria is being run from Tehran and is financed by the Maliki government of Iraq—which is enjoying a recovering economy thanks to lucrative oil revenue—while the actual battles are being fought by the sectarian fighters of Hezbollah.

The battle of Al-Qusair did not expose the sectarian nature of Hezbollah and its thirst for sectarian violence—that has been clear since their armed incursion into Beirut a few years ago, and even before that, in all of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s speeches and policies. However, the ambiguous slogans have now been torn away from the eyes of some Arabs who had been deceived by Hezbollah and its claims of resistance. Hezbollah was forced, under Iranian orders, to remove all illusions and abandon its political conceits, showing its true, sectarian face to the world.

The third war is the internal war being waged by Assad against his own people, and which is being confronted by modest capabilities from the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA). The FSA has proven that it is capable of standing strong in the face of the powerful regime forces for close to two years. In the battle for Al-Qusair, the FSA demonstrated a unique ability to confront all four enemies together: Russia and its arms, Iran with its “specialists,” the regime and its firepower, and Hezbollah and its fighters.

This is the case for the enemy of the Syrian people. The “friends” of Syria, despite the ongoing weakness in US foreign policy on Syria, other Western countries—such as Britain and France—have continued to move forward and tried to push the US to take a stronger and more decisive position.

There are plans in the region that have not yet reached their maximum potential, but are moving in the right direction. This includes attempts to unify the vision and direction between Arab states that are sympathetic towards the plight of the Syrian people, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Jordan and Turkey. This includes the recent visit paid by Saudi crown prince Salman bin Abdulaziz to Istanbul and the conference that took place in Jordan last week, as well as all the efforts being made on all levels to help the Syrian people on the ground. These efforts have now begun to bear fruit.

Another important factor is that Iran’s economy is suffering greatly as a result of international sanctions. Tehran is spending lavishly on its followers in the Arab region in order to implement its plans and expand its regional influence. These followers include sectarian groups such as Hezbollah and the Houthi movement in Yemen, as well as the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization, which has never been shy about offering its services to Iran. Tehran has also spent money on spy cells that it has attempted to use to infiltrate the Gulf, but who are constantly being uncovered. Iran is therefore forced to rely on Iraqi oil money from a subordinate government.

Personally, I do not agree with the view put forward by former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani, namely that the current government “do not know what they are doing to the country. They only have a small amount of funds left, and this cannot be accessed due to sanctions. Even if there is a conspiracy, nothing worse could happen to Iran than what has already happened [under the current government].”

By contrast, the economies of the so-called Friends of Syria are experiencing steady growth and enjoying historically large budgets. By allying with one another, they are able to continue supporting the Syrian people, develop and improve the mechanisms of support, and ensure that they are more capable than the enemies of the Syrian people in the long run.

Iran, the Assad regime and Hezbollah are facing a real war of attrition being waged against the Syrian people. They have all been spending heavily in terms of money, and have also spent up any credit they had with some of the Arabs who had been deceived by false slogans. The “resistance” has become tarnished by sectarianism and the blood of the Syrian people.

If one of these wars is enough to create a turbulent region where the worst aspects of history—sectarianism, tribalism, and so on—are brought out to tarnish the future for decades to come, how about when these wars are all playing out at the same time?

The Al-Nusra Front is a terrorist group affiliated to Al-Qaeda, but it is only a small part of the larger picture, and the West’s focus on the group demonstrates its inability to find a real political solution. The Al-Nusra Front would not have come into existence had the international powers solved the Syrian crisis at an early date. This is a group which is despised by the majority of the Syrian people despite the sectarianism on the scene and their inhumane suffering. The Al-Nusra Front did not find a place within the FSA, is rejected by the Syrian National Coalition, and its influence would be immediately reduced if a political solution could be found.

Finally, in times of historic transition from one phase to another, some people are overcome by illusions and others by dreams. Parties disagree, and political ambitions—their struggles, ideological allegiances and loyalties—come into play. The reading of the picture is confused by the size of the contradictions it creates. Some expertise are lost and some specialists go missing, which is what happened to the Syrian crisis until the truth was revealed. Assad’s despotic regime and his sectarian allies are left with no supporters, except those devoid of humanity.