I thought instead of describing how the Syria crisis began, I would only talk about when. I have been to Damascus in 1999, and I considered it a far safer place than Miami, Florida where I live. I did not see Syria as a hotbed of Islamic extremism. I still don’t.
When did the mess in Syria begin? It began on December 17, 2010. Could you be more precise, possibly? Yes, 11:30 am. There are a couple of events prior to this, so we can say 8:00 am when Mohamed Bouazizi began his day to 11:30, when the incident occurred.
There are so many groups, subgroups, super-groups (coalitions), it is difficult to keep track of them. Wikipedia has done a fantastic job, as usual:
I believe rebuilding a transmission is easier than solving the Syrian crisis- because there are fewer moving parts!
In the category of Jihadists on Wikipedia, are the Al-Qaeda affiliated groups (Al-Nusra and others), whose origins date back to 1986- 1989, as Osama bin Laden was fighting against the Russians in Afghanistan with the military assistance of the CIA (thank you President Reagan).
In the category of the most vile and dangerous group of terrorists, namely ISIL or ISIS, they are relatively new kids on the block, with their roots dating back to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 (thank you President Bush), and the repression of the Sunni’s in Iraq. Former President of Iraq, Maliki, bears responsibility for much of this repression. The idea that ISIL and Al Qaeda moved in when Obama pulled the US troops out of Iraq is really overly simplistic. Our presence also encourages terrorist recruitment. I will not attempt to enter in the debate of who contributed to the growth of ISIL, Bush or Obama, as I believe neither could fully anticipate what was emerging from the end of the Iraqi conflict. It is a bit like sailing in turbulent winds, very difficult to steer.
Let’s move on.
— Good guys
The so-called “good guys” or the opposition groups (moderate, non-sectarian, groups) seeking the ouster of Bashir Assad did not exist until 2011 after the tragic death of Mohamed Bouazizi of Tunisia. It used to be called the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but with merger of other groups, now it is the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council (SRCC) of which incudes FSA. We can just call them good guys. But our good guys are at conflict with Jihadists, ISIL and the Syrian military and associated supporting groups.
But our enemies, ISIL and Jihadists are also at war with the Syrian government. So the enemy of our enemy is also our enemy. ISIL holds a large portion of central Syria, which is sparsely populated, so it isn’t as bad as it looks. Our friends, the Iraq government supports the Assad. The friend of our enemy is our friend. I mean Americans have died, and billions of dollars spent for our friend, Iraq, Thank you very much.
Of course, Syria and associated allies, see things completely opposite. The SRCC or good guys are called “terrorists” by the Syrian government. Hezbollah, which we consider as a dangerous group with a long history of threatening the security of Israel, is allied with Syria. So, they are the “good guys” to the Syrians. It can be argued that the establishment of Hezbollah was a response to the Israel’s invasion of South Lebanon.
This makes the conflict in Syria unbelievably complicated. It is why Netanyahu visited Putin very recently. Israel is very worried about Russia weapons going to Hezbollah for attacks on Israel. Israel can certainly retaliate against Hezbollah if the attacks are launched from southern Lebanon. But they are worried if Hezbollah launches missiles from Syria, would that draw Russia into a Syria-Israel conflict? Putin has no interest in widening the Syria conflict- only doing what is needed to keep Assad in power. But diversion of military equipment is always possible.
— Mohamed Bouazizi
Let’s get back to WHEN the sh*t hit the fan. Dec 17, 2010 11:30 am and the very sad protest and death of Mohamad Bouazizi.
On December 17, 2010 all was calm throughout Syria.
In the small country of Tunisia, the simple protest of a street vendor was about to ignite the Arab Spring. It is an incredible story. Mohamed sold fruit and vegetables in the plaza from a cart. He was harassed by the police who confiscated his scale. He unsuccessfully tried to get his scale back from authorities. Following this, he lit himself on fire and died on Jan 4, 2011.
The origins of the SRCC or “good guys” occurred in April 2011, after civil wars had begun in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.
— Long wars in small countries
Wars are a bit like forest fires, sooner or later they should run out of fuel. But, ISIL has been very resourceful in finding funding through the capturing of oilfields, and demanding ransom for captured civilians. Plus, they recruit others on the basis this is a fight for the survival of Sunni Muslims around the world. The other groups involved, such as the SRCC have backers, namely the US and European allies.
It is a horrible, horrible situation. Fareed Zacharia got it right, that Russia has a much more straight forward strategy than ours:
It is one colossal proxy war, 5 countries supplying weapons to Syria, and 8 countries conducting air strikes against ISIL, mixed in with terrorist organizations (ISIL and Nusra against Assad, Hezbollah for Assad).
All of a sudden, Bashir Assad is not looking that bad. Of course, in extreme relative terms. In the US, he would qualify as a mass murderer. But so would about a dozen leaders around the globe.
This is just part 1, and I’ve got a lot to add. But, this has gotten pretty long so far.