Syria: A History Without Borders
Why Everyone Wants a Piece of Me
Sadly I’ve decided to give up on this Blog, at least for the times being, to focus on the book I’ve been determined to write for the last couple of years. Thanks to the research I’ve conducted for the BLOG, I feel confident I have sufficient information to go ahead. The content of the book will focus on the history Syria shares with the invading forces, and, how this has influenced any reconstruction plans that are in the offing. I’d like to thank readers for taking an interest in a country that is dear to me as they have given me an incentive to go on writing during the last five years.
I created this page in the autumn of 2015, after a cease fire was declared, which resulted from negotiations between Britain (USA) and Russia, following their manifest intervention in the Syrian conflict. Since then the Syrian government has gained control of the majority of Syria’s western regions and many people are returning home. However the conflict rumbles on still, as the colonial powers, including Turkey and the Turkish Kurdish militants vie for control of the Idlib governorate in north west Syria. Meanwhile the situation on the east side of the country remains precarious.
The main Kurdish area of Syria is Qamishli and the territory to the east of it, which extends to the north east corner of the country. If the Kurdish were promised a territory by the western powers, it would be here, due to its proximity to Turkey and the Kurdish dominated regions of Iraq and Iran. The areas southwest of Qamishli are problematic, as Raqqa was predominantly Arab nationalist and has been devastated by the Islamist fighters. To the south east of Raqqa lies Hasaka, which is home to a sizeable Kurdish population and thereby hangs a tale and, indeed, a tail.
Judging from the surveys that Britain carried out in 1850 and 1908, the Kurds may well gain control of part of the region, they are, after all, a useful ally against Turkey if it oversteps the mark in northern Syria, or indeed, in Turkey itself. On the other hand, the Kurdish PKK, powerful in east Turkey, are hardly favourites of Britain and the west in general. Unlike the Kurdish region of Iraq, which remains a western protectorate, the Kurds in Anatolia are an anomaly.
Raqqa and Hasaka lie to the west of the Euphrates River, which runs through Deir Azzor, the nearest sizeable city to Syria’s oil producing area. If America wants a share of the spoils then it may come to an agreement with the Arab or Kurd factions, or take control of the region itself. In my opinion it is more likely to be the Arab faction, that oppose the regime, the Syrian Brotherhood, aka the Free Syrian Army. There are rumours of an American military base in al-Tanf, in the eastern part of the Hims governorate, south of Deir Azzor.
The Hims governorate runs from the west side of the country, east to the desert region that borders on the Iraq and Jordanian controlled desert. The Syrian Brotherhood, which is an extreme, but, popular movement, shares an ideology with the other Islamist factions that threatens to return Syria to the dark ages. The Brotherhood has a long history in the city of Hims (Homs), on the west side of the country, a city that has, for centuries, been a centre of Islamic thought. Though its more militant members are likely to have been driven out of Hims, they may well do deals with the colonial powers over the oil. This would result in further conflict, even if intermittent. Regardless of the news reports that Turkey is supporting the Islamists in northern Syria, the Syrian Brotherhood is unlikely to support the Turkish, or the Turkish Kurd taking control of Syria, thus is better served by its continued allegiance to the west; time will tell however.
It is no coincidence that Russia and Britain showed their hand in Syria at the same time. That coupled with the fact that Russia has renewed its political ties with Iran, suggests there is a some kind of plan afoot for reconstruction. I don’t believe for a minute that a nuclear war is imminent, after all NATO and the USSR have played a chess game in the Atlantic for decades and it has not resulted in all-out war. If the big powers are engaged in a similar conflict in the mediterranian Sea, off the coast of Syria, Turkey, Palestine, and Lebanon, it is more likely that they wish to tie up some of the loose ends, resulting from the settlements reached at the end of world war one, when Russia agreed to leave Iran.
The city wall at Raqqa
Bye Bye Islamic State
Two views of the River Tigress taken in North East Syria, the opposite bank is in Turkey
The photos are intended to emphasise how close Turkey is to Syria at its North East tip and how easy it is for the Turkish Kurdish to invade. The Turkish Kurdish are staunch supporter of the Israelis, if they colonise the area then Syria will be encircled and drawn into constant wars between the Turkish Kurds and the Turkish establishment.
Before the war
I traveled extensively in Syria in 2005 and 2006 and to say I fell in love with the country is no exaggeration, I just wish everyone was so privileged.
Prior to the uprising Syria had a solid infrastructure, with little unemployment, electricity, clean drinking water, schools, which provided employment particularly for women and a functioning health service. The arrival of the Iraqi refugees saw the cost of living rise and though the people did their best to assimilate the new arrivals the situation took its toll on the economy. A factor that almost certainly contributed to the demonstrations of 2011. It is interesting that so many people sympathise with Lebanon for the number of refugees they have taken in from Syria but that no such consideration was afforded to the Syrian people and its government through the mid 2000s.
In light of its heritage, the history of Syria cannot be discussed in isolation, from the wider Arabic world. This includes the constituent parts of Greater Syria, as defined by the Greek philosopher Herodotus, whereby Greater Syria included the Levantine region. Matters are complicated by centuries of colonisation by the succession of Pagan, Christian and Islamic empires.
Religion and Politics
The entire middle eastern region is dominated by two opposing ideologies; Arabism and Islamism, both of which are underpinned by religious and political theory. Support for the former appears to be waning but in the eyes of many, worth fighting for, as is manifest in Syria. Needless to say powerful nations, notably Saudi Arabia and Britain, have exploited these competing value systems. Saudi to promote a unified Islam, which adheres to strict Islamic principles and Britain to overthrow state socialism as it inhibits the principles of free trade.
Its interesting but no coincidence, that the 2011 ”uprisings” were confined to countries, which had embraced Arabism (a tendency towards secularism), whilst the monarchies, which tend to be ”friends” of the west, escaped unscathed. Needless to say all this was done in the name of ”democracy”.