Bird’s Eye: Obviously, no one knows. But here’s a useful primer: Uri Avnery reviews the history of the Middle East, the Guardian looks at what the situation now is, and Saren Schmidt looks at the way out. And in a piece that applies to both Syria and Iran (above), Simon Tisdall looks at the fascinating performance of Mohamed Morsi in Tehran.
* Bloody Spring Uri Avnery counterpunch
When the French were finally kicked out of the region at the end of World War II, the question was whether and how Syria and Lebanon could survive as national states.
In both there was an inbuilt contradiction between the unifying nationalism and the dividing ethnic/religious tendency. They adopted two different solutions.
In Lebanon, the answer was a delicate structure of a state based on a balance between the communities. Each person “belongs” to a community. In practice everyone is the citizen of his community, and the state is but a federation of communities.
…The Lebanese system is a negation of “one person – one vote” democracy, but it has survived a vicious civil war, several massacres, a number of Israeli invasions and a shift of the Shiites from last to first place. It is more robust than might have been supposed.
The Syrian solution was very different – dictatorship. A series of strongmen followed each other, until the al-Assad dynasty took over. Its surprising longevity arises from the fact that many Syrians of all communities seem to have preferred even a brutal tyrant to the breakup of the state, chaos and civil war.
No more, it seems. The Syrian Spring is an offspring of the Arab Spring, but under very different conditions.
* The Point Of No Return The Guardian
The fight for Syria has become a struggle for the destiny of the region. It is also now a clash of ideologies and orders, of sects and societies. The battle for regional influence runs straight through Damascus and none of the region’s main players are willing to yield ground. “It’s Sunni versus Shia, Arab versus Persian, America versus Russia, the list goes on,” says a western diplomat. “This is unfinished business on many levels.”
What will emerge from Syria’s civil war will likely take many months to determine. A rapid end to the regime would not mean an end to crisis. The vacuum that would follow the end of strongman rule would take some filling – the recent experience of Iraq to the east, another sectarian state bound together by an autocrat, clearly demonstrates that.
* The West Will Have to Compromise on Syria Saren Schmidt Informed Comment
First of all, the Alawites (and the other minorities) must have guarantees that the fall of the regime will not be at their expense. Words and paper are easy, but the only actor who may credibly guarantee that minority interests will be secured after the fall of Assad is the Syrian military. Not the civilian security apparatus, but the part of the Syrian Army that still sees itself as a national institution and not just as an extension of the regime. The Syrian military should therefore be a party to any agreement concerning a transition from the present to a new government (as was also the case in Egypt and in Tunisia whose militaries also played an instrumental role in the transition). The only influence on the military apart from the present regime is Iran (and to some degree Russia).
Secondly, the West has to distance itself from the regional conflict between Iran and Israel, which has as its root cause that the Israelis continue to relate to their neighbours by means of military domination rather than finding a solution that all parties can live with. Said in another way: Israel has yet to accept the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state. As long as that remains the case, Israel will be seen as an enemy by Hamas and Hezbollah, which Iran for its part will insist on supporting. But there is nothing forcing the West to be hitched to the Israeli wagon in the conflict with Iran. After all, the West wants democratization in the Middle East and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. The conflict between Israel and Iran ought therefore not to be allowed to hinder the inclusion of Iran in the attempt to find a solution for Syria.
The Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi, has recently suggested that Egypt, Turkey, Saudi-Arabia and Iran get together to find a solution to the Syrian tragedy. The West ought to support Morsi’s initiative and replace romantic, revolutionary notions with a pragmatic approach to the Syrian people’s wish for democracy, and at the same time decouple its policy from Israel’s self-inflicted conflicts with its regional neighbours.
* Egypt underlines Iran’s isolation at Non-Aligned Movement summit Simon Tisdall The Guardian
Iran’s leaders clearly hoped this week’s gala summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran would serve as an antidote to the diplomatic isolation imposed on them by the US and Britain. But Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s wonderfully unpredictable new president, making the first visit at this level since the 1979 Iranian revolution, had other ideas.
Morsi’s fierce condemnation of the Syrian regime, Iran’s close ally, was as eloquent as it was piercing, and it came like a bolt from the blue. …The Syrian delegation walked out. The Iranians did not have that option – they could hardly boycott their own meeting. Instead they were forced to listen as Morsi, a Muslim Brother, an Arab, and lifelong critic of western policy in the Middle East, thumped out an uncompromising speech..”
“We should all express our full support to the struggle of those who are demanding freedom and justice in Syria and translate our sympathies into a clear political vision that supports peaceful transfer (of power) to a democratic system,” Morsi told the 120-country summit….
Despite 20,000 Syrian dead and the maiming and traumatising of generations of young people, the civil war shows no sign of stopping, may even be getting worse. “The bloodletting in Syria is the responsibility of all of us… the Syrian crisis is bleeding our hearts,” Morsi said. He is right – and when was the last time an Egyptian president spoke for the world? But after his speech, significant and stirring though it was, the world is no nearer to finding a solution.