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SYRIA/ The other side of the coin

July Tue 31, 2012

Fire in Syria  Fire in Syria

It is clear by now how much one risks being reductive by considering the fighting in Syria simply a popular uprising to get rid of a bloody dictatorship, since the battle is increasingly assuming the nature of a real civil war. Paradoxically, the problem lies in determining precisely who the warring parties are. On the one side, the “rebel” front is extremely diverse and is composed not only of freedom fighters, but also of extremist factions and has been infiltrated by common delinquents. On the other side, even the Assad regime seems to be less united than it initially appeared and his supporters are not all one group.

The resistance to openly admitting that it is a civil war, even more one with a religious background, is understandable, but the fact remains that the main battle is between the Shia minority, in the debated Alawite version in power with the Assad clan, and the Sunni majority. It is a clash that has broad repercussions for the broader region. Not surprisingly, the regime is supported by Shiite Iran, while the opposition is helped by Saudi Arabia, which is dominated by an extremist variant of Sunni Islam, the Wahhabi. The role of Sunni Turkey seems to be more articulated and to be part of that repositioning of alliances (see their radical change regarding Israel) desired by Erdogan in an attempt to impose a Turkish leadership on the neighboring Arab world, in contrast with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Iran.

The Russian support for Assad is determined by the interests that Russia has in the region, but also by a historical continuation of the support which the Soviet Union provided to the anti-Western Ba'ath parties, expression of a sort of Arab socialism, in power in Syria like in Iraq.

In this complex situation, several Syrian minorities think that the fall of Assad would destroy the protection given to them, despite everything, by the dictatorship. This concerns not only the Christians, but also the Druze and the Kurds. In fact, this was the outcome in Iraq after the fall of Saddam.

In this respect, the official statement by the Catholic Church in Syria, taken up by the Patriarch of the Melkite Catholic Church, Gregory III Laham, in an official document on July 16, which aims to clarify the positions of the Syrian Catholic hierarchy on the tragic events in course in the country, should be read.

The first point of the document is the denunciation of the violence and anarchy which threatens to envelop Syria, a situation in which all citizens are affected, without distinction, even if Christians remain the weakest link. The Christians are the most exposed to violence, but are also the most determined to use peaceful means to achieve the necessary reforms, freedom and democracy, to fight corruption and to aid development, which are objectives that are clearly mentioned several times in the Declarations of the Church.



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