Posted by on September 27, 2013 in Blog

We came across a very interesting article today from The National Interest about “Washington’s Long History in Syria.” The author, Ernesto J. Sanchez, writes an informative article arguing that before considering significant escalation of US intervention in Syria, lawmakers (and the general public for that matter) should take a hard look at history. Sanchez focuses on America’s role in Syria going back to the Cold War era when the CIA sponsored a military coup in 1949. The article details how a once benign relationship between the US and Syria deteriorated as Washington increasingly endeavored through direct intervention to influence the balance of power in the country. There are some very pertinent themes that are relative to the current situation today and there are also some important historical lessons. Even if you disagree with the article’s caveats relative to the current crisis in Syria, at the very least it makes for an interesting read and provides a good synopsis of a series of historical events which have shaped US-Syria relations.

Here’s an excerpt from the middle of the article:

Is history repeating itself? Sadly, one can already make a case that the United States is complicit in fueling an insurgency that coalition partners, at least, have enabled Al Qaeda-linked militants to take over. The tragic sectarianism that has resulted belies episodes of Syrian national unity in the face of foreign adversity, such as the Alawite-led Syrian Revolt of 1919 and the Druze-led 1925-27 Great Syrian Revolt against the post-World War I French mandate. Moreover, the Alawite Hafez al-Assad rose to power in a Sunni-governed country with a constitution that did not establish Islam as the state religion and merely required that Syria’s president be Muslim. Those provisions, which reflect a commitment to freedom of religion (albeit a commitment consistent with “public order”), remain in force today, supplemented only by an establishment of Islamic jurisprudence as but one source of legislation.

Assad’s Ba’ath Party was founded by Alawite Zaki al-Arsuzi, Eastern Orthodox Christian Michel Aflaq and Sunni schoolteacher Salah al-Din al-Bitar, reflecting the secular political scene that allowed for a communist party whose influence the United States feared to become prominent. And notwithstanding the debate concerning Islam’s teachings about the status of women, they have been allowed to vote in Syria since 1949. A woman—Najah al-Attar—is technically third in the line of Syrian presidential succession today.

Yes, Assad is a brutal dictator who flirted with Al Qaeda during the Iraq war and is supported by elements responsible for, among other things, the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombing. But how can the U.S. message to Syria have any credibility when Washington was once perfectly willing to render terrorist suspects to Assad’s dungeons, including one man—Maher Arar—who turned out to be innocent? U.S. pressure on the Assad regime only began afterwards.

Read on the article in full

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