From “De-Ba’athification” in Iraq to “De-Shi’afication” in Syria
Of the dozens if not scores of tactical, strategic and fundamental mistakes the US made in Iraq after illegally invading and occupying the country in 2003, was a strategy which sought to inflict a punitive socio-political and economic disenfranchisement of the Sunni Arab population of the Arab state, simply because Saddam Hussein was a Sunni. The callously named “de-Ba’athifaction” programme instigated by the US occupiers was in reality a nationwide campaign to target a religious minority on its indigenous soil, simply because of a paranoid fear that ‘all Sunni Iraqis loved Saddam and all non-Sunni Iraqis hated him’. Of course, this was always a simplistic and false analysis of Iraq as Saddam’s government was made up of many religious groups including Iraq’s ancient Christian community which after the US invasion was either slaughtered or forced to flee their homeland.
In Syria, the US initially worked with the same approach of targeting a religious minority group, in Syria’s case Shi’a Muslims and particularly Alawites, under the false pretext that the Sunni Arab majority of the country was being suppressed. In reality, the Syrian government was in 2011 and remains in 2018 primarily Sunni Arab. This is the case in respect of not only the People’s Council of Syria (aka the Syrian Parliament) but it is also true of the Syrian Arab Army. It is even true of the first family as Syria’s first lady Asma Al-Assad is a Sunni Arab.
But in spite of the fact that quite unlike in Iraq, religious labels were never particularly important in Syrian society, the US funded Takfiri terrorist groups whose modus operandi was to commit atrocities against all non-Sunnis, particularity Shi’as (disrespectfully labelled as Iranian by the Takfiris even though most never set foot in Iran nor knew a word of Farsi) and also Syria’s Christian community – one of the oldest in the world.
In the most urbanised and populous areas of Syria, the American goal of an anti-minority Takfiri (aka Sunni extremist) take over of the Arab Republic failed because of a combination of the political and military steadfastness of the legitimate Syrian government and the aid of important international allies including Iran and the Russian superpower.
From “De-Shi’afication” to the Kurdish led ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arabs in Syria
In north eastern Syria, the US has a modus operandi that is perversely antithetical to that which they attempted in previous years. To put it succinctly, the US in northern Syria is now persecuting Sunni Arabs in the way their Takfiri allies once accused the Syrian government of doing. Much of north eastern Syria, including the city of al-Raqqa was once ruled by the outlawed terrorist organisation Daesh. Today these areas are occupied by the United States and their radical Kurdish terrorist allies in the YPG/PKK. Here, I encourage the reader to re-read Andrew Kroybko’s dire warning of what was to come for the Sunni Arab populations of Syria’s north-east in a piece written during the Battle for Raqqa in which the geopolitical expert predicted much of what has since transpired in the region.
While Daesh made life hell for all, including the vast majority of moderate Sunni Arabs of north eastern Syria, under the radical Kurdish YPG/PKK terror groups who are in charge of the day-to-day life in most areas of the illegal US occupation, the Sunni Arab majority is not only suppressed but they are shunned. Since riding on the coattails of US hegemonic power in north eastern Syria, Kurdish YPG/PKK extremists have illegally seized Arab property and fought Arab tribes and families trying to return to their land, they have changed the names of streets, villages and even towns from their ancient Arab names to Kurdish names. In areas like Manbij and elsewhere where the YPG/PKK run schools, the textbooks are now filled with anti-Arab racism, as are the regional political manifestos while basic goods like food and clean water are scarce in areas occupied by the YPG/PKK with Arabs and non-Kurdish minorities often paying double the prices of ethnic Kurds and triple the prices of members of the YPG/PKK.
It must be reiterated that in the areas where the YPG and PKK have taken over from Daesh as the de-facto illegal terrorist occupier, the majority of people are Arab Sunnis. While there are significant minority groups including Armenian Christians, Assyrians and Circassians, there are few if any Shi’a Arabs.
A common cause for the Syrian government and the Turkish government
The government of the Syrian Arab Republic is manifestly threatened by the YPG/PKK gangs terrorising both the Sunni Arab majority and non-Kurdish minorities in the areas which they control. Likewise, indigenous Arab populations, both those who support the Syrian government as well as those who at one time fought against it, are explicitly threatened by YPG/PKK terrorist occupation. Finally, as the YPG/PKK threaten the territorial integrity and political unity of both Syria and Turkey, the Turkish government and the Syrian government can and should make common cause against the YPG/PKK.
While the Turkish government has fully dropped its plans to unseat the Syrian government and while Syrian forces have abandoned previous direct threats against Turkey, a war of diplomatic words continues to flow between Damascus and Ankara. Russia in particular seeks a diplomatic rapprochement between Syria and Turkey and one area where such a rapprochement could be possible is over the issue of US proxy YPG/PKK terrorists.
This is especially true since reports from local media have indicated that the already brewing Arab rebellion against the YPG/PKK and USA has now been at least partly formalised as indigenous Arab tribal leaders have vowed to unite against the United States and its radical Kurdish terrorist allies. If Damascus were to extend an olive branch to Ankara over this issue, it could not only help create more unity in the Astana peace format but could also help to reconcile both pro-Damascus Syrian Arabs and pro-Ankara Syrian Arabs in a common cause to liberate Sunni Arab lands in northern Syria from a menacing non-Arab terror group that is under the patronage of the United States.
As the US and Turkey look to de-escalate tensions over the YPG/PKK occupation of Manbij, Damascus has no time to lose in respect of extending the aforementioned olive branch to Turkey. If this attempted rapprochement is delayed for too long, Turkey and the US might agree to substitute YPG/PKK occupation of key northern and north eastern Syrian cities for Arab forces whose loyalty is entirely to Ankara rather than Damascus. In this sense, Syria’s unwillingness to negotiate with Turkey could ironically lead to Syria paving the way for an augmented medium term Turkish presence in northern areas which many Arabs would see is the most realistic alternative to the ethnic cleansing regime of the YPG/PKK.
A brewing storm
While Turkey and the US may be on the verge of an agreement to remove the YPG/PKK from Manbij, in areas further east, the US is less likely to give way. This will necessarily encourage genuine indigenous Arab rebels to unite against USA/YPG/PKK domination in ways not seen since the early years of American occupation of Iraq, particularly in Sunni Arab strongholds like Fallujah. With Donald Trump apparent having less of an appetite for long-term brutal occupation than his two predecessors, it may be that this Arab rebellion could ultimately dislodge or at least reduce the size of US occupation in the region by forcing an American retreat towards the Iraqi border. This will become an ever more likely prospect if a Viet Cong style Arab revolt begins to take its toll on the US occupiers and their YPG/PKK ethnic cleansing allies.
While such a result is not guaranteed, in any case the US will soon have a fight on its hands in all areas where they cannot or will not negotiate a YPG/PKK withdrawal with Turkey.
No time for foolishness
As part of a would-be reconciliation between Damascus and Ankara, Syria must express regret at aiding the PKK in the 1980s. Such a move was ultimately foolish as it was naive to think that PKK terrorists who seek to destroy Turkish territorial integrity on a radical ethno-nationalist basis, would not eventually try and do in same in Syria. Now that the PKK is attempting to make war on the territorial unity of both Syria and Turkey, the foolish Syrian policies of the 1980s have been exposed as strategically flawed.
This is the case as sure as it would be naive for Iran to turn a blind eye to US and Indian schemes encouraging ethno-nationalist terrorists in Pakistani Balochistan, without forecasting that the next place this terrorist separatism would attempt to conquer would clearly Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan. Likewise, Iran must also be careful not to alienate its Turkish partner by taking too soft a line against PKK terrorists whose PJAK brethren threaten the territorial integrity of Iran in its north western regions.
While Turkey and Damascus remain at odds over several poignant issues, the fact of the matter is that unlike the United States, Turkey respects the fact that Arabs should not be forced to live under the whip hand of non-Arab terrorists on historic Arab soil. Because of this, which ever country is able to strike a better deal with Ankara will ultimately have the upper hand in the region as where ever the Turkish army goes, Kurdish terrorists will be neutralised and they will eventually be replaced by local Arab rulers.
In areas where the US refuses to negotiate with anyone, it is highly likely that they might face years of rebellion from Arabs who after years of fighting among themselves now look to unite against the foreign occupation of the United States and the alien rule of radical Kurdish terrorists.