Friday, August 31, 2012

Syria : Civil War

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia. Its official language is Arabic. Based on statistical analyses from 2006, the Syrian population mainly comprises of Sunnis including Sufis, about 74 percent, while the rest are Alawites, Twelvers and Ismailis. Basically, Syria is mostly Sunni Arab.
Officially, Syria is a republic. In reality, however, it is an authoritarian regime under the guise of a democratic system. Although citizens vote for the president and members of parliament, they have little choice and electoral results are often adjusted.
The President and his senior aides ultimately make most basic decisions in political and economic life with a very limited degree of public accountability.
Political opposition to the President is not tolerated, and allegiance to the President has become the criterion for loyalty to the state.
Syria declared an official state of emergency in 1963, which was changed in April 2011 to a de facto authorization of extraordinary measures by the security forces. Syrian governments have justified martial law by the state of war that continues to exist with Israel and by continuing threats posed by terrorist groups.
The emergency law was established in 1963 when the Ba’ath party seized power. It prohibited several civil liberties, such as public gatherings, and authorised the arrest of any individual thought to pose a security threat, effectively granting security forces extensive powers of arrest and detention.
Syrians have not had the right to change the role of the Ba’ath Party. The late President Hafiz al-Asad was confirmed by unopposed referenda five times. His son, Bashar al-Asad, also was confirmed by unopposed referenda in July 2000 and May 2007.
 Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in civil war. Protesters are demanding to end the nearly five decades of Ba’ath Party rule, as well as the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.
The country’s last serious stirrings of public discontent had come in 1982, when increasingly violent skirmishes with the Muslim Brotherhood prompted Hafez al-Assad to move against them, sending troops to kill at least 10,000 people and smashing the old city of Hama. Hundreds of fundamentalist leaders were jailed, many never seen alive again.
Estimates of deaths in the conflict vary with figures from 23,300 to 30,850.
The Syrian civil war is now spilling into Lebanon, leading to incidents of sectarian violence in northern Lebanon between supporters and opponents of the Syrian government, and armed clashes between Sunnis and Alawites in Tripoli.
Lebanon, unlike most Arab countries, has a weak central government. The Lebanese designed it that way on purpose so that it would be nearly impossible for anyone to rule as a strongman; and as the country is more or less evenly divided between Christians, Sunnis, and Shias, so that no single sectarian community could easily take control over the others.
As the army is just as riven by political sectarianism as the rest of the country, when civil conflict breaks out, the army does a terrible job. Its leadership does not dare take sides lest the officers and enlisted men under their command splinter apart into rival militias.
So while the violence in Lebanon is at the moment contained, it is barely so. The real danger here is not that people will be kidnapped and killed by the dozen in isolated neighborhoods. The real danger is that if the situation does not calm down and stay down, the normally placid Sunni community will become increasingly radical.
Western powers have demanded President Assad resign and sought UN Security Council action. However, Russia and China have vetoed resolutions. All states backed a peace plan negotiated by UN envoy Kofi Annan, which saw observers deployed in April 2012 to monitor a ceasefire. But when violence escalated, Mr Annan resigned and the observers withdrew.
Lakhdar Brahimi succeeded him, but with major powers unable to agree on a way forward, Mr Assad showing no signs of leaving power and the opposition deeply divided, there appears to be no end in sight.

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