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Black holes and black flags mark Syria’s fourth anniversary

Syria’s black anniversary is a huge geo-political and geo-economic black hole where gravity is more powerful than light

Dr. Theodore Karasik

Published: Updated:

It’s been four years ago the Syrian Spring began. Yet it’s been over for a while in Syria and if such an uprising trying to unhinge Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from leadership will be attempted again, it must come from within the Alawite community - which is as about to close to zero as one can get. In the meantime, lessons have been learned: the region still needs to be led by a strongman.

So the Syrian anniversary is as black as the flags of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) occupying a large part of the former Syrian state.

“Arab Spring” is the popular name given to the democratic wave of civil unrest in the Arab world that began in Dec. 2010 and lasted through mid-2012. At first the “Arab Spring” seemed to be a very interesting moniker for what is going on in the region because many analysts, at that time, compared the then current events to what spread through Eastern European countries working against Communist domination.

However, what we’re discovered is that: yes it’s true it did happen in the Spring, yes, Arabs were involved, but actually it’s more than just Arabs, and it’s more than just in the Spring: It is now a perennial anti-thesis of the origins of the Arab Spring’s rationale, an evil historical blot on the modern history of the Levant. The lofty ideas of upward mobility, equality, and superb education is just a dream for the bulk of today’s Syrian refugees.

Growing numb

Clearly, the world is growing numb to suffering from Syria’s civil war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven nearly 12 million, half the population, from their homes over the past four years. 83 percent of the country is in darkness with no electricity and life expectancy is down to 55.7 years. Reports to up to half of the Syria’s doctors are now dead or have fled. Millions are in refugee camps in one of the largest humanitarian disasters in modern history with almost 50 percent of these refugees being children.

Syria’s black anniversary is a huge geo-political and geo-economic black hole where gravity is more powerful than light

Theodore Karasik

What happened in Syria, springing, if you will, from Daraa, specifically was a modern form of Arab Revolt that brought the periphery of the country crashing down only to be filled with opposition groups, terrorists, and extremists who truly rule with impunity. The country has literally been turned inside-out.

That terrorists realized they could exploit the vacuum in power created by the uprisings is not in doubt. Not only after the upheaval began did terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front emerge in Jan. 2012 and forward, but other extremists begin to fill the void as the rump Syrian state took shape. The lawlessness and ungovernability spread like a pox. Later, of course came ISIS and the rest of the trend line is unfolding. The fabric of once a historic and vibrant country is in tatters.

The Western international community can take much the blame for what is occurring on this black anniversary. Policy confusion, inaction, indifference, not up to the challenge, failure to enact redlines—are all themes and keywords that most rational, regional actors can see as plain as day as abandonment, ignorance, and outright perfidy. Adding insult to injury, from the point of view of those who launched the Syrian Spring in the first place, is that the U.S.-led coalition air strikes against ISIS is coordinating with President Assad behind the scenes.

One can really sense the frustration best illustrated in the ruined urban cities and neighborhood like in Daraa that are divided between pro- and anti-government forces. All the hoopla and effort, including an armed rebellion, was for naught.

Rump state

That Russia, Iran, Hezbollah are supporting the government of the Syrian president is also noteworthy four years out. Together they have been able to organize, train, and equip the Syrian military to carry out the carnage necessary to keep the rump Assad-led state intact. For Assad, he is able to maintain safety and control of armaments despite reports of pilfering, keep relatively stable its military forces, and has been able to keep, for the most part, militants and extremists away from the rump Syrian state in order to inspire Assad as a fighter against terrorism and perhaps to his supporters, a more robust folk hero.

The Russia-supported Iran-Hezbollah activity does not make Arab neighbors happy despite the “strong-man” requirement. An Arab official told me that there needs to be a new Syrian strongman, and he can’t be Shiite or Alawite.

But on this fourth anniversary, there is still is a requirement to have the Syrian president in power to fight al-Qaeda and ISIS. With what appears to be a nuclear agreement in the near term with Iran, the fact that Assad may stay even longer in power is a real possibility since Tehran is clearly a victor across the Levant. Unmistakably, there is no alternative to Assad four years later.

The fourth anniversary of the Syrian Spring can be marked by a key statistic: war is the major employer of what is left of Syria.That fact is nothing to celebrate about. Syria’s black anniversary is a huge geo-political and geo-economic black hole where gravity is more powerful than light. That’s a fitting analogy for Syria’s future: It’s a tragedy that will affect several generations of Syrians and their neighbors by sucking into a vortex any rays of hope.


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Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.