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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 12-Jul-2019
12-Jul-19 World View -- Syria war may be fizzling, as al-Assad 'hits a wall' in Idlib

Web Log - July, 2019

12-Jul-19 World View -- Syria war may be fizzling, as al-Assad 'hits a wall' in Idlib

Does the Syria war have a political solution?

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Syria war may be fizzling, with Idlib conflict frozen

For the past three years, Syria's president Bashar al-Assad has publicly vowed that he would regain control of all of Syria, even if it meant exterminating all of millions of civilians in his Sunni Arab opposition.

Al-Assad used a similar period in one region after another -- Aleppo, Ghouta, Daraa, etc. He begins by bombing peaceful protesters, particularly women and children. As soon as someone become violent in revenge, he declares the whole community or ethnic group to be "terrorists," and uses that as an excuse for full-scale genocide and ethnic cleansing. The genocide is performed with missiles, barrel bombs, chlorine gas and Sarin gas, all particularly targeting women and children, as well as schools, markets, and hospitals. In each region, under pressure from Russia and the United Nations, allowed hundreds of thousands of people to flee to the northwest province of Idlib.

Al-Assad has vowed since May 2018 that he would attack Idlib in exactly the same way, in order take control of it. This has led to widespread fears of a major humanitarian catastrophe, since "there's no Idlib for Idlib," meaning that there's no place for the people to flee to. Thanks to the influx of refugees from other regions, Idlib now has over three million people, mostly women and children, and al-Assad claims that all of them are "terrorists." Approximately 70,000 are believed to be members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an anti-Assad rebel group formerly associated with al-Qaeda.

If al-Assad assaulted Idlib in the same way as the other regions, perhaps millions of people would try to cross the border into Turkey. Turkey will bear the brunt of this disaster. Turkey is already hosting 3.5 million refugees, and is doing everything possible to prevent any more refugees from Syria from entering Turkey. If a new mass of refugees does enter Turkey, then some of the Idlib refugees will undoubtedly continue on into Europe, resulting in a new European migrant crisis.

Al-Assad 'hits a wall'

I and many other people expected al-Assad's assault on Idlib to have begun long before now. But there was almost know military action at all in the last year, until April 26, when it began bombing residential areas, schools, hospitals, markets and other places where women and children are likely to be found. It seemed that the full force of al-Assad's assault on Idlib had begun.

However, al-Assad's assault on Idlib appears to have "hit a wall." More than two months of Russian-backed operations in and around Idlib province have yielded little or nothing. Al-Assad's assault has been met with a counterpunch from anti-Assad rebels who have been well-armed with guided anti-tank missiles supplied by Turkey.

The instability of Idlib province

The fact that al-Assad has accomplished little in Idlib in the last year, and has hit a roadblock since resuming operations on April 26, is making observers wonder if the war may be reaching a diplomatic solution, with no clear victory by either al-Assad or the anti-Assad rebels. There are a number of political reasons supporting that conclusion.

Russia's president Vladimir Putin has been under domestic pressure because of the cost of Russia's support for Syria in the war. That's not surprising, since Russia already has what it wants from the Syria war. Russia was completely shut out of the Mideast in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now, for the first time in decades, Russia has two military bases in the Mideast -- the Tartus naval base, and the Hmeimim airbase, both of them in Syria, in return for supporting al-Assad. Russia is now firmly in control of those two bases, and now that it has the bases it wants, and also wants to spend less money, it can pull back from the war in Syria.

In the past, Russia, Iran, and Iran's puppet Hezbollah were all fighting alongside al-Assad's forces against his Sunni Arab opposition. Turkey had no choice but to watch what was happening from afar.

But now, Russia wants to be main power in the Mideast. Furthermore, Russia does not want any more Mideast wars, since they would inevitably require Russia to intervene. So Russia wants to support Turkey in preventing a massive new refugee crisis in Idlib. Russia would also like to keep Iran and Hezbollah under control, so that they don't threaten a war with Israel.

However, there are also major political factors working against a political solution. The HTS anti-Assad rebels have been attacking Syrian forces. Theoretically, based on an agreement between Turkey and Russia, Turkey is supposed to prevent these kinds of attacks between HTS and al-Assad forces, by means of a buffer zone separating them, but this has not been entirely successful.

Does the Syria war have a political solution?

When the war in Syria began in 2011, I wrote that it would fizzle because Syria is in a generational Awakening era. That's what should have happened. The war almost fizzled after four years in 2015 when al-Assad's army, ridden with desertions, was facing defeat from his Arab Sunni opposition. But that was point at which he was saved by Russia, which brought the full force of its armed forces in support of al-Assad.

Now another four years have passed, and once again it appears that war is about to fizzle. Maybe this time there will finally be some sort of political settlement. It's certainly true that after eight years, pretty much everyone is sick and tired of fighting the war.

Syria's current "civil war" is also an Awakening era war because it comes just one generation after the real civil war that occurred in Syria.

Syria's last generational crisis war was a religious/ethnic civil war between the Shia Alawites versus the Sunnis. That war climaxed in February 1982 with the destruction of the town of Hama. There had been a massive uprising of the 400,000 mostly Sunni citizens of Hama against Syria's Shia/Alawite president Hafez al-Assad, the current president's father. He turned the town to rubble and killed or displaced hundreds of thousands. Hama stands as a defining moment in the Middle East. It was so shocking that it largely ended the war.

That worked because at that time, Syria was in a generational crisis era, and the destruction of Hama was the climax of the war. The reason for Bashar al-Assad's delusions is that he thought that the destruction of Aleppo in 2016 would end the war in the same way that his father's destruction of Hama ended the war. But this is a generational Awakening era, and that kind of outcome doesn't work. The reason that it doesn't work is that there are many survivors who were shocked by the destruction of Hama in 1982, but are no longer shocked by similar actions since they've seen it all before. So the destruction of Aleppo did not end the war, as Bashar al-Assad delusionally hoped, and now the war is back in full force.

So that's why the war should have fizzled, since both the Shia/Alawites and the Arab Sunnis have vivid memories of the 1982 war and don't want it to repeat. So why didn't war fizzle quickly?

As I've written many times in the past, Bashar al-Assad is the worst genocidal monster so far this century. He is apparently in some kind kind of psychotic competition with his late father, and wants to prove that he can slaughter just as many people, just as effectively.

(As an aside, North Korea's child dictator Kim Jong-un is also in a similar psychotic competition with his own late father, Kim Jong-il, as I've mentioned in the past.)

The Syrian war began in 2011 when al-Assad ordered his army and air force to attack peacefully protesting civilians, including women and children. Things really turned around in August 2011, when al-Assad launched a massive military assault on a large, peaceful Palestinian refugee camp in Latakia, filled with tens of thousands of women and children Palestinians. He dropped barrel bombs laden with metal, chlorine, ammonia, phosphorous and chemical weapons onto innocent Sunni women and children, he's targeted bombs on schools and hospitals, and he's used Sarin gas to kill large groups of people. He considers all Sunni Muslims to be cockroaches to be exterminated.

This attack on Arab Sunnis attracked tens of thousands of young jihadists to Syria to fight al-Assad. By 2014, these jihadists had formed the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). There were numerous anti-Assad rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) later renamed Jabhat Fateh al-Sham or JFS, and then renamed again to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). There were also Kurdish forces including PYD = Kurdish Democratic Union Party, YPG = Kurdish Peopleís Protection Unit, armed wing of the PYD, and YPJ = Womenís Protection Units. And of course there were also Turkish forces, American forces, Hezbollah and Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

The point is that the Syrian civil war is not really a civil war. Rather it's a mash of over a dozen different forces vying for control of different parts of Syria.

In the past eight years since Syria's war began, I've written analyses of Awakening era wars in many other countries, where the preceding crisis war was an ethnic or tribal civil war. All the leaders in such cases exhibit some level of violence against their former tribal or ethnic enemies. These include Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Paul Biya in Cameroon, Pierre Nkurunziza in Burundi, Paul Kagame in Rwanda, the military junta in Thailand, Yoweri Museveni in Uganda, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Salva Kiir in South Sudan, Joseph Kabila in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Hun Sen in Cambodia.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, what we can expect with respect to Idlab and the war in Syria is as follows: The Syria war will not reach a climax (such as the climax in 1982). Intead, the war will fizzle, or there will be some kind of poltical settlement. Throughout history, what has always happened in such situations is there are always alternating periods of peace and low-level violence or war. Each period of violence will be worse than the previous one, land will be settled by some kind of peace agreement, which will be quickly broken by one or both sides. Finally, after several decades, there is a massive new generational crisis war, and the cycle repeats.

At the very least, we can breath a sigh of relief that al-Assad has "hit a wall" in Idlib, so that there won't be a new humanitarian catastrophe.


(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Jul-2019) Permanent Link
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