Not Just Military Oligarch Regime Nor Sectarian, It’s Plight Two Folds
Ghassan Aboud 2021-05-24 00:00:00
Military coups swept many of the third world countries after WW2, on the heels of the breaking free movements from the traditional colonialism reign. A socially welcomed drive at the time in terms of which people found that the military represented the middle class and the emerging marginalized classes, up against the traditional political families.
The structure of military regime is just a manifestation of its institutional structures, echoing the behavioral mentality its personnel upholds towards the public in the community they wield the power of. Thus, from the very moment a clandestine military organization wakes up, all the way to the announcement of an outright military coup or a military shadow government running the affairs of a civilian government, this mindset prevails. Accordingly, the military regime will intervene in the civil political life and disrupts the community forces, the media, the party life, and democracy. A process enforced under the pretext of preserving the law and order as well as the people's gains. No sooner, though such a regime puts the law and order and the constitutional life on hanging, switches up into suppressing the people, devours the countries resources; while faking out a machine for the making of sparkling slogans along with machinery to enact their produced repression. Notwithstanding the military coups’ claim that their goal is to reform the army, doctor the politics, and put the social life under the kind of organization and administration the army is well known about their running. A claim the delivery of which went amiss, rendering the army spoilt and the society crushed underfoot.
Among the further common features a military rule has is its quick creation or making a replica of all-encompassing concepts that ties the community up with them, much as they relentlessly make the people’s goal is to defend that rule and keep chewing up these concepts. This is while promoting myths about those concepts and inventing flying crocodiles about the history of the figures that have to do with them. This is to the point of worshiping the concept and whatever may be related thereto. For example, The Arab military governments made a replica of the Arab nationalism, so did the Turkish military rule when they adopted Turkification, while some of the military governments took upon Islamic totalitarianism. A military regime puts responsibility of the nation on the citizens, its past, present, and future, night and day in consciousness and unconsciousness. Thus instead of the society, with its institutions, being at the service of the individual and his well-being, the regime casts the nation's burdens on the shoulders of the citizens early from an already militarized childhood. The individual hence ends up with an overburden beyond the potential of one's thinking ability; becoming a prisoner under the scourge of controlling slogans that send him to fight against illusions infinitely far from his capabilities, such as the West, capitalism, communism, imperialism, etc. So much so that an individual becomes isolated and hostile to the world around. This is instead of placing the community's institutions at the service of improving the individual well-being and gearing the society toward a secure future. Moreover, just as a military regime messes up the privacy of the individual and frustrates individual initiatives, it equally rejects the variation of ethnic, sectarian, and regional diversities. It rather insists on nothing but full loyalty to the new community life it hatched up. For example: At one time, I met Haitham Staihi, a member of the Baath Party Regional Command in Syria in 2009: He asked me about the point behind a program produced by Orient TV entitled (A Syrian Story). I pointed out that the idea is to open up homes wide to one another so that the Syrian minorities, as well as the majority, get positively acquainted with one another; as it goes by the saying: "whoever may be ignorant of something may stand hostile towards it", expressed by the intellectual Lotfi al-Sayed. Denounced, Staihi said: "Syria has no sects” We are all one sect. The Baath Party Sect! Smiling I said: “Well, people can never be denied the right to be different and dissimilar…A difference and dissimilarity that can be transformed into positive conditions!”
Syria under Sectarian Military Occupation!
Tribalism is one of the engines that triggers up military coups. More often than not, the regimes that take power pave the way for religious, ethnic, and tribal minorities to get access and wield power monopolization, not to mention that any would find it a ladder for social and economic advancement. For that reason, some sectarian and ethnic groups took advantage of the military coups route to gain power and capitalize on greater representation in the armed forces of a particular group. This is what happened in the case of the Alawites in Syria and similarly in the Punjab of Pakistan; and as it would have happened with the Alawites in Turkey had the last coup against Erdogan succeeded. A monopolization such as this would shake the balance in the army; seeing that any promotion would be based on tribal-wise loyalty rather than on skills. Consequently, cleansing operations would take place in the army targeting specific groups and leaving the army short of the expertise it has cultivated. The regime will also seek to put the civil authority and the social key joints under its spoiling total control through a network of Machiavellians whose qualification is sheer loyalty rather than any proficiency. In such an atmosphere, decisions sensitive to national security are made on basis of the interest of that minority, even if it were at the detriment of the national security. No question hence, development will have no place, this is while corruption functionally takes the stage, whereby the country dives headfirst into an abyss of ignorance and oppression. This type of military coup stands out as the most dangerous of all. True. It has some kind of intersections with other military coups in its general peculiarities; it however stands far inferior by dint of its being a sectarian military regime; Syria is the example we are talking about.
The Alawite minority control over Syria evidently started to swell during the union with Egypt. Hanna Batatu (Christian) says: "Colonel Abd al-Hamid al-Sarraj, head of the Intelligence Bureau, was astonished upon his discovering in 1958 that no less than 65% of non-commissioned officers were affiliated with the Alawite sect." (1) Furthermore, the military coup of March 1963, led to large scale hatching dominance of the religious minorities, the Alawites, the Druze and the Ismailis (ADI) over the key joints of the army, the Baath Party as well as the country. Added to that, most of the officer memberships in the military committee overseeing the activities of the army organization were minorities. And to consolidate the positions they held in grip they brought in the support of the officers and the non-commissioned officers who had close ties with them, most of whom were Alawites and a few Druze and Ismailis.
The Druze abandoned taking part in the military rule when the Alawites humiliated the former's princes serving in the military and eliminated them in 1967. Yet again, in 1969, the Alawites eliminated the Ismaili military serving princes. Eventually, the civil and military leadership of Syria became exclusively in the hands of the Alawites. Later on, through an internal elimination process among the Alawites, Hafez Al-Assad presided over Syria’s rule in 1970, launching a purely sectarian military regime. He dyed the whole country with 100% Alawite mold, whether it may be for its military or security part. "The door to military colleges and schools was shut in the face of the Sunni youths, so much so that entire conscripts groups of would-be graduates from these institutions were all dismissed ahead of graduation. Hundreds of dismissals targeted all officers at large for those hailing from the big cities, especially the Sunnis. It was to the point that the key commanding officers of military departments as a whole were discharged, such as the air force, the navy, and the vehicles. The same scheme was followed with regard to the lower ranks officers and soldiers. The sectarian practice was not limited to discharging the Sunni officers and appointing Alawites Nusayri officers in their place, it was further manifested by setting up complete military units consisting of the Alawites Nusayri sect. Alternatively, the regime put some of such units under its direct command only, as in the case of the Air Force Intelligence Service, Military Intelligence, Defense Brigades (Saraya Eldefa'), the Republican Guard, and the Conflict Brigades( Saraya Elsera'). (2)
As for the civil life, the regime dyed the country in the wood of an Alawite mood that hit 90% apex. In this respect, Sami Al-Jundi (Ismaili) says: "The villagers' caravans started to leave the villages leaving behind the plains and mountains over to Damascus, whose streets, cafes and the waiting rooms of its ministers started roaring up with the chicken-sound liker dialect. Therefore, releasing people from service was imperative to make new appointments "; (3). Nicholas Van Dam (a Dutch diplomat) confirmed that the dismissal was at the expense of the Sunnah: “On March 8, 1963, the minorities went upsurge in the military service among the Syrian officers, once again at the expense of the Sunnis “(4). In another account, Shibli al-Aissami (a Druze), says: "Sectarian matters did not surface until after the assumption of power in 1963. We disagreed with the military committee, which was composed of 15-16 soldiers. The percentage of Nusayris Alawites in it was more than 60%, all of whom we had no idea who they were exactly. We in spite of this were only cooperating with Salah Jdeed, Hafez Assad, and Muhammad Omran, and we could not say why are they electing Alawites. Jdeed and Al-Assad exploited the Alawite sect threefold: in the party, in the army, as well as in the regime rule.
The foregoing introduction has its place of significance in order to bring home emphasis that the ruling regime in Syria can never be looked at in terms of its nature as a military ruling regime only, as is the case in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Nor does it fit to look at its nature and hence be discussed as a sectarian regime only, as many studies have suggested. The nature of this regime in its uniqueness and being a sectarian military regime has further made it unparalleled in its brutality, and the unprecedented use of violence in resisting change. The army destroyed an entire country, killed about 2 million people, and displaced about 15 million, half of them internally and the other half externally, to keep hold of its rule! Whereas, the armies of the military government in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere did not carry out 1% of these atrocities when the tidal wave of change swept over their rule. Even back in the history of Syria, before the sectarian military coup had taken place, several white coups occurred in which the revolutionaries rejected to shed blood, except for one only. For example: When the "March 1963 Revolution Command Council" issued a resolution to execute Jassem Alwan and the key figures taking part in his coup attempt, the head of the Council, Lieutenant General Luay Al-Atassi (a Sunni Homsi), refused to sign the death sentences against the Nasserites, and he submitted his resignation and quit the Presidency of the Republic. Another example was Al-Shishakli (a Sunni Hamwi) also resigned the government, and rejected to carry out an easy operation to eliminate the rebellion of Captain Mustafa Hamdoun (a Sunni Hamwi) in Aleppo, echoing his famous saying: "I will not allow a Syrian soldier to direct his rifle at another Syrian soldier because of me." He handed his resignation to Chief of Staff Shawkat Shukair. (Druze) and left Syria. In spite of this the sectarian revolutionaries, upon turning against Amin Al-Hafez, they wounded him, his son, and his daughter in shooting, and executed the palace guards after their surrender. From that time on the country is afloat swimming in pools of its people’s blood!
The sectarian military regime in the Syrian case considers their presence in power as an occupation force driven by hatred. Memoirs of some Syrian personalities reported that the Alawite prince officers used to take Zaki Al-Arsuzi (Alawi) on trips to deliver sectarian lectures to the new military recruits of the Alawite sect to flare up their hatred against the Syrian society.
The new role of the military armies in the region
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the international security system reformulated the global fear of communism and resisting its spread, inventing radical Islamic groups as an alternative. Inevitably, this has affected the world with Muslims and Arabs phobia; which negatively influenced Muslims and Arabs’ image among the peoples of the world. To that end and in the interest of the great powers, they subjected the regional regimes to submit to this new trend, using several terminologies such as commitment to international law and international legal system ... etc. In retune, the military regimes formulated their national policies accordingly. Even more, they started competing as to who can better serve dancing to the global forces' tune and influence at the expense of their people and for the sake of their remaining in power. In order to make that come true, back in the 1990s, the international actors in power asked the military heads such as Al-Assad the son and father, Mubarak, and other military regimes such the Tunisian, to re-Islamize their societies. For example: In Syria, Hafez Assad established in 1991 dozens of institutes (Al-Assad Institutes for Memorizing the Qur’an), and dozens of religious secondary schools. He also encouraged jihadist religious sermons, such as the sermons of Abu al-Qa`qa 'Mahmoud Qul Aghasi in Aleppo, and opened the scene to some players in the field of religion, such as the Mufti Ahmad Kaftaru, who activated the Abo al-Nur Complex to produce Islamic preachers who copy the subjects of their speech from the officers of the security departments. He also encouraged religious programs in the media, and urged the Parliament to pass conservative Islamic legislation!
A reviewer of the events in the Arab and Islamic region during the past thirty years can figure out that the role of the armies has shifted from its national mission in defending the borders against external aggressions to become:
1. A false witness, whose role is to provide legal grounds for the west interventions. This is because they have now come to accompany the Western armies invading regional Arab and Islamic countries. Evident ever since the Kuwaiti war of liberation, and recently ending with the intervention in Syria to silence the revolution.
2. A police force that launches sporadic attacks within the borders of the state to protect it from cross-border terrorism and to combat drug smuggling and arms smuggling.
3. Suppressing civil disobedience and protecting the military regime from its internal opponents. A training for which the great powers lead the role and guidance. And this most recent and growing role has exacerbated the ethnic, sectarian, and social division in the regional countries, much as it has fused up division, isolation, and separatist ideas, and thus, striking regional stability. The role of the Syrian army is a perfect example telling about the death of that national mission the army used to uphold and the shift to fight for the sake of the continuation of the authority of the father and son Al-Assad. The said forces also created wars in the region and managed them in the manner of sports matches, in order to keep the arms purchases and the disposal channels open!
The Al-Assad, father and son regime claimed that more than 60% of the state budget goes to building military potentials to "achieve strategic balance with the Israeli enemy," against which it never had won a single maneuver, let alone a war! When the revolution began, we saw worn-out military equipment, and cheap evil-minded weapons created by the sectarian mentality. A dark mind that could only create explosive barrels and hoses, explosive containers the mixture of which has iron shrapnel dropped by old aircraft that the opposition factions had shot a number of them down with handheld machine guns (?!) In addition to this, no modern weapons have ever been seen in possession of the Syrian forces during their presence in Lebanon. Furthermore, we have not seen anything positive about its air defense against Israeli aircraft for 60 years! Where has the army's budget gone for 60 years, billions annually? Perhaps spent as royalties and bribes, the price for the survival of the sectarian rule?!
The Syrian experience after the revolution indicated that the sectarian army, just as it was unable to protect the country from external aggression, it also stood helpless in front of the people movement. It remained helpless until the international security system provided it with hidden and overt support to keep the power of the functional minority in power. Therefore, the next coming Syrian people's political forces must raise the question about an existing traditional army, which will be a burden on the Syrian economy and development. Democracy and good neighborhood policy are the defending walls to protect the new Syria. This future force however is in need of security services in the coming stage; this is in order to contribute to protecting the country's internal security from abuse. Many countries no longer have armies, and the presence of traditional armies has become a burden; such an army little may prevent an aggression in light of the dreadful disparity in power between the strong and the weak!
(1) Hanna Batatu: (The Syrian Farmers: Sons of Their Rural Notables Holding Less Ranking and Their Policies (Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies - 2014
(2) Muta'a Safadi: (The Baath Party: Tragedy of the Birth, Tragedy of the End) - Dar Al-Adab - Beirut: 1964
(3) Dr. Sami Al-Jundi: (Al-Baath), Dar An-Nahar - Beirut 1969
(4) Nicholas Van Dam: (The Struggle for Power in Syria), Madbouly Library - Cairo: 1995