Syria explained: How it became a religious war

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How did Syria go from an internal uprising to a wider clash drawing funding and fighters from across the region?


In a word, Middle East experts say, religion.

Shiite Muslims from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran have flooded into Syria to defend sacred sites and President Bashar al-Assad's embattled regime. Sunni Muslims, some affiliated with al Qaeda, have rushed in to join rebels, most of whom are Sunni.

Both sides use religious rhetoric as a rallying cry, calling each other "infidels" and "Satan's army."

"That is why it has become so muddy," said professor Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. "The theological question has returned to the center."

That's not to say that the warring parties are fighting over, say, the definition of God.

But the United Nations, in a series of reports, has warned with mounting urgency that the battle lines in Syria are being drawn along sectarian – that is, religious – lines. Both sides fear that whoever wins power will wipe out the loser.

"The conflict has become increasingly sectarian, with the conduct of the parties becoming significantly more radicalized and militarized," the UN said earlier this year.

And that's a really bad thing, foreign policy experts say.

Religious civil wars are longer and bloodier than other types of clashes, according to studies. They are also twice as likely to recur and twice as deadly to noncombatants.

Written By: Daniel Burke
continue to source article at religion.blogs.cnn.com

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    • In reply to #1 by prettygoodformonkeys:

      Big duh. Is the media finally swinging around to noticing the elephant in the room..?

      There are proposals to add political and Xtian elephants and more weapons to the mix – cheered on by media morons and political clowns – allegedly to make the situation better! – A bit like the mess they made in Lebanon, before the international meddlers backed off leaving the chaos to the locals.

  1. You have two main forces at work here, the first is the ever grinding evolutionary and subconscious manner in which people integrate themselves which takes shape as the archaic war mechanism. Then you have the superficial primers of religious hatred permitting such fundamental integration. Should the middle east hammer out their differences it will one day be an oasis of economic and scientific luster and progress. Israel-Palestine, Sunni-Shiite, Jew-Goy, Semitic-Foreigner are some of the integrative primers. The next generation will replace the combative fore runner, a generation already similarly unified by tech prowess and a general disdain over the present and stupid rulers. This is a monumental time as the last bastions of the old are being trashed by the new. Aloha!!

  2. This is precisely the reason why religion must be kept out of politics, it creates artificially distinctions between groups which shouldn’t exist, and then invariably causes ill feeling between the groups for ill conceived reasons of short-term expediency, which lead to long-term hatreds the reasons for which no one remembers

  3. FINALLY… the truth is escaping from the political camera obscura. It is however not surprising that the process takes decades; religion is the bedfellow of totalitarianism, beloved of most political leaders so it must be accorded immunity from both criticism and all attempts to control its malevolent aspects. Islam reacts with threats of [and actual] violence because it is without doubt the least tolerant of ‘religions’, being highly politicised and most ludicrous in its belief system. Anti- everything that modern civilisation values, it seeks to protect itself by terrorising critics into submission or murdering them if it can… Theo van Gogh, Ayan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie, Malala Yousefzai & thousands of unnamed heroes…

    So great bravery is required of critics both individuals and organisations- who is willing to risk death? Who would not rather ignore, appease or surrender to the barbarians of Islam? The great majority of western leaders, that’s who! And who, really can blame them?

  4. Quelle surprise. I wish the religious parties involved had a reliable method to figure out once and for all which side is correct and which one is wrong, instead of bashing each other’s heads in. But since we are talking about religion…sigh.

  5. At last someone has uttered the dread word! Not a peep anywhere elsewhere in the media!

    How the hell can any Government outside Syria even consider intervening without even knowing who the rebels are?

    This is a domestic religious war, which needed and received no provocation from outside, and intervention would simply fan the flames.

    This is no time for hand wringing do-gooding.

    This civil strife was exploited last century by the divide and rule tactics of The Balfour Declaration and The Sykes Picot Agreement; a tactic which was repeated but failed with the Suez fiasco: for background please see Wiki’.

    Post 9/11 it’s high time lessons were learnt.

    • In reply to #9 by Stafford Gordon:

      This is a domestic religious war, which needed and received no provocation from outside, and intervention would simply fan the flames.

      This is no time for hand wringing do-gooding.

      No, it’s a time for sitting back while a monster uses chemical weapons against his own people.

      All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

      Edmund Burke

      • In reply to #13 by Katy Cordeth:

        You really shouldn’t be calling the Americans monsters just because they used chemical weapons in Vietnam and Iraq, nor should you call the Israelis monsters just because they used chemical weapons in Gaza, nor should you call Al-Qaida monsters just because they are using chemical weapons in Syria. Are you saying that the crap should be bombed out of the USA and Israel for using a little gas, and out of Saudi Arabia for sprouting and arming a few terrorists? Whatever next?

  6. The US and to a lesser extent Britain and France have an interest in client states but no interest in Middle Eastern states with independence from the West and national secular movements. Therefore, the interest of the major powers is best served by:

    Encouraging the formation of hundreds of political parties on sectarian rather than ideological lines in these defenceless countries with lots of oil production and oil reserve.

    Discouraging the formation of any nationalist parties that might draw support from the country’s ethnic and sectarian groups.

    Holding farcical elections before establishing any neutral democratic institutions, a credible electoral commission, or an independent judiciary.

    Ensuring the appointment an assortment of quislings with blood on their hands, to guarantee continuous strife between secular and religious factions.

    Providing arms and resources, either directly or through obliging third-parties, to keep the kettle on the boil permanently, or until the oil runs out.

    Throwing into the mix words like, democracy, god, freedom, jihadists, WMDs, “killing-own-people”, to justify leaving a huge army of mercenaries in these countries to “train” their armies and police.

    Selling them sophisticated weapons costing huge fortunes but can’t be used against you.

    Devising “red-lines” in the sand with dire consequences if crossed, then deciding, without benefit of a UN Security Council resolution, when they have been crossed.

    Sounds fair enough to me.

    What else would you do if the wheels of your industry and your treasury relied heavily on the oil and, just as importantly, the oil revenues from these countries.

    What else would you do if some silly beggar of a native dictator wanted gold or cash-in-hand yuans or euros or even Greek drachmas for his oil, instead of quantatively-eased dollars held hostage in your banks?

  7. In reply to #18 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #16 by Katy Cordeth:

    . Do you think it’s Al Qaida who are responsible for the chemical attacks in Syria?

    Allegations have been made, but we don’t know who was responsible. We do know that nonsense was used as a basis for a similar attack and invasion of Iraq, and that lessons should be learned!

    Exclamation marks are always helpful when one lacks the intellectual chops or confidence to make one’s point. Almost as much as putting stuff in bold:

    I explained this to you on an earlier discussion, after you had sarcastically responded with the fanciful claim that the Syrian rebel forces were fighting for “liberal democracy”,

    Saying something, Alan, and explaining it are not necessarily the same thing. It is a subtle distinction, I admit, but the latter suggests a level of knowledge that may not be in evidence. I apologise however if you found my comment sarcastic.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/aug/28/us-bombing-in-syria-would-benefit-jihadists/?page=all and that bashing the Assad regime would make things better for the people – obviously a view based on a lack of homework on the subject.

    The perversely named “Arab Spring” is already delivering the fruits of death and misery in other states where the pseudo-liberators have clandestinely or blatently injected their meddling fingers.

    I really hope that one day you’ll explain to me just what it was about the “Arab Spring” which irked you to such an extent that you can’t even bring yourself to mention it without using scare quotes, Alan.

    The contempt you and many others here at the Oasis have for it baffles me. You guys bleat on about how Islamofascism is set to take over the planet, but when ordinary people come together and try to bring democracy and liberalism into countries where Islam has massive power and control over the populace, you can’t even be bothered to show support for them. I’d love to know how your minds work.

    I really hoped this paragraph of mine you hightlghted would link to something which explained you guys’ baa-baa attitude to the Arab Spring. I’m a little disappointed I have to say.

    Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of. (washingtontimes.com/news)

    Screw them then. I only care about children being gassed if they’re from atheist families.

    • In reply to #19 by Katy Cordeth:

      Saying something, Alan, and explaining it are not necessarily the same thing.

      Thank you for illustrating that point! I see you have nothing to say about your “rebels for liberal democracy” error, or my link exposing the complexity of the real situation! Still commenting on formatting avoids researching or addressing any real issues!

      I can’t be bothered finishing this comment or even this senten

      It beats all this tedious reasoning, putting on links to evidence , etc!

      I apologise however if you found my comment sarcastic.

      Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of. (washingtontimes.com/news)

      Screw them then. I only care about children being gassed if they’re from atheist families.

      The sarcasm pause was short lived! – I was hoping for an evidence-based comment, which showed a depth of perception of the complexity of the political situation and evaluation of the possible outcomes from proposed actions.. – Simplistic says as simplistic sees!

      So presumably the greater numbers of ones who are being shot, burned, blown up, or crushed under collapsed buildings, don’t count when you are a cheerleader for those attacking one party and focussed exclusively on one (yet to be properly investigated) gas incident!

      Some of us are thinking about all the people, and the greatest good of the greatest number, rather than gratuitous air-strikes against those demonised in the media by their enemies.

      • A rejoinder to Alan4discussion (#24)

        “Some of us are thinking about all the people, and the greatest good of the greatest number, rather than gratuitous air-strikes against those demonized in the media by their enemies”.

        Well put Alan.

  8. Dear Katy,

    You cut and pasted the much quoted line attributed to Edmund Burke, but I have the works of that 18th century Dubliner before me, and I am blessed if I can find it in any of his writings and speeches. The closest to the sentiment expressed in that misquotation is in his “Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents”, where he says, “When bad men combine, the good must associate: else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle”.

    However, if you insist that it was Burke who said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”, then I would be most obliged to you if you could point me to the book, speech, essay, or the back of an envelope where he penned these words.

    Sincerely

    ZedBee

    • In reply to #21 by ZedBee:

      Dear Katy,

      You cut and pasted the much quoted line attributed to Edmund Burke, but I have the works of that 18th century Dubliner before me, and I am blessed if I can find it in any of his writings and speeches. The closest to the sentiment in that misquotation is in his “Thoughts on the Cause of P…

      Omigosh, in that case the sentence “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” is a Katherine Cordeth original. I claim it now for myself. Godsbuster knows about copyright and trademark law and I’m sure he’ll help me out in making sure I’m not screwed by those members of Burke’s estate who… who… ah Christ, I can’t be bothered finishing this comment or even this senten

  9. Just a little additional note about responsibility for the poison gas being in Syria in the first place – and a few items illustrating the complxities of the situation!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2415081/Britain-sent-poison-chemicals-Assad-Proof-UK-delivered-Sarin-agent-Syrian-regime.html

    British companies sold chemicals to Syria that could have been used to produce the deadly nerve agent that killed 1,400 people, The Mail on Sunday can reveal today.

    Between July 2004 and May 2010 the Government issued five export licences to two companies, allowing them to sell Syria sodium fluoride, which is used to make sarin.

    The Government last night admitted for the first time that the chemical was delivered to Syria – a clear breach of international protocol on the trade of dangerous substances that has been condemned as ‘grossly irresponsible’.

    Business is business and hypocrisy is hypocrisy!

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35964.htm

    The Syrian military found chemical weapons in the rebels’ tunnel located in the Jobar suburb of Damascus. Later the Syrian state TV showed the discovered poisonous agents and medical drugs.

    Journalist Yara Saleh of the Al-Ihbariya Syrian information channel provided The Voice of Russia with more details about this discovery.

    “The rebels launched two missiles filled with poisonous gas in the Jobar neighbourhood which caused Syrian soldiers’ nausea and asphyxia.

    Some time later when the Syrian army managed to take that suburb by storm they found the warehouse and laboratory where shells were stored and stuffed with poisonous agents. Boxes with new gas masks were also found, they carried labels ‘Made in US’. The fact that the rebels did not use those gas masks proves that they had not been attacked with any poisonous gases.

    Two glass vessels with labels ‘Made in Saudi Arabia’ were also found there. Weapons and explosives made in Saudi Arabia were found in Syria in the past as well. Experts will determine the contents of those vessels.

    • In reply to #26 by Alan4discussion:

      Between July 2004 and May 2010 the Government issued five export licences to two companies, allowing them to sell Syria sodium fluoride, which is used to make sarin.

      Sodium fluoride is also used to make toothpaste and to fluoridate the water supply.

      Hmmm.

  10. Syria crisis: UN to confirm sarin gas used in Damascus- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24113553

    There is “convincing evidence” that sarin gas was used in a rocket attack in the Syrian capital, Damascus, last month, a UN report is to confirm.

    Earlier, UN investigators said they were probing 14 alleged chemical attacks in Syria since September 2011.

    Assigning blame for the attack in Ghouta was not part of the inspectors’ remit.

    So there is no confirmation of who was responsible yet, although various diplomats are making speculative claims.

  11. There are at least two reasons why the rest of the world is reluctant to “kick Assad in the teeth”.

    First, because we don’t know any more about Assad than what we know about Milosevic, Rumsfeld, Pol-Pot, Mao-Zedung, Nguyen, Napoleon, or Kaiser Wilhelm. All we know is the select morsels that we are allowed to gather from the channels to which we are granted access.

    Secondly, it is not up to the rest of the world to kick anyone in the teeth. The world has always been ruled by Mafia States, often supported by Murder Incorporated States which do the bidding of the Capo di tutti Capi, and whatever action the Godfather takes must be the right one, because Might Makes Right, whether it was dictated from the satanic Kremlin and Tian-An-Men Square (god forbid) or from the divine Palais de l’Elysee, or Downing Street, or the Oval Office.

    The rest of us in the lower ranks may like it, or lump it, or march to Hyde Park in futile protests, or write letters to a rag Editor, or burst an artery complaining to each other about it on websites such as this, brimming with the knowledge fed to us like foie gras. I would have thought this was obvious.

  12. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24140475
    Russia will give the Security Council evidence implicating Syrian rebels in a chemical attack on 21 August, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.

    Syrian officials supplied the evidence, which Mr Lavrov has not yet seen.

    A UN report released on Monday concluded the nerve agent sarin was used in the attack in Damascus, in which hundreds were killed.

    The US blamed government forces for the attack, but Russia and Damascus have insisted that rebels were responsible.

    The UN report did not apportion blame for the attack, which sparked diplomacy that culminated in a deal for Syria to hand over its chemical arsenal by mid-2014.

    For the benefit of those who would be running around like headless chickens throwing bombs around, in an area with the population already terrorised by civil war, – the evidence is still to be presented and evaluated.

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