An article titled “Syria explained: How it became a religious war” by Daniel Burke informs the readers that the fighting factions are being inspired by their respective religious beliefs. I have chosen this article for several reasons. First of all, this article helps the readers better understand the on-going war in Syria which is inaccurately being portrayed by various media channels as simply the fight between Assad’s dictatorial regime and rebels fighting for democracy.
But the greatest value I see in the article is its ability to help the readers better understand the Middle East region including its culture and how religion plays a dominant role in it. The readers will also realize that U.S. foreign policy towards Middle East is often quite naïve in its assumptions and not surprisingly produces few desirable outcomes. In addition, the readers also learn that cultures vary significantly across the world and may even have different definitions of what is right and what is wrong. Good intentions are not enough when dealing with issues in the Middle East because bad actors are often replaced with even worse actors.
The author has done a good job of providing objective understand of the different actors in the on-going Syrian crisis. The author takes the efforts to explain what different factions believe and what outcomes they seek and how the potential outcomes may affect different factions. The author doesn’t seem like he is taking positions but does warn the readers that the Syrian crisis is more complex than what is believed by most people. The author also draws attention to history lessons to suggest more careful approach towards the issue.
As far as I am concerned, the article has changed my views on rebels who have mostly been presented in positive light in the western media. Now I do not consider rebels to be any better than Assad. They are both guided by respective religious beliefs and interests which is only natural and as the author warns, removing Assad may do more harm to regional stability than allowing him to remain in power because Assad comes from a minority group and minorities such as Christians have done relatively well under his rule. I am inclined to believe that rights of minority groups under Assad could not be worse than if rebels come to power because I have always religiously followed news on political issues and Middle East is almost always in the news. One would read stories of persecution of minority groups under dictatorial regimes in the Middle East such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein or Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi but I don’t recall reading or hearing about persecution of minority religious groups in Syria.
I believe the western allies should lower their support of rebel forces because they are not fighting for better rights for an average Syrian but simply to advance their political agenda. One solution may be to let Assad stay in power but provide greater political representation to other groups though their representatives may not come from militant backgrounds. Similarly, Assad could also be forced to lower his powers and mostly become ceremonial head of the state, just as U.K’s royal family is while the affairs of the state are run by a democratically-held Prime Minister who serves for a term of four to five years. This solution will allow Assad to save face while also ensure that the country doesn’t fall into chaos because if Iraq is an example, the rebels may adopt retaliatory policies to make up for ‘perceived’ injustices in the past and to accomplish what they consider to be their divine call.