What is correctly named “Arab Spring” is continuing to heat up the Middle East without an end in sight. As predicted earlier in this column, Muslim Brotherhood started to show its strength in Egypt; elections hoped for by all Tunisians have been delayed; President of Yemen has been injured in an assassination attempt and moved to Saudi Arabia for treatment leaving Yemen in the hands of various tribes and rebels who have no definite plans for the future; protesters have been subdued in Bahrain; and an undeclared, aimless and leaderless war continues to deplete our resources in Libya. However, the most important of all events in the Middle East has to be the insurrection against the Socialist Baath Party controlled dictatorship led by Basher al-Assad in Syria and its implications. What happens in Syria will undoubtedly change and re-shape the entire area for many years to come.
Syria in the past few years has become a true surrogate state of Iran. While Iran is not an Arab state, its influence in the area is huge. Iran has sent high level officers from the elite Quds Force into Syria; trained and financed Hezbollah units and in fact invaded Lebanon, turning that small but strategicallyimportant country on Israel’s northern border into another client state. Iran’s influence and power in the area is undeniable. Financing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan against the US military presence and helping insurgencies in Yemen and Bahrain; Iran showed her desire to create a dangerous zone around their main target, Israel. A new report released this morning clearly indicates that Iran is only about two months away from having the capability of producing their first nuclear weapon. This is what brings us to the Persian Summer.
If we start by looking into the fast moving events in Syria today, we may be able to get a glimpse of what we can expect in the upcoming Persian Summer. Syria borders Turkey in the North, Lebanon and Israel in the West, Iran in the East and Iraq in the South. Since 1970, when Hafez al-Assad father of the present Dictator Basher al-Assad, assumed power in Syria as the head of the Arab Baath Socialist Party, Syria was under an emergency rule. In March of 1973 a new constitution was put into effect; officially defining Syria as a secular socialist state with Islam recognized as its majority religion. On October 6, 1973, Syria and Egypt began the YomKippur War against Israel. After the initial surprise, Israeli military reversed the initial Syrian gains and pushed the Syrian Army out of the strategic Golan Heights and invaded Syrian territory beyond the 1967 border. Israel still occupies the Golan Heights. When the Lebanese Christians were in danger of being eliminated, they asked Syria’s assistance. Assad sent in 40,000 troops using the invitation as a reason and occupied Lebanon. Syria remained in Lebanon until 2005 and engineered many political assassinations. Approximately a million Syrian workers were sent to Lebanon to work for the reconstruction of Lebanon; eventually 200,000 of them were sworn in as Syrian citizens. From 1976 to 1982, fundamentalist Sunnis led by the Muslim Brotherhood led an armed insurgency against the secular Baath Party of Assad. In February of 1982, Assad sent in troops into the city of Hama and leveled the city killing between an estimated 10,000 to 25,000 people, what is now described as the single deadliest act by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East. Hafez al-Assad died in June 2000 and the Syrian parliament changed the constitutional age of a new president from 40 down to 34 in order to elect Assad’s son, Basher, President. There was much hope he would be a reformer but this never materialized. The Arab Spring started in Syria on January 26, 2011 and despite all efforts of Basher al-Assad grew in size with 7,000 people detained and over 800 civilians killed. Today a northern Syrian city is surrounded by government troops, ready for the second Hama massacre. Iran has been following the events in Syria closely making sure Iran wins at the end at all costs.
Iran wants to dominate the Middle East and do away with the State of Israel; there is no doubt about that. However, there are some interesting events taking place within Iran which point to a possible Persian Summer of anti-government demonstrations and possible insurgencies within Iran. President Ahmadinejad of Iran may have lost favor with the ruling Mullahs and he may be planning a pre-emptive and possible nuclear attack on Israel. He would certainly need the control of the territory between Iran and Israel (Syria) to achieve his goals. In all this turmoil, one cannot and should not expect Israel to stand by and receive the inevitable. All the signals are pointing to a major confrontation in the area this summer. What started in Tunisia early in thespring and constituted the Arab Spring in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria looks like it may turn into a very hot and active Persian Summer. Syrians escaping the Assad assassins are flooding into Southern Turkey across the border, refugee camps are popping up faster than mushroom fields all around Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish populated southern border. After national elections which were held in Turkey today, things may even get more complicated as the Kurds may start making some immediate demands for representation.
The world as we know it in the Middle East is changing. The end results may not bode well for America. We have already spent huge amounts of blood and treasure in the area; lost some of the best and the bravest in the process. Now we will be facing a nuclear Iran in the Persian Summer with our weak economy, with our military pre-occupied in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya; with little if any support from our European allies; a depleted and weak NATO and a toothless United Nations content with passing one useless resolution after another.
Yes, it will be a hot summer indeed… A hot Persian Summer…
Currently a member of Marco Island’s Code Enforcement Board, Tarik Ayasun has given many years of community service to various organizations.