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The Syrian Regime’s Perplexed Loyalists: Who Are We?

The Syrian Regime’s Perplexed Loyalists: Who Are We?

Wednesday, 27 January, 2021 - 10:30

A new problem has been added to the many problems facing Syria today: Many want their share of the spoils, but there isn’t enough booty to satiate any of them. This situation sums up innumerable minor events and details, the most important of which is certainly the problem with the former partner and maternal cousin, Rami Makhlouf. As usual, he wanted to take, but he is suddenly being asked to give and pay back some of the debt owed to the Russians. His latest cry for help suggested a novel tendency, pleading to the Creator, after he had discovered the limitation of pleading to creations.

But spoil-sharing has a cultural extension, though the returns here are shallow, indeed, they are even shallower than the material and political returns. Only sediments remain of the corroded parties and ideas that all played a role in Bashar al-Assad’s war on his people, and they, in turn, also await the regime’s payment of the dues it owes them. These dead parties and ideas deludedly believe that the regime is capable of salvaging and reviving them. And since the ‘Arab Socialist Baath Party’ is no longer, as such, the ruling party, they are increasingly vying for the exposed pieces of this dwindling cake.

The list of debtors is long, as the regime is, of course, indebted to Iran, with its Vilayet el-Faqih, and to Russia, with its enthusiasm for minorities and its link to Levantism. Alongside them, it is also indebted to Hezbollah and the Shiite Iraqi factions. But it is also indebted to parties from the far left and others from the far right, and the Communists, the Syrian Nationalists, the Nasserists, and the official Sunni institution, whose presence helps to play down the regime’s Alawiteness. And this is aside from the many traditional familial and regional forces.

The debt’s receipt is long, no doubt. True, Hezbollah could grant Iran the share it calls for, but the Communists won’t find a Soviet Union to gift them their own share. As for Syrian Nationalists, they cause minor trouble to their allies by espousing rhetoric inimical to Arab Nationalist pretenses from time to time.

No doubt, the Syrian regime’s ideological cupboard includes something from all of this: Islamic Arabism, Secular Arabism, Syrianism without Arabism or Islam, Anti-Americanism in leftist and fascist variations…

Assad’s speech at the Uthmani Mosque lauded the Arabic language and Syria’s Arab identity, and, with typical delusiveness and sophistry, refused to say that the Arabs and their language’s arrival to Syria expelled Syriac from it. His Minister of Endowments Muhammad Abd al-Sattar al-Sayed attacked the notion of a “Syrian nation”, because what we know is “the Arab nation, and there can be no separation between Arabism and Islam.” However, the loyalist actress, Sulaf Fawakherji, considered Syriac “our mother tongue, the ancient sacred language of Syria’s history.”

These remarks would have gone totally unnoticed if it weren’t for a few precedents, particularly the racist anti-Arabism and anti-Arab campaign that the regime had sponsored. The campaign peaked in 2016, but it was abandoned recently. A few days ago, the “Al Modon” website reminded us of the campaign to “revive the heritage of the first civilizations to have settled in the region,” particularly the official celebration of the Assyrian Year, “Akitu,” which is “one of the holidays banned in the country, in the same way as the Kurdish Nowruz.”

In fact, parties to civil wars usually claim that they are fighting in defense of ideas, even when ideas mean nothing to them. They cling tightly, though rhetorically, to these ideas and their association with them. But, with the Assad regime, we are faced with a borrowing of ideas from every nook and cranny, whereby divergent versions are uninterruptedly toyed with, exchanged, and jumbled together.

The regime thus has no answer to the question: Who are we? To be more precise, it has a thousand answers that satisfy a thousand factions… Beyond that, it does not have a “we” to begin with. Nor does it have an identity that goes further than its retention of power regardless of the cost. The only “we” available is the desire to perpetuate the survival of minor warlords backed by a big warlord.

This loose situation has led some observers to expect a settlement between Syria and Israel, one that the ideological debtors will have to practice justifying if it is to emerge. And they would thus have to postpone their demands for their dues until after their deal is concluded.

In the meantime, what Rami Makhlouf did not attain will not be attained by partisan or ideological Rami Makhloufs. The treasury is totally empty. Rami was right to rely on God.

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