Dear President Trump:
In my last post I suggested that your are learning that you have a hard job. It got me thinking that you might need to understand what’s going on there. Here is my analysis (you’re welcome):
The Arab Spring has mixed results, but for our purpose let’s concentrate on Syria. The people of Syria certainly had motivation. Since 2000 they have lived under the oppression of President Bashar al-Assad; he succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad who ruled from 1970 until his death. By all accounts Bashar is a chip off the old block: Hafez was just as cruel as his son.
This might be a good place to talk about the role of religion in all this. The majority of Syrians are Muslim but like Christianity, there are divisions within Islam. For example, I am Catholic and you are Presbyterian, but we are both Christians.
Almost from its beginning, Muslims have divided into two groups: Sunni and Shia. Most Muslims are Sunni, but there are pockets of Shia, including Iran.
In Syria a small group of Shia Muslims branched off to a group called Alawites. Mr. Assad and his family are Alawite.
So what does this mean? If you hear nothing else from this post hear this: the war in Syria is a three way war. Three groups all battle for victory, and claim foreign sponsors. Let me try to explain this as best I can:
- Mr Assad leads the first group. As I said he is an Alawite and claims Syria’s only future lies in a continuation of his regime. He believes everyone who opposes him wants to destroy Syria and his backing comes from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- Syrian resistance composes the second group. They viewed the Arab Spring and saw an opportunity to overthrow Mr. Assad. Three of four of them identify as Sunni Muslims and believe they have suffered from oppression at the hands of the Assad’s. The United States supports this group.
- Finally, ISIS rounds out these groups. They are Shia and view both Alawites and Sunnis as infidels and want Syria to comprise part of a larger caliphate. They are backed by Iran.
Yes, Mr. Trump, this is complicated. Your fawning over Mr. Putin may well come back to haunt you as you have sent your Secretary of State to scold Mr. Putin. It likely won’t work. In any three way conflict, an alliance between two of them will almost certainly defeat the third. If Iran and Russia join forces, Syria may become a caliphate that none of us want.
Last September you told us you had a secret plan to destroy ISIS. At the time you refused to reveal it out of a fear that one of your opponents would appropriate it.
You no longer have opponents for your office. Maybe now is the time to reveal it.