Syria will be the second most important Arab state to fall in the Arab Spring. While Egypt could liberate Sinai Syria’s Golan Heights remain under occupation since 1967, which should make Syria most bitter enemy of Israel. To add to that, Hamas and Hizbullah, fiercest fighters against Israel, are also either centered in Syria or supported by it. Syria’s strategic and historical connection makes it the central piece in a puzzle overcomplicated by sectarian religious beliefs and high drama of political intrigue.
Historically, Damascus was the seat of the mighty Umayyads who expanded the Islamic Caliphate into North Africa and Europe through Spain in the west, and speard all over to Central Asia and Hindustan in the East. Damascus (or Dimashq in Arabic) was linked with beauty, wealth, scholarship and prestige by Islamic rulers of past. It was also the garrison town of two famous sultans who used Damascus as the military base for their wars. Nuruddin Zinki and Salahaddin Ayyubi made Dimashq their military headquarters for their famous battles against the occupying forces of 11th century Crusaders who came mostly from France, England, Germany, Italy, Russia, Austria and Hungary under their individual kings. It was the 11th century mix of NATO and Zionist hardliners rolled into one.
Occupied Jerusalem of 11th century would have been more powerful than today’s because all the might of 11th century NATO was at her disposal. Franks, as they were referred to by Muslims, came with their best weapons and finest horses and fiercest soldiers. They built impregnable castles and fortified their towns with advanced defence weapons of their time. Most importantly, Franks were united under a common cause sanctified by their highest religious authority, the Pope himself. They were guaranteed heaven for killing the infidels (muslims) because muslims were thought to be idol worshippers. The invasion of Al-Quds was not for territory, it was a religious war carried with a promise for eternal salvation.
Muslims, on the other hand, were in their worst stage. Fatimids had captured most of North Africa and Ash-Sham (present day Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine) from the Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad. This meant that there were three caliphates in the Islamic world. Abbasids in Baghdad, Fatimids in Cairo and Umayyads in Andalusia (Muslim Spain). Fighting the powerful Franks under these circumstances must have been harder than fighting Israel today.
In such situation, Nuruddin Zinki rose up to the challenge. He started a campaign to dislodge the weak petty kings from power in various Islamic provinces and towns, in order to unite them under the command of a central ruler. It may have been the Arab Spring of his time. Zinki and his lieutenant Salahddin Ayubi were successful to retake almost all of Ash-Sham. Salahddin Ayubi was then sent to rest Cairo away from Fatimid rule. With the fall of Fatimids, and the death of Zinki, Cairo and Damascus came under the governorship of Sultan Salahddin Ayubi, who gave his allegiance to the Abbasid Caliph. United provinces of Egypt and Syria under Salahddin found its new capital in Damascus. Here, Salahddin united the armed forces of Egypt and Syria, equipped them with the fastest horses, trained them in the deserts and strategized for war against the might of all Europe. On 27, Ramadan 1187 Salahddin Ayubi entered the holy city. He cleansed Masjid Al Aqsa with rose water before placing the special Mimbar made by Zinki at the place of khutbah.
Egypt and Syria are disunited just like every other Arab Muslim country. Jordan and Lebanon act like small satellite states for any powerful country having an interest in that region. Gulf countries remain divided along tribal borders without credible defense force. Arab Spring is threatening to change all that. The fall of Syria, which is more imminent now, will trigger a new great game in the Ash-Sham region. Arab League has suspended its ‘Observer’ mission to Syria, while others are starting to recognize the Syrian Transition Council already. Turkey has finally made the ‘moral’ move to withdraw its support for Assad. Iran might be the only country to support Baathist Assad. This can’t be a long term solution anyway. Its time for Assad to leave. It’s time for new players, and Muslim Brotherhood is poised to be at center stage.
- National News: Arab League halts mission in Syria (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Arab League Gives Up On Syria (lezgetreal.com)
- Arab League suspends Syria mission as violence rages (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Syria: Arab monitor pullout aims to influence UN – Jerusalem Post (jpost.com)
- Syria: Arab League Suspends Mission as Violence Rages (ibtimes.com)
- Crackdown on rebels in Damascus (bbc.co.uk)