Solidarity is non-violent. The desperate cries of Syria have reached to Heaven, pleading for the end of violent conflict.
What if any is the proper course for intervention?
Solidarity was active in popular uprisings in Arab states and saw the end of dictatorships in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. This movement came to be known as the Arab Spring and was noted for non-violent, peaceful transition toward Arab democracy.
The Arab Spring offered a peaceful alternative to al-Qaeda and like-minded violent jihadists.
In the wake of this movement it is natural to ask, Is Syria the next step in the Arab Spring?
In March 2011, the uprising in Syria began as a peaceful protest in favor of democratic reforms. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responded with violence to quell the protests. After roughly 17 months of conflict in which both the government and the opposition have perpetrated massacres and war atrocities, more than 20,000 Syrians lie dead and the violence continues to escalate.
Professionals say that as of this month the Syrian conflict has devolved into a full-fledged civil war.
The United States and the West have largely stayed aloof from events in Syria, preferring symbolic actions through the United Nations and the Arab League. Former UN President Kofi Annan acted as envoy on behalf of these bodies to seek a diplomatic solution; he ended his mission this week acknowledging the failure of his efforts.
Annan cited the lack of international cohesion and pressure as factors in the failure of his mission. Russia and China defeated action in the UN Security Council aimed at penalizing the Assad regime. Annan's failure does not mean there is no solution.
A solution is recumbent in part in the history of the region.
FAISAL I OF SYRIA
Faisal bin Al Hussein Bin Ali El-Hashemi was born in Ta'if in present-day Saudi Arabia in 1883, the third son of Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, and Emir of Mecca. As a member of the Hashemite dynasty, he was a descendant of the tribe of the Islamic Prophet Muhammed. Faisal died on September 8, 1933.
Faisal is better known as King of Iraq, a country he ruled for 12 years before his death in 1933. But before he was King of Iraq, he was King of Syria.
Faisal was an Arab nationalist, yet he recognized the validity of non-Islamic international partners and sought peace through them. He was prescient in detecting the winds of change and the potential of Zionism as a positive force for the transformation of the Middle East:
Faisal sided with Great Britain in World War I and with the help of T. E. Lawrence organised a revolt against the Ottoman Empire and this way helped [in] ending the Caliphate. . . . Though Faisal was a descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, Arab nationalism and independence, not religion, was his main motivation. Faisal also worked with the Allies during World War I in their conquest of Greater Syria and the capture of Damascus, where he became part of a new Arab government in 1918. He led the Arab delegation to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919[.]*
Faisal met with and negotiated legal agreements with Zionists:
On January 3, 1919 Faisal and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, President of the World Zionist Organization signed the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement, in which Faisal conditionally accepted the Balfour Declaration based on the fulfillment of British wartime promises of independence to the Arabs. These promises were not immediately fulfilled, but Arab states were granted autonomy from the European powers years after the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement, and these new Arab nations were recognized by the Europeans and the U.N., so Weizmann argued that the fulfillment was kept eventually and therefore the agreement still held.*
Faisal approved of practical collaboration between Arabs and Jews:
Emir Faisal, son of Sherif Hussein, the leader of the Arab revolt against the Turks, signed an agreement with Chaim Weizmann and other Zionist leaders during the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. “Mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people,” it said, “and realizing that the surest means of working out the consummation of their national aspirations is through the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab states and Palestine.” Furthermore, the agreement looked to the fulfillment of the Balfour Declaration and called for all necessary measures “. . . to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil.”
Faisal had conditioned his acceptance of the Balfour Declaration on the fulfillment of British wartime promises of independence to the Arabs. These were not kept.
Critics dismiss the Weizmann-Faisal agreement because it was never formally enacted; however, the fact the leader of the Arab nationalist movement and the Zionist movement could reach an understanding is significant because it demonstrated that Jewish and Arab aspirations were not necessarily mutually exclusive.**
The lessons of history are fragile and fleeting. The events of history overtook the higher aspirations of foundational Arabs and Jews who envisioned peaceful coexistence. Thus was missed a golden opportunity.
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES AND HASHEMITE CONTINUITY
There are historical wrongs that still plague humankind. The Arab/Israeli Conflict is one of these foremost missed opportunities. The Palestinians have suffered displacement and uncertainly about their collective prospects.
Syria and all the other Arab nations surrounding present-day Israel engaged in formal hostilities toward the Jews. This conflict has engrossed the region for decades and is one factor in the emergence of regional dictatorships in countries like Egypt and Syria. Military dictatorships are the most efficient means of managing an imminent national threat, real or perceived, such as that posed by the conclusion of the European Mandates and the United Nations' determination to partition Palestine. The departure of the French and the British from the Levant created a power vacuum.
Conversely, the easing of dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East in favor of popular democracies is both a sign and an opportunity. The time is ripe for peace. The common people want peace. Their expression of self-determination is also an indirect acknowledgement they see no threat in the continued presence of Israel among them. This premise applies to Syria as much as it does to Jordan, whose Hashemite king, Hussein, formally recognized Israel in 1994, becoming the second Arab head of state to do so.
Syria justified its dictatorship as a reaction in part to the conflict-laden emergence of the State of Israel. The popular uprisings in Syria that have followed in the wake of the Arab Spring reflect a common sentiment. Extra-territorial threats have diminished and conditions safely support self-autonomy and pluralism. Israel is no longer the Arab threat; the enemy lies within.
The government of Syria cannot continue in its present state. In spite of notable support, it has lost legitimacy at home and abroad. The opposition is fragmented and lacks the peaceful accord necessarily for both a representative democracy and the moral support of peaceful Solidarity. Neither the government, nor the opposition is fit to rule Syria at this time.
Syria would likely benefit from the intervention of a third party. I propose the successor of Faisal and Hashemite king, Abdullah II of Jordan, be empowered to assume control of Syria as a protectorate.
A Hashemite Mandate would include (but not be limited to) these primary and secondary objectives:
1. Negotiate the departure of Assad and his key loyalists.
2. Restore political and economic stability. Help draft a new Constitution and organize new elections.
3. Demilitarize Syria.
A Hashemite Mandate would seek to restore law and order to Syria. It would provide for the separation of combatants and prevent vendetta killings. Muslim peacekeepers experienced in the language and culture of the region are the best equipped to cleanse the land of Islamic terrorists.
1. National conciliation.
2. Settle refugees.
3. The pacification of Syria ought to provide new opportunities for the resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.
A Hashemite Mandate could extend the peace between Jordan and Israel to the wider region and reduce the excuses for settling Palestinian refugees in a permanent homeland.
OBLIGATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
A Hashemite Mandate is contrary to the approach of those who stoke the conflict by supplying weapons.
Reports indicate Russia is arming the Syrian government while the "rebels" are receiving hard aide from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The West has provided soft aide to the rebels and President Barack Obama reportedly authorized the CIA to offer covert assistance.
International actors should focus on securing weapons of mass destruction rather than adding the means for escalating the conflict.
A solution to the Syrian crisis lies dormant in part in the history of the region. Regional nations supported by the international community, especially the major powers, are responsible for crafting a regional solution. Jordan, Iraq, or both countries should take the lead in implementing the protectorate status of Syria.
The bounds of nations in the Middle East have shifted back and forth since the beginning of time. We quickly forget the benefits of peace in the mad drive to settle scores. The regional mistakes of the past portend change in the territorial make-up of nations.
Syria is entitled to its moment in the Arab Spring, but positive change may come at the far end of a long, winding road. Solidarity is peaceful both in its ends and means.
This article is intended to be a starting point for discussions.
** "Faisal's Acceptance of the Balfour Declaration", the Jewish Virtual Library.
See also: Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error, (NY: Schocken Books, 1966), pp. 246-247; Howard Sachar, A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), p. 121.