Syria: The Civil War has Already Begun

Article Summary
In the view of Sateh Noureddine, the reports now emerging from across Syria should leave little room for doubt that, whether or not the regime or the opposition care to acknowledge it, the country has already entered into a civil war. The author warns the parties to Syria’s internal struggle to learn from the experience of Lebanon, where denial and a preoccupation with foreign conspiracy theories were among the reasons why the civil war dragged on for fifteen deadly years.

There is complete denial in the Syrian official and opposition discourses [about the possibility of] a civil war [breaking out in Syria]. However, reports from the [Syrian] street indicate that [civil war] has become a reality, not just a threat warned against and feared by foreign [countries].

Confirmed reports being circulated about events taking place in Syrian cities and rural areas is terrifying. These [facts] predict that population classification based on sects will soon end, and will pave the way for a possible transition from Syrian demography to Syrian geography. Killings and kidnappings based on identity are no longer limited to personal or revenge cases. The spread of [these incidents] to the capital, Damascus, leaves no room for doubt that Syria has entered a dark tunnel. Lebanon entered [the same tunnel] in the mid-seventies and was only brought out of it by a miracle which has yet to be completed.

The Syrian street speaks a dual and highly contradictory language. The level of tension is very high and has now become uncontainable by the regime and the opposition. [Previously, the rhetoric] was mostly political and peaceful, but now weapons have seeped [into the discourse]. [These weapons] will soon be used in the destructive game of civil war, which was initiated by the regime and its security apparatus with a bizarre disregard for the risks involved and the price [to be paid].

Neither the regime nor the opposition are expected to admit that Syria is in the midst of an actual civil war - without any doubt. Many Lebanese still refuse to acknowledge that the massacres, assassinations, and forced displacements had in fact [amounted to] a civil war, but [say they were instead] the result of an external conspiracy which violated Lebanese [sovereignty] and provoked the launching of other wars on Lebanese territory.

But the [Syrian] regime’s and the opposition’s denial of the ongoing civil war in Syria reflects a mutual desire to explore that option and [only invest in it when conditions are optimal]. On one hand, there have been warnings about the Lebanese and Iraqi experiences, as well as a recent mobilization of sectarian fanaticism. On the other hand, there has been an alarming [false] sense of security because the balance of power and ratios of sectarian distribution would guarantee a swift and decisive resolution to the option of [civil war] - without taking into account the lives being lost and the threats that will destroy Syria’s society and fabric for years and even decades to come.

The involvement of the government and the opposition in [a civil war] is becoming more likely and more serious by the day. It seems that there is no longer room for the boring and repetitive talk of coexistence, mutual understanding, and national unity. [This kind of talk] cost the Lebanese people upwards of one hundred thousand lives, for the sole reason that they fooled themselves into blaming others - Arabs and Arabists, Israelis and Americans - [for the war in Lebanon]. The problem, however, had always been - and still is - at home.

The Syrian government and opposition are discussing with remarkable ease the bloody idea that the use of force - in all its guises - is the only way to end the crisis in Syria. [This discourse is being employed] at a time when it has become necessary and urgent for all parties - including those accused of outright collusion against Syria - to stop the civil war quickly and at any cost. The news emanating from Damascus and different parts of Syria has become unbearable, and it can no longer be ignored.

Sateh Noureddine is a regular contributor to As-Safir.

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