Sunday, 7 August 2011


The Assads are described as a despotic family regime. So are the Gaddafis. The Assads are Ba'athists. So were Saddam Hussein and his fellows. Bombs rained on Iraq and now on Libya. Bombs from NATO/UN/USA/EU, justified as necessary to prevent the killing of citizens by cruel dictators. Such as the Assads? Yet no Western/International Community bombs rain on Syria. 

The only conclusion to be drawn is that Syria has no oil. 

The CIA World Fact Book lists the country's natural resources as  petroleum, phosphates, chrome and manganese ores, asphalt, iron ore, rock salt, marble, gypsum, hydro-power. This source – and you can bet your bottom dollar these folks really know their stuff -  also reveals Syria to the be in 33rd position in the world in terms of oil production, behind countries like Canada, Australia and Mexico, not exactly well-known as geysers of the black stuff. So in that sense you could say that no, Syria has not much oil and more importantly is not a major supplier to the U.S.A.. 

A google check of the Syrian economy reveals that agricultural and industrial products are the principal outputs. These products are not desperately needed by Western/International Community powers in the way oil is, which points to the selective nature of military intervention. There is a particular manner in which the interests of Western businesses prevail when such interventions occur.  Cui bono  - who benefits? - as Cicero asked. Check the recent contracts signed by the Iraqi government and major oil companies for exclusive extraction rights and guaranteed pricing. 

But would the Syrian people want such military intervention and would it be good for them? Experiences in Iraq and Libya indicate such interventions do not automatically benefit citizens. As regards Afghanistan, let's not even go there. Perhaps Syria is blessed in not having much oil.

So what exactly is going on in Syria then?

Nizar Qabbani, the Syrian poet, wrote:

I conquer the world with words,
conquer the mother tongue,
verbs, nouns, syntax.
I sweep away the beginning of things
and with a new language
that has the music of water the message of fire
I light the coming age
and stop time in your eyes
and wipe away the line
that separates
time from this single moment. 

Could this be what's going on in Syria at present?

With the tanks rolling in Hama and bodies lying in the streets, it's not obviously the case. Recent promises by foreign minister, Walid al-Muallem, that free and fair elections will be held to find an administration that delivers the desires of the Syrian people have not quelled the protests. Either have the tanks. 
Voices are raised from outside Syria condemning the state crackdown. 
But it is the Syrian people themselves who will speak and write their future. Will they sweep away the beginning of things with a new language that has the music of water and the message of fire to sound and light the coming age?

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