The book considers the propagandistic and military dimensions of the crisis, suggesting how Syria might evolve. At the heart of this analysis is a key element of Syrian society: its ingrained interconfessional character deriving from the historical presence on its soil of various religious faiths. Powerful minorities have, however, repeatedly applied political and military pressure to force the state to abandon its non-religious and non-discriminatory character.
The author’s review of scholarly texts is combined with research in Syria and other countries. He has conducted interviews with religious leaders, NGO personnel, combatants, displaced people and other victims. Among those interviewed is the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, who offers his perspective on the crisis and on the country’s past and future.
“In addition to explaining the causes of a long conflict, Syria in perspective strips off a lot of myths that come to us about the conflict in Syria”.
“A splendid book has just appeared, Syria in Perspective. More than a new version of the war, it is a different insight for trying to know and understand the reality of a place and a society that as the author says no one knows despite having heard so much about it”.
Writer and former Director of the Spanish National Library
“How does a multi-religious state work? The journalist and professor Pablo Sapag explains it in Syria in perspective. He analyzes the historical and political keys to the Syrian conflict, the different fronts, regional and global interventionism and the propaganda and information around this conflict”.
“In short, we are facing an essential work to understand the historical, political, economic and, above all, religious and propagandistic dynamics of the Syrian crisis. A work that every objectivity and rigour lover should read calmly before passing judgment on such a matter ‘intoxicated’ of prejudices and misinformation”.
Spanish national radio
Antonio César Moreno Cantano
Revista Internacional de Historia de la Comunicación
The author’s reasons to write this book, the research plan, the sources used and the overall book structure
A chapter devoted to set the bases to approach the Syrian crisis, why it’s not a civil war and what is it instead.
SYRIA: AN HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL OVERVIEW
This chapter outlines Syria’s historical, political and social background, emphasising the multi-religious character of its society as the context that has framed the country’s politics since 1946.
THE EARLY STAGES OF THE CRISIS: INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL FACTORS
Without several intertwined factors, the Syrian crisis would never have reached such a violent and destructive point.
REGIONAL AND GLOBAL IMPACTS ON THE SYRIAN MOSAIC
From Turkey to Iran and from the US to Russia, different powers defending vital interests in Syria and beyond.
PROPAGANDA AND MEDIA IN THE SYRIAN CRISIS
Strategic communication was crucial in both the internal and external aspects of the Syrian crisis. Find the propaganda messages of all those involved in the Syrian conflict.
THE MILITARY DIMENSION OF THE SYRIAN CRISIS
A comprehensive approach to the different combatants parties, the main battles and the tactics used in such an irregular armed conflict.
FROM THE MILITARY TO THE POLITICAL DIMENSION: THE NATIONAL RECONCILIATION PROCESS
Read about the attempts to tackle the crisis through negotiations and the social and cultural logic that ended violence in towns, villages and neighbourhoods.
SYRIA AFTER THE CRISIS: PHYSICAL RECONSTRUCTION AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS TO A CHRONIC PROBLEM
Syria pretends to rebuild itself but COVID-19, international economic sanctions and the permanent pretension of a minority to impose a state religion complicate that endeavour.
Syria in perspective by its author
Shedding light on Syria’s blind spotThis book doesn’t understand the Syrian crisis as a sectarian one. It approaches it from a different angle. The Syrian society is a long time multi-religious and multi-ethnic one, composed of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Druze, Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Circassians and others. That is something barely assumed outside the country because there are very few societies like the one of Syria, Lebanon and other two or three other countries in the Middle East. In the West there is a tendency to believe that their scheme of minorities and majorities apply to other societies exactly in the same way. However, a quantitative approach to the population of Syria and other countries without considering the qualitative dimension of social and power relationships there falls short to explain their realities. There is an extended belief that a certain religious or ethnic group – either majority or minority – acts politically as a block oppressing other groups. That belief disregards the deep social interconnections of societies that are more a mosaic than an archipelago. So this book tries to circumvent an assumption which is not so obvious in Syria’s daily life and political and constitutional systems.
Neither a civil war nor a sectarian one, a multi-faceted crisis without a starting and an ending dateThis book neither frames the Syrian conflict as a classic civil war, as it has been presented in the media and by some academic and political circles. In Syria there was not a single element of those that scientific literature -Kalyvas, Sambonis and Moro- consider necessary to talk properly about a civil war, if the intention is not propagandistic. In a real civil war are needed two proper governments exercising real political control inside the country and over the territory and its population. Real armies and two administrations capable to provide services to the people, from health to garbage collection are also indispensable conditions. That’s why it is simplistic to compare the conflict in Syria with the Spanish or the Lebanese civil wars. Using old recipes to explain current complex situations is useless if someone wants to understand. In theoretical terms, in political sciences, the Spanish Civil War is the model, the archetype of that kind of conflict. However, if you compared what happened there in the 1930s and what has happened in Syria, you will not find similarities. The Spanish Civil War, as the Lebanese one had a starting and an ending date. You don’t have that in Syria. The crisis showed its face in 2011 but it was in the making for years. In fact Syria faced two other uprisings linked to political Islam (the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood) in 1964 and between 1973 and 1982 (the SMB and the Fighting Vanguard). Even though the situation is already normal in most of the country, the crisis is still there. In fact Syria will face for a long-time terrorist activities and other adversities, like the US and EU economic sanctions which have complicated the reconstruction and the fight against coronavirus COVID-19. That has nothing to do, however, with a civil war, not even with a war in the military sense of the term.
The international dimension of the Syrian crisisSyria’s crisis cannot be understood only from its economic, political, social and in terms of civil right deficiencies, however grave and deep they were in 2011. Without the intervention of external regional and global powers, this terrible armed conflict but not a civil war would have never reached the level of bloodletting and destruction witnessed since 2011. The armed conflict in Syria fits better in Mary Kaldor’s ‘new war’ category, which stresses the importance of active external interference. Syria in perspective addresses this point explaining the interests and actions of those external powers acting against or in favour of the Syrian state. Regarding the former, one of the aims of some of those external powers interfering in Syria, whether regional or global –from Saudi Arabia to the US- , was to divide Syria in statelets. If instead of a united Syria with 23 million people you have four or five mini Syrias with 4 million people each, you will have weak countries depending on the will of external patrons and without any political or economic autonomy. Other regional and global powers such as Iran, Russia and China took the side of the Syrian state because a combination of material and political interests, but in the case of Russia also because it shares some cultural and religious values with Syria.
Not one, but several Syrian oppositionsThe groups that rose against the Syrian government were of different types. You cannot put in the same basket all those groups which were protesting in 2011 for several reasons. There were many of those groups that did not have a violent agenda. However and compared with others those groups were weak in terms of organization and so they were coopted by other stronger ones and better connected to foreign agencies. The latter had a tougher or even a violent agenda which was evident from the very early stages of the crisis, as Joshua Landis exposed in Syria Comment.
Two different strategies for the propaganda war
Follow the full interview of Zeinab Al Saffar to Pablo Sapag in Menaldahel program of Al Majadeen TV channel hereIn the propaganda battle, in which strategies, tactics and technical resources are needed there were big differences between the various actors of the crisis. The strategy of the groups that rebelled first against the government and then the Syrian state itself was good and fruitful for the short term and to an audience outside Syria. The one of government and state was successful for the long term and inside Syria. At the beginning of the crisis, the non-violent opposition groups were very clever in the use of propaganda because they focused on the outside world and they were able to frame events in Syria in the so called ‘Arab spring’ narrative so they were able to catch momentum. They did it in the right time, which is very important in propaganda terms. In so doing they were able to mobilise civil society from other countries which however did not know or understand well Syria. That was a big propaganda achievement also gained through the intense use of social media.