Early on, the Arab Spring seemed an inspiring story about the oppressed rising up against their oppressors. But now it looks more like a depressing story of descent into barbaric sectarian, ethnic, and religious division.
Case in point: Syria.
The Arab Spring in Syria is becoming more and more an ethnic-religious war.
It’s a Sunni-vs-Shia showdown. Fundamentalist Sunnis are in the vanguard of fighting the Alawi regime. Sunni countries (Saudi, Gulf, Turkey) are helping them. Shia countries (Iran, Iraq) are helping the regime. The Free Syrian Army is an umbrella, but real military power lies with several militias. One of the militias, the al-Nusra Front, has been denounced as a terrorist group by the US. Videos show rebel atrocities such as beheadings and desecrating a Shia place of worship.
As for reports that the regime is collapsing, Patrick Cockburn reports from Damascus in The Independent that he is doubtful:
the best informed Syrians and foreign diplomats say, on the contrary, that the most recent rebel attacks in the capital had been thrown back by a government counteroffensive. They say that the rebel territorial advances, which fuelled speculation abroad that the Syrian government might implode, are partly explained by a new Syrian army strategy to pull back from indefensible outposts and bases and concentrate troops in cities and towns.
The polyethnic character of Middle Eastern states is one of the basic reasons why the Arab Spring rotated from a story of liberation to one of sectarian barbarism. Insecurity breeds fear which leads to seeking security in the group. The group is ususually not a nation but some combination of a lineage, an ethnicity, or a religious sect.
In an earlier post, I tentatively suggested separation of the groups. Otherwise we are likely to see ongoing war, ethnic cleansing, and instability.