Earlier this week, I listened to an hour-and-a-half interview with Samer Abboud, featured on Jadaliyya a couple of months ago.
In his new book Syria, professor Samer Abboud provides an in-depth analysis of Syria’s descent into civil war. He unravels the complex and multi-layered causes of the current political and military stalemate, the destructive role of international and regional actors, and the rise of competing centers of power throughout the country. He say that as “this situation persists, the continued fighting is reshaping Syria’s borders and will have repercussions on the wider Middle East for decades to come.”
It was all around a fascinating and insightful interview. A few points that Abboud made that stood out to me:
- Discussions and debates around the war seem to consistently ignore and marginalize the role and potential of Syrian civil society, in favor of focusing on the various armed groups and their territorial holdings; Abboud argues that Syrian civil society, particularly those organizations and networks which sprung up in the wake of the 2011 protests, are still resilient and ought to be given a role in peace talks
- Both the Assad regime and the rebels are highly fragmented, and this is largely due to the large role that international actors (specifically Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Iran) are playing in backing their preferred proxies within Syria and preventing any real consolidation or centralization process from taking place on the ground
- The Assad regime is increasingly losing control of militias on the ground (i.e. the National Defense Forces), and is politically dominated by Iran
- The international liberal model of peace-making relies on creating a strong central state; but it makes a lot more sense to take the potential for decentralization and partition seriously in cases like Syria
Abboud also made an amusing comment on how exasperated he became when trying to understand Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy in Syria:
…Saudi Arabia, for me, for example…if I spent the rest of my life trying to think of this, I can’t distill any interest they have in Syria, any specific interest…this or that, A or B, I don’t know. I’m really at this point where I believe that what Saudi Arabia wants is to just foster chaos and instability. There’s no coherency in anything that is going on.
All in all, very worthwhile interview to listen to.