The colonial-era division of spoils draws a map of Syria's uncertainty

The colonial-era division of spoils draws a map of Syria's uncertainty - The National

Charles Glass in The National draws parallels between the French domination of Syria post-WW1 (aided by Arab allies) and foreign backing for some of Syria's rebels, writing:

In 2012, a new armed force, calling itself the Free Syrian Army, is rising in Syria. It has taken temporary hold of many Syrian towns and parts of its main cities. Like Feisal's volunteers, its members are a mixture of idealists and opportunists.

There are other similarities: they receive weapons, training and commands from outsiders; they have no idea what demands the foreign powers - among them the old imperialists Britain and France, as well as the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar - will make of them if they should seize power in Damascus; and they do not know where their insurrection will lead the country.

When the rebellion's foreign patrons discuss Syria's fate, their own interests will inevitably prevail - as Britain's and France's did in 1920 - over the desires of a "native government".

But in this case, who will be calling the shots? Far away Western powers or closer powers like Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Qatar? And does this make a difference?

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.