Najmeh Mohammadkhani
Journalist located in Iran and Middle East.

Inside Syria is a detailed and factual look into the history of the Syrian Civil War.

The atrocity of Syria’s civil war has interwoven the whole Middle East region with violence and tyranny. Historically the region by itself is already a cradle of tension. The flow of refugees and displaced Syrians, the upsurge of civilians’ death due to military invasions and demolished cities and habitation areas, are constantly repeated topics in the news. The Syrian Civil War and its consequences are no longer regional, but rather a global quandary and calamity.

Heavily Researched

The question now is how this disastrous civil war started. Reese Erlich’s book, though not recently published, can deftly guide you to answer that question. Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect accompanies readers on a journey of the Middle East and the Syrian Civil War story. It observes the civil war from many perspectives and follows the timeline finally to the catastrophe now in Syria.

«Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect accompanies readers on a journey of the Middle East and the Syrian Civil War story.»

Reese Erlich`s book was first published in 2014 and re-edited in 2016. His speech in the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University in February 2017 was actually an updated edition of his book represented verbally. An American freelance journalist and best-selling author, he is known for “watching the events on the ground and analysing them in a larger way.” He writes for many news corporations such as CBS Radio, Australian Broadcasting Corporation and National Public Radio. Erlich has voyaged to Syria and neighbouring countries frequently to be able to write the book Inside Syria. He studied at the University of California and has written numerous books about countries of the Middle East such as The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis published in 2007 and Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You (co-authored with Norman Solomon) in 2003.

Reese Erlich

The History Explained

Inside Syria starts with Noam Chomsky’s foreword in which Chomsky claims the Obama administration’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War would have ended it if Russia had not interfered. Later he criticises “humanitarian intervention” as a fashionable concept in the West that needs to be in favour of Syrian civilians rather than international communities.

Erlich examines the civil war from many angles, from the Arab Spring to the insufficiency and brutality of the Assad regime. He flashes back to World War I and the independence of the Arabs from the Ottoman Empire, which was followed by the control of France and Britain over Syria-Lebanon and the rest of the Arab areas. Later he talks about the formation of the Arab League in 1945 and the emergence of Pan-Arabism and the forming of the Baath Party. Then comes the arrival of Hafez al-Assad (father of Bashar al-Assad, the current Syrian president) who is called a street-smart politician. He became president as the result of a coup. He was a supporter of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and like many Arab countries, illegitimatised Israel. In 2000, Hafez al-Assad died and Bashar, his son, despite being under 40 years old, became the president of Syria.

Erlich listed a rigid and repressive system, crony capitalism, a dysfunctional economy, poverty, lack of freedom of speech and religious and ethnic discrimination as reasons which led to Syrian civilians’ frustration of the Assad regime and into uprising. Erlich interviews Syrian demonstrators as well as opponents and supporters of the Assad regime. As a journalist, he got the chance to interview many different people with different viewpoints during the revolts that began in the city of Daraa in March 2011. This feature makes the book an oral narration of what was going on in Syria at that time. From the bishop of the Armenian Orthodox Church as a supporter of Assad to Mahmoud Hassino, a gay opponent and member of the Local Coordinating Committee (LCC). Erlich explains that chemical weapon issues in Syria caused the US, Britain, and France to interfere: the Sarin rockets used by Assad military on civilians caused the UN to send a chemical weapon inspection team to the country.

«Generally, all his critical viewpoints somehow end with the United States’ intervention in the region in order to build a new divided Syria.»

Later on, Erlich discusses the role of Iran in the Syrian Civil War. As he travelled to Iran frequently, he interviewed many key figures such as University professors and diplomats about Syria’s situation. His verbal portraiture from Tehran during the Green Movement is quite interesting. His voyage to Jerusalem, Palestine, Golan Heights and Iraq (Sulaymaniya and Erbil) gives realistic vision to his political analysis. He mentions that presently Iran, Turkey, Russia, Lebanon and the United States are all dealing with the Syrian Civil War. Each of these countries are pursuing their own interests in Syria and what he added in his Watson Speech was that President Trump cannot “knock out the Islamic State” by forming an alliance with Putin and ignoring Iran. Generally, all his critical viewpoints somehow end with the United States’ intervention in the region in order to build a new divided Syria. As he said in his speech, the United States spends 12 million dollars per day on warfare in Syria, while contradictorily the US has a very small budget to help refugees as a result of the war.

Not a Complete Picture

Although his book is holistic, some other aspects of the Syrian catastrophe are not thoroughly examined. GCC countries are not discussed enough. While Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE`s financial supports to Assad dissenters are evanescently outlined.

«Although his book is holistic, some other aspects of the Syrian catastrophe are not thoroughly examined.»

In order to have a deeper and more comprehensive perspective, The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy written by Yassin al-Hajj Saleh is recommended. He is a communist Syrian writer and political dissident who spent 16 years in prison during the Hafez al-Assad regime. His wife and brother were abducted. Currently, he is living in Turkey. The Impossible Revolution was published in 2017, first in Arabic and later translated into English. The book contains 10 articles each written by Saleh in four cities such as Damascus, Doma, Raqqa, and Istanbul. He believes that his book is his Shahada (his witness) of the Syrian Civil War. He writes about three impossibilities: Firstly the revolution was impossible, but happened. Secondly the events were impossible, but happened. And lastly comes an unjust solution, which will happen despite its impossibility. Generally what Saleh narrates in his book is the structure of Syria as an obscure society and the fascism of the Assad regime. The mark of his suffering is in every single word. His narration from the Syrian Civil War is more first-handed compared to Reese Erlich’s book. Saleh has lived the “civil war” where Erlich has only “seen” it and those are very different perspectives.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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