Is the Middle East Recovering?
Up until this point, based on various sources, it is a well known fact that Syria’s uprising turned civil war began with the government’s suppression of peaceful protests in the southern city of Deraa in March 2011 before spreading north to Homs and Hama (foreignaffairs.com). What is less familiar are the strong tribal links that these cities have to Syria’s Bedouin communities, which constitute some a small percent of the country’s population. In all three battlegrounds, Bedouin communities, already under siege for much of Syria’s modern history, resorted to armed self-defense against the forces of Bashar al-Assad’s regime (ibid).
In theory, the role of tribes in Syria’s uprising has been lost on several accounts that frame the conflict as a fight to the death between Syria’s opposition and a brutal regime. The oversight is nothing new. Damascus has long sought to silence this and other segments of Syrian society. In this case here, Syria is not alone. I think this speaks volumes to the fact that there are over 100 fatalities a day in Syria; therefore, Bedouin tribes have been virtually left out of contemporary Arab politics, often according to regime dictates. Successive Syrian governments have sought to officially delegitimize the country’s Bedouin tribes, ignore them altogether, or co-opt them for regime gain. But none of those efforts ever made the tribes disappear. In fact, in recent years, tribal self-identification in Syria has only increased, and tribes’ involvement in the Syrian uprising signals that they should not be underestimated as the country’s future unfolds.
Moreover, I think it is safe to state that as the United States has learned from its failures at transforming the Middle East, old-fashioned balance of power politics are once again driving events in the region. In the 1990s, the Clinton administration hoped that settling the Arab-Israeli conflict would stabilize the region by marginalizing Iran and strengthening pro-American regimes, from North Africa to the Persian Gulf. In turn, the theory went, "this would lead to unprecedented economic cooperation among states in the region" and the emergence of what Shimon Peres, Israel's prime minister in 1995-96 and its president today, called a "new Middle East” (foreignaffairs.com). The diagnosis was not bad, but the treatment did not work, and the patient remained as sick as ever.
Gonji, A. (2013, Nov 10). Revolutionary Pragmatist why Iran's military won't spoil d'etente with the U.S.. retrieved November 15, 2013 foreignaffairs.com. Retrieved from