Modern history of Syria emerges out of the era of imperialism, specifically World War I. Wikipedia writes: “Two allied diplomats (Frenchman François Georges-Picot and Briton Mark Sykes) secretly agreed, long before the end of the war, how to split the Ottoman Empire into several zones of influence… The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 set the fate of modern Southwest Asia for the coming century; providing France with the northern zone (Syria, with later the upcoming Lebanon), and the United Kingdom with the southern one (Iraq and later, after renegotiations in 1917, Palestine (then still including Jordan) – 'to secure daily transportation of troops from Haifa to Baghdad' – agreement n° 7”
Syria was under the French “mandate” in 1920’s and 30’s. The French maintained their rule “by encouraging sectarian divisions”. This is how the rulers of the modern Arab world attempt to maintain their hold on power, for example by encouraging and even starting violence by one religious group against another. In Egypt, for example, in the period of rebellion against the regime of H. Mubarak, we see a photograph of a young Muslim man showing off his cross in a sign that differences between religions are not important.
French colonial rule started the tradition of violence against the civilian population that we see today exercised by the Syrian authorities against its own population. During the 1925 Syrian rebellion, the methods of “counterinsurgency” used by the French “included house demolitions, collective punishments of towns, executions, population transfers, and the use of heavy armor in urban neighborhoods. The revolt was eventually subdued via French aerial bombardment of civilian areas, including Damascus” (Wikipedia, “History of Syria”) Similar methods were used by the French government in its attempt to hold Algeria under colonial rule, after WWII. These methods were illustrated in the film “The Battle of Algiers” .
World War II meant a new re-division of the “sphere of influence” in the world. The French caved in to Hitler, in 1940, and were forced to evacuate Syria in 1946, under the British pressure. It is possible that the British desired Syrian “independence” because now they could use this Arab country in their war against Israel, which territory previously was under the British mandate. “In 1948, Syria was involved in the Arab-Israeli War with the newly created State of Israel… In July 1949, Syria was the last Arab country to sign an armistice agreement with Israel” (Wikipedia, “History of Syria”).
Defeats in the wars against Israel meant instability for the ruling regime in Syria. “Between 1946 and 1956, Syria had 20 different cabinets and drafted four separate constitutions”. These cabinets and constitutions were produced by military coup d’etats (not to be confused with “revolution”). “Parliamentary institutions remained weak and ineffectual, dominated by competing parties representing the landowning elites and various Sunni urban notables, while economy and politics were mismanaged, and little done to better the role of Syria's peasant majority”. Hence, the ruling class in Syria consists of the rural landowners and urban bourgeoisie. The exploited population of Syria are the peasants and urban workers (structure of the economy of Syria in 2010: Agriculture - 17.6% of GDP, Industry - 26.8% of GDP, Services - 55.6% of GDP).Arab nationalist and socialist elements come to power in 1963 as a result of coup d’etat (again!). The rule of “Baath Party” (Arab Socialist Resurrection Party) starts. Baath ideology represents an attempt by the Arab nationalist to develop their countries along socialist lines, without actually being socialist, i.e. the power remaining in the hands of local, nationalist bourgeoisie. This we have already seen Iraq (where the Baath party came to power in the person of Saddam Hussein). We have seen that the Baath party regime in Iraq didn’t satisfy the major imperialist power – the United States (the Gulf war in 1991, the American invasion of Iraq in 2003). And so, it is not surprising that the regime of another dictator – al-Assad family in Syria – doesn’t satisfy the U.S. imperialism. The goals of the U.S. administration were shown in 2003 by the cartoon on the right. This was "the Bush doctrine", repeat of R. Reagan's "Axis of Evil". Except that Reagan clearly indicated Russia as the main "Evil Empire".
The successive steps of domination were revealed by a former "Economic Hit Man" : 1) first, corruption and extortion, 2) next, if the former doesn'twork, a coup, 3) if this doesn't work, send in the army.The methods of the United States imperialists in Syria are similar to the ones we have seen in Egypt (April 6th movement), and in Eastern European “revolutions” (such as the “Orange revolution” of 2004 in Ukraine). It is to use the popular anger against a regime to stage a coup d’etat and replace an existing ruling clique with one which is pulled by the strings from Washington. For this purpose, the U.S. State department provides support for opposition groups and media, for example read a wikileaks revelation .
Wikipedia: “the demands of protesters include for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, for the ruling Baath Party to allow other political parties, equal rights for Kurds, and broad political freedoms, such as freedom of press, speech and assembly”. Basically, the people demand the end of the current regime and broad democracy in society.
The United States has legitimate reasons for desiring “a regime change” in Syria. First, the USSR, and now Russia, supply weapons to the Syrian regime. Second, the USSR has leased the port of Tartus from Syria for its Navy in the Mediterranean . Third, according to Wikipedia, “as of September 2008, talks were reportedly under way regarding the deployment in Syria of Russian Iskander missiles”. In other words, this is the equivalent of the U.S. placing its missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic. (Later, we heard that Russia leased an airbase in Syria.)
As the protests have escalated to violence (http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/09/2011927113258426922.html ), the government started using heavy weapons against the armed protesters. In turn, parts of the Syrian army have started defecting to the side of the rebels. The so-called “Free Syrian Army” was formed (watch video: http://www.aljazeera.com/video/middleeast/2011/11/2011119181655111178.html ). Wikipedia writes: “As protests continued, the Syrian government used tanks and snipers to force people off the streets. Water and electricity were shut off and security forces began confiscating flour and food in particularly restive areas, including Daraa, Douma, and Homs. During the course of the uprising, the Syrian Army has stormed the cities of Daraa, Douma, Baniyas, Hama, Homs, Talkalakh, Rastan, Jisr ash-Shughur, Deir ez-Zor, and Latakia, among other towns, and occupied parts of Damascus. The violence escalated as the crisis wore on, with the killing reaching its highest level in early August (2011). Activists, fleeing civilians, and soldiers who defected claimed that soldiers who refuse to fire on civilians are executed by the Syrian Army”.
In March, 2011, a British newspaper calls for “a no-fly zone to protect the innocent protesters”. On 31 October, 2011 (Gaddafi was killed in Lybia on 20 October), we hear that “thousands of people took to the streets in two Syrian cities after Friday prayers, calling for the imposition of a Libya-style no-fly zone over the country” (http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/insidestory/2011/10/201110318102618588.html) This is a prologue to an armed intervention by NATO against Syria. However, at the present milder means are tried to dislodge the Syrian regime, for example diplomatic and economic pressure of the Arab League, controlled by the United States, via its marionettes and military basis in the region (BBC news, also Al-Jazeera, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2011/11/2011112014146943317.html ).
Al-Jazeera, on 14 October, 2011, has described the country as descending into a civil war: ““As more members of the military refuse to attack civilians and change sides, the crisis is already showing worrying signs of descending into an armed struggle." And: "Sniping from rooftops, and indiscriminate use of force against peaceful protesters - including the use of live ammunition and the shelling of residential neighbourhoods - have become routine occurrences in many Syrian cities" (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/10/2011101492410996889.html ) This is the similar scenario we have seen in Lybia.