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The actions of one Muslim warrior [Saladin] echo down the centuries. An Islamic champion will rise and influence the rules of war. Mystery Files s2e7: Saladin, National Geographic 2011
Over the next two decades Saladin builds an empire with Damascus in Syria as his empire. ibid.
Saladin marches from Damascus towards Jerusalem as the head of any army of 30,000 men. ibid.
Another ancient city – Tell Brak. Richard Miles, Ancient Worlds I: Come Together, BBC 2010
When Husni Zaim seized power from Shukri al-Quwatli on 30 March 1949, Syria’s economy was a parlous state and its army had been beaten the previous November by the Israelis. Zaim knew that he needed to take action on both fronts fast. After overthrowing al-Quwatli bloodlessly, he set out to open peace talks with the Israelis and mend relations with the French via a currency agreement and an arms deal that would pave the way for renewed French influence in the former mandate. But Zaim’s reign did not last long. One hundred and thirty-seven days after he had taken power, on 14 August he too was overthrown and executed. James Barr, A Line in the Sand: Britain, France and the Struggle for the Mastery of the Middle East
Like Syria, the government of Bahrain employs aggressive tactics to censor and monitor its people’s online activity. Rebecca MacKinnon
The Syrians introduced the monastic life to the West. They were the great traders of the ancient world. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Sex and the Church I: From Pleasure to Sin, BBC 2015
Two warriors came to prominence. Two warlords who would use Jihad as their rallying cry. Nur-ad-Din was a powerful leader who in 1146 took control of parts of what are now Syria and Jordan. A deeply religious man he immersed himself in the study of the Koran ... Nurd-ad-Din’s interpretation of Jihad resonated with his subjects who were eager to defeat the Europeans ... His deputy: a young warrior who was also a devout student of the Koran: his name was Saladin ... The reins of power were taken by Saladin who began immediately to plan an assault on Jerusalem ... The night before the assault the Muslims set the grass around the Crusader camp aflame. By dawn the Crusaders were enveloped in choking black smoke. As the sun rose over the battlefield the Islamic army attacked. After half a day of fierce battle in the searing heat the Crusader army lay devastated. This was a turning point in the history of the Crusades. Emboldened by his victory Saladin turned his attention to claiming Jerusalem. Decoding the Past: The Koran, History 2006
90,436. There’s only one place to start and that’s in the past. Those fighting for control of Syria nurse grievances stretching back centuries ... President Assad’s government has attempted to annihilate opposition to his regime. This World: A History of Syria with Dan Snow, BBC 2013
Other Muslims rejected the hereditary succession and became known as Sunnis. ibid.
The story of modern Syria starts with the great global conflagration: the First World War. ibid.
An act of breathtaking imperialism. The French landed in Syria and crushed Prince Faisal’s Arab nationalists. ibid.
Sunni Muslim Arabs account for two thirds of the population. ibid.
The young Assad was politically ambitious. With his fellow Ba’aths he began plotting to take over the country which by then was plagued by instability. ibid.
Assad was creating one of the most oppressive police states in the world. ibid.
‘It was the army. They fired missiles and machine guns at us. They hit civilian homes.’ ibid. Arab female victim BBC interview
Dynasties have come and gone. What has always remained is Syria and the Syrians. ibid.
No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used, not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Vladimir Putin
No-one doubts that innocent men, women and children have been the victims of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. And there’s no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: the Syrian regime. Joe Biden
The word ‘democracy’ and the name of Assad do not blend very well in much of Syria. Robert Fisk
So what in heaven’s name are we doing? After countless thousands have died in Syria’s awesome tragedy, suddenly – now, after months and years of prevarication – we are getting upset about a few hundred deaths. Terrible. Unconscionable. Yes, that is true. But we should have been traumatised into action by this war in 2011. And 2012. Robert Fisk, article Independent online 30th August 2013, ‘Iran not Syria is the West’s real target’
Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I’m not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy.
I’m referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.
While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite/Shia-Baathist dictatorship, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan’s dark ages.
Indeed, 15 of the 19 hijacker-mass murderers of 11 September, 2001, came from Saudi Arabia – after which, of course, we bombed Afghanistan. The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria. And we believe Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?
Then we have the Shia Hezbollah party/militia in Lebanon, right hand of Shia Iran and supporter of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. For 30 years, Hezbollah has defended the oppressed Shias of southern Lebanon against Israeli aggression. They have presented themselves as the defenders of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza. But faced with the slow collapse of their ruthless ally in Syria, they have lost their tongue. Not a word have they uttered – nor their princely Sayed Hassan Nasrallah – about the rape and mass murder of Syrian civilians by Bashar's soldiers and ‘Shabiha’ militia.
Then we have the heroes of America – Hillary Clinton, the Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Obama himself. Clinton issues a ‘stern warning’ to Assad. Panetta – the same man who repeated to the last US forces in Iraq that old lie about Saddam's connection to 9/11 – announces that things are ‘spiralling out of control’ in Syria. They have been doing that for at least six months. Has he just realised? And then Obama told us last week that ‘given the regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad … that the world is watching’. Now, was it not a County Cork newspaper called the Skibbereen Eagle, fearful of Russia’s designs on China, which declared that it was ‘keeping an eye … on the Tsar of Russia’? Now it is Obama’s turn to emphasise how little clout he has in the mighty conflicts of the world. How Bashar must be shaking in his boots.
But what US administration would really want to see Bashar’s atrocious archives of torture opened to our gaze? Why, only a few years ago, the Bush administration was sending Muslims to Damascus for Bashar’s torturers to tear their fingernails out for information, imprisoned at the US government’s request in the very hell-hole which Syrian rebels blew to bits last week. Western embassies dutifully supplied the prisoners’s tormentors with questions for the victims. Bashar, you see, was our baby.