Iraq, Syria and Libya were secular states under Sadam Hussein, Bashar Assad and Muamar Ghadaffi. Like North Korea, they fell short of being secular democratic Republics because of the absolute nature of the powers of their leaders which made them to rule for life just like any monarch and also prepared their children for succession.
Despite the monarchical inclinations of the regimes, they were able to include people in the elite structures, irrespective of tribe, religion, place of origin and gender. This made them different from the monarchies which ruled the Middle East. The heated exchanges among them left an antagonistic relation marked by attempts to mobilise forces to overthrow each other’s regimes.
When the Shah of Iran was overthrown and the secular opponents to the Shah were overtaken by the Shia clerics under the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini, who had national and international support, they proceeded to build a state based on democratic centralism where the masses are given limited franchise by the clerics in choosing who should stand for elections and leaving the masses to make the final choice from the chosen few.
This gave birth to two new political phenomena in the Middle East; the rise of a Shia dominated state in Iran which motivated other Shia groups in other states to aspire for their own type of state with Iran as the model and the threat felt by the Sunni monarchs which compelled them to support parties and movements which aim to take over power in their states, either by the barrel of the gun or through elections.
Hence, when Bush dismantled the Iraq regime, the Shia and Sunni forces filled the vacuum and war has been raging ever since fuelled by external patrons.
What was needed in Iraq was to replace a monarchically inclined secular state with a democratic secular Republic that would protect all irrespective of religion, origin, gender or tribe. This could only have been done by strengthening the Iraqi people to become a sovereign people with a strong sense of nationhood so that they see in each Iraqi a brother or sister whose right is worth supporting and defending irrespective of differences. Having created an Iraq that each antagonistic force was scrambling to own, the US forces departed thus leaving the vacuum to be filled by the Shia and Sunni fighting forces, none of whom could win the war. Hence, a situation of permanent war and no peace has developed in Iraq.
Libya also ended in the same way. Syria also started to crumble as the forces in Iraq and forces in Syria which were against Shia rule received support and took over oil wells which enable them to export oil and thus earn billions which they could turn into weapons.
These forces were at the doorsteps of Damascus when Obama was contemplating air strikes against the Assad forces.
Instead, the US developed the strategy of leading a Coalition against ISIS while maintaining that Assad must go by giving support to those who are opposed to both ISIS and Assad. Since fighting two enemies was an unwinnable war, the forces which would put boots on the ground for the US Coalition have disappeared.
On the other hand, Russia is of the view that since Assad is on the ground, it will give air support to his forces to fight ISIS.
In making this decision, Russia takes the side of a loser who has lost ground that he would never be able to recover without the total destruction of Syria.
Hence, Russia stands the risk of putting its economy on a war footing without any expected return with the fall of Assad.
The Way Forward
Only the Syrian people could put an end to the war and remove ISIS from their homeland. Hence, the International Community should focus on how to assist the Syrian people to take control of their homeland and assert their right to self determination and Independence so that each Syrian would live in liberty, dignity and prosperity.
An international conference on Syria should be convened by the UN so that a Constituent Assembly would be set up to workout a transitional programme which should be endorsed by Assad so that a National consensus is reached. There is no doubt that once the people agree with an agenda all other righting forces would appear as forces of domination and they could not survive the onslaught of the Syrian people aimed at building a secular democratic Republic supported by the International Community.
Humanism and religion are known to be depositories of the moral values of humankind. Hence, all genuine human beings should work towards a more tolerant world where each respects the other and collectively work towards ensuring liberty, dignity and prosperity for all.