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Syrian Requiem: The Civil War and Its Aftermath - Page 2


KIRKUS Book Review, February 2021


Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Rabinovich and national-security expert Valensi home in on the intractable problem of a Syria mired in civil war .

Authoritative figures of the casualties…are unavailable,” write the authors, “but most sources agree that by the middle of 2019, close to half a million people had died in Syria, and close to 12 million Syrians had become refugees or…internally displaced persons.” In their cogent analysis, the authors trace the nation’s internal conflict to the early 1960s, when the Ba’th Party assumed rule. Crippled from the start by former colonizer France’s “divide and rule” strategy of drawing on minority populations to staff the military, the Ba’th Party was founded by “two Damascene intellectuals” whose program “offered a secular vision of Arab nationalism combined with a social democratic ideology.” This naturally put the regime athwart of the growing insurgent movement in recent years, but it also hampered the growth of the private sector. As of 2008, the authors write, even with a growing GNP, “almost 70 percent of Syrian employees earned less than one hundred dollars a month.” A decade ago, conditions were ripe for the civil war that followed, which featured proxy elements, the U.S. supporting rebels, Russia and Iran supporting the government. By 2014, the country had suffered a vast brain drain as its artists and intellectuals fled. The government, meanwhile, suffered a blow with the assassination of Iranian general and strategist Qasem Soleimani, killed by an American drone in January 2020. Yet American policy in the country, the authors rightly note, has been inconsistent thanks to Donald Trump’s “persistent desire to disengage from Syria.” This has favored the existing government and changed the face of the region’s political makeup, “shaped by the new roles of Iran and Turkey, and by America’s withdrawal and Russia’s resurgence .”




A valuable book for students of geopolitics and the ever-turbulent Middle East.