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Inside Syria: two lived experiences

Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their War and What the World Can Expect / The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy

American Reese Erlich and Syrian Yassin al-Haj Saleh go in depth and depth in their books on the war in Syria, respectively.

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

Historical lines. The riots of the Syrian civil war have affected the entire Middle East region with unrest, violence and tyranny. Historically, the region itself is a sufficient source of tension. The stream of refugees and homeless Syrians, the amount of civilians killed as a result of military interventions and destroyed cities and other residential areas are commonplace in the news. In reality, the Syrian civil war is no longer regional, it has become a global disaster. One relevant question is: How did this fateful civil war start? Quite fresh is not exactly Reese Erlich's book Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their War and What the World Can Expect, but it can still help answer the question. The book follows the reader on a journey through the history of the Middle East and the Syrian civil war. It acts as a concise lexicon in which Erlich has placed Syria as the centerpiece and from various perspectives points towards the disaster in Syria.


Far away is Inside Syria an oral account of what is going on in Syria.

Inside Syria was first published in 2014, and underwent a recent edit in 2016. The speech he delivered at the Watson Institute for International and Public Relations Affairs at Brown University in February 2017 was actually an updated version of the book orally. As an American freelance journalist and bestselling author, he is known for "watching the events on the ground and analyzing them widely". He writes for various news media, such as CBS Radio, Australian Broadcasting Corp. and National Public Radio. At the Watson Institute, he declared himself a specialist on US military bases around the world. Erlich visited Syria and neighboring countries frequently to write the book Inside Syria. He has studied at the University of California, and has written several books on the Middle East, such as The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of US Policy and the Middle East Crisis (released in 2007) and Target Iraq: What The News Media Did Not Tell You (in collaboration with Norman Solomon, 2013).

The background and causes of the war. Reese Erlich's book begins with an introduction by Noam Chomsky. There, Chomsky claims that the Obama administration's intervention in the Syrian civil war would have suffered defeat if Russia had not intervened. He later criticized "humanitarian intervention" as a new concept for people in the West who feel the need to support Syrian civilians rather than international actors. In the book, Erlich reviews the civil war from the very beginning of the Arab Spring, with the inadequacy and brutality of the Assad regime. He takes a quick look back at World War I and the independence of the Arabs from the Ottoman Empire, which was replaced by French and British rule over Syria / Lebanon and the rest of the Arab territory. Later he deals with the establishment of the Arab League in 1945, and the rise of pan-Arabism and the Ba'ath party. Eventually, he comes across Hafez Assad (father of Bashar Assad, the current president of Syria), whom he characterizes as a smart politician. He became president after a coup, and was a supporter of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). Like many Arab countries, Assad's Syria did not recognize the state of Israel. In 2000, Hafez Assad died, and his 40-year-old son, Bashar, became Syrian president.

A wide range of narrators. Erlich points to a rigid and repressive political system, comrade-capitalism, dysfunctional economy, poverty and lack of freedom of expression, religious and ethnic discrimination as reasons for the uprising and the Syrians' frustration with the Assad regime. In the book, Erlich meets Syrian protesters, opposition figures and people who support the Assad regime. As a journalist, he gets opportunities to interview a number of people with different views on the riots that started in the city of Darra in March 2011. This makes the book a long way to an oral story about what is happening in Syria. Narrators range from the bishop of the Armenian Orthodox Church who supports Assad to Mahmoud Hassino, a gay opposition leader and member of the Local Coordinating Committee (LCC). Reese thoroughly discusses how the use of chemical weapons led the United States, Britain and France to intervene. The sarin rockets used by Assad's forces against civilians prompted the UN to send an expert group on chemical weapons to the country. Religious and ethnic conflicts have further aggravated the situation.

The author's ailments appear in every single word.

Erlich also discusses Iran's role in the Syrian civil war. He has made frequent trips to Iran, and interviewed various key figures, such as university professors and diplomats. His visits to Jerusalem, Palestine, the Golan Heights and Iraq (Suleimania and Erbil) provide realistic aspects to his political analysis. He points out that Iran, Turkey, Russia, Lebanon and the United States all play a role in the Syrian civil war. It seems that each of these nations seeks to acquire its own parts of the country. What Erlich said in the Watson speech was that President Trump cannot "knock out IS" by forming an alliance with Russia and disregarding Iran. Basically, all of his critical views end with US intervention in the region to build a new, divided Syria. As he mentioned in the speech, the United States spends 12 million dollars every day on the war in Syria, and as a contradiction, the Americans have a very tight budget to help those who have had to flee the war.

Although his book provides a comprehensive overview, certain aspects of the Syrian catastrophe have been given too little attention. For example, the financial support of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates for Assad's opponents is only fleetingly affected.

The Civil War from the inside. If you want a deeper and more comprehensive perspective, it is recommended The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy, written by Yassin al-Haj Saleh. He is a communist Syrian writer and political dissident who has spent 16 years in prison under Hafez Assad's regime. His wife and brother were kidnapped. He now lives in Turkey. Impossible Revolution is about the Syrian civil war and was published in 2017, first in Arabic and later translated into English. The book contains ten articles all written by Saleh, but in four different cities: Damascus, Doma, Raqqa and Istanbul. He believes the book is his shahada (his testimony) from a time before the Syrian civil war. He points to three "impossibilities." The first is that the revolution took place, even though it was impossible. The other: The events were not possible, but still happened. The third is that an unfair solution will be found, if it is never so impossible. In fact, in his book, Saleh talks about the obscure structure of Syrian society and the fascism of the Assad regime. His sufferings appear in every word. In a way, his account of the Syrian civil war is more first-hand than Reese Erlich's book. Saleh has "lived" the civil war, while Reese has "seen" it. The difference is big.

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