Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad attends the 23rd Arab League summit in Sirte, in this March 27, 2010 file picture. (REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)

ZOHRA BENSEMRA/REUTERS

Why is everyone picking on Syria?

The question is a semi-serious one. After all, look at the list of the 18 Arab League countries that voted to suspend Damascus's membership in their club and to impose sanctions on the country unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stops the violence against protesters and agrees to admit an Arab League monitoring group.

The list includes such countries as Sudan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, not exactly bastions of democracy themselves. Indeed, when pro-democracy protesters took to the streets of Bahrain earlier this year, Saudi Arabia couldn't wait to send in troops to put down the uprising.

Story continues below advertisement



Yet here are these Arab countries ostracizing Syria – one of the "original six" that founded the League in the first place in 1945 – and threatening sanctions unless Mr. al-Assad ceases the violent suppression of his country's uprising.



What's the difference?



Well, for one thing, all those who voted against Syria are states with Sunni Muslim leaderships, while Syria is ruled by members of the minority Alawi sect, a spinoff from Shiism. Lest anyone think the League members were concerned about Syria's "minority" government, it's worth noting that the rulers of Bahrain are a Sunni minority, lording it over a Shia majority.



It's also worth noting that one of the two states to support Syria in voting against the Arab League decision to suspend Damascus is Lebanon, whose government is effectively controlled by the Shia Hezbollah movement, and the only country to abstain from voting against Syria was Iraq, another country with a Shia majority and a Shia-dominated government.



Anyway you look at it, the Sunni regimes are clearly lined up against the Shiites.



Another feature that distinguishes Syria and irritates its Arab opponents is that the Alawi regime in Damascus has close links with Shia regime in Tehran. Non-Arab Iran is the state most in competition with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey for supremacy in the region. Turkey, another Sunni-run state, has sided with the Arab League four-square against the non-Sunni regime in Syria.



As Mark Heller writes in an article published Wednesday, "sectarianism is the dirty laundry of Arab politics." While these politics may well change as a result of events unfolding in the Arab world this year, many of these Arab countries have yet to do their laundry.

Story continues below advertisement



To read Mark Heller's article published by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, click here.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies