Al-Q and A

As portentous war clouds loom over the Arab belt, as minatory missiles take position across the Mediterranean, as global markets tumble on febrile fears over petroleum supply and as a sweaty world sits at the precipice of yet another potential calamity, in the United States of America many sensitive and sensible folks must be racked by the existential thought, where the heck is this Syria.

Geography, admittedly, is not the strong point of Americans, most of whom can’t even name the States that constitute the country. Whereas we Indians can, off-the-cuff, reel out the names of all the 50 States in America, even though many of us are unsure as to many States are there in India now.

‘We have 25 States, no?’ ‘Arre, which century are you living in? I think it was 28 even before Andhra Pradesh was split into two States. With 28 plus two, that makes it 30 States now’. As you can see, arithmetic too is a problem for us Indians.

Anyway, with their country threatening to launch military strikes on Syria, many Americans are today forced to figure out how is Syria spelt and what exactly is happening there. We are sure that you would not want to feel any lower to Americans in your understanding of this complex problem, so here is a small primer, which we hope will help you get a good insight on how to tastelessly trivialize human suffering just because it is happening elsewhere. (Seriously, we would have liked to write a sensible piece, explaining the various nuances involved and why the violence is not helping anyone. But that would have been much more hypocritical and self-serving. Ivory-tower editorials don’t make matters better. But, sometimes, some silly jokes can. And also remember, Syria in Tamil, in a sad irony, can be taken to be a command to: Laugh).

Start off by giving us a brief background to Syria

Syria is a small country in the Middle East, which, as the name itself makes it pretty clear, is somewhere to the West of India.

Situated on the Mediterranean coast, Syria is a compact and beautiful country if you happen to see it on the National Geographic Channel. Otherwise Damascus (which is its capital city) and other places, ravaged by an unceasing bloody civil war, is a dangerous tinderbox today.

That brings us to the pretty obvious question, what is a tinderbox?

Tinderbox usually describes an explosive and emergency situation wherein a writer runs out of a simple synonym for volatile state of affairs.

Oops, what we wanted to ask was why is there a civil war in Syria

Well, Syria has a chequered history that is so old that it is practically irrelevant. At any rate, most of such history is simply made-up stuff.  So we start off with 2011, which is when the seeds of the present internal strife were sown.

Possibly inspired by uprising in nearby places like Egypt and Tunisia, Syrians rose up in revolt against the country’s military dictatorship headed by Bashar al-Assad, who it must be said had come to power back in 2000 by the most democratic method of being the son to Hafez al-Assad who was till then the President.

Hafez al-Assad, however, had become the President in 1973 through the much more agreeable mode of elections after, of course, he had become the Prime Minister of the country through a violent military coup in 1971.

Initially the protests were peaceful. By which we mean for the first couple of hours. Otherwise it has been violent all along.

How does the US come into the picture, especially since it doesn’t even share a geographical boundary with Syria?

The Syrian government forces are suspected to have carried out chemical attacks on their own people. The use of chemical weapons has been rightly banned by the Geneva Convention, because it (chemical weapon) kills people, while the general arms and ammunition used in normal wars … well, wait, as far as we can tell, they also kill people. So why did the Geneva Convention ban only the use of chemical weapons?

We are the ones asking you questions. You can’t

Okay, the USA is opposed to Syria is because the latter has always sided with Russia, which, if you know your history from James Bond movies, is always a force of evil. Also realise Barack Obama is a Nobel laureate, and if he is threatening to launch cruise missiles that will doubtless kill and maim hundreds and hundreds, rest assured it is for peace only.

What is India’s stand in the matter? Will Manmohan Singh, using the country’s geo-political supremacy in the Asian belt, put pressure on the leaders of G-20 summit so that a viable and long-lasting solution to the vexed problem is found? Also, will Manmohan Singh’s statement that any action against Syria should be taken under the framework of the UN halt the US in its tracks?

Ha. Ha. Ha. Thanks for coming up with that. We ourselves could not have thought of a better humorous ending to this piece.