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have opinions, and you obviously care about our international system and society, why then do you sit there mute?

Was your wisdom given to you to be kept hidden and unuttered? Nathen Fair

We are all eager to learn, but we are all also eager to teach; for nothing, no matter how beautiful or excellent, is pleasing if we must retain it for ourselves alone. Though we in these pages may lack the intimacy of a living voice and common moment with each other, our written word can still impart much and lift our spirits. So join us here readers, friends, and share your wisdom and knowledge, for nothing is pleasant to possess without friends to share it.

I did have an article on the new Catholic Pope and the effect his Papacy might have on international politics; however as I am sure you noticed that this issue of the Peacock is rather lighter compared to previous issues, so instead I would like to address that.

After three months we have grown to 76 likes and reach on average 100 people a week, not a bad achievement I think given that we are entirely operated on a volunteer basis and the editorial staff consists of just yours truly. However I am saddened that we have only had a small number of contributors, although they have all been of stellar quality and again I want to offer my profound thanks to them.

I will leave you now, please enjoy this issue and I hope to see a lot more of you in our pages next issue.

Nathen Fair is the founder and editor of the Perth Peacock.

However dear reader I hope you will forgive me this chastisement, why are you not contributing? By reading these pages, and liking us, you clearly have an interest in international affairs and how they affect our nation and how we as a nation should respond. Why then do you not share your thoughts?

Is it because you fear that they may not be correct? How else will you correct them except by exposing them to public discussion? It is only by participating in public debate and discussion that you expose yourself to new ideas, new visions, and novel approaches. Writing for the Perth Peacock offers you the chance to gain a livelier perception of truth through its collision with error in public debate, or even better still; the exchange of error for truth.

Is it because you think you cannot write well? Eloquence comes with passion, choose the topic that fires your breast with indignity, compassion, humour, or whatever else and write! Write! You will find your voice in experience and you will find that your pen can more than match the moment and the topic. Further we at the Peacock are always here and happy to help.

Perhaps you think your opinions may not fit well with the Peacock’s? Then allow me to reiterate that the Perth Peacock does not take a position on any issue; we are here to facilitate discussion and to provide information. No more and never any less. There have been several articles within these pages that I personally have disagreed with, but that will never be reason for not publishing.

I am certain that while reading our pages you have been annoyed at some article, or maybe you saw a fault in another, or perhaps you thought someone didn’t go far enough, or a myriad of other responses. If you have these responses and you



Issue Three.

No Spring for Syria? The reaction from other countries has been equally diverse yet predictable. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries are financially supporting the rebel forces. NATO, principally the United States, United Kingdom and France, initially took a hands-off stance with regards to the conflict. This was partly due to the anticipation that the conflict would end as quickly as those in most of the Arab Spring participants. However, as this has not proven to be the case, these three countries have been attempting to aid the rebels without either sending their own troops into battle or going to the UN Security Council for a mandate for increased action. This is because permanent members China and Russia will inevitably veto any but the mildest measures against the Assad regime. These three countries have started to send non-offensive material to the rebel forces, but have thus far refrained from sending actual weapon systems, which continues to leave the Syrian National Coalition and its allies trailing not only numerically but also materially.

Jade Brown The civil war in Syria has just passed into its third year, and the question which must be asked is, why? What is so different about the Syrian uprising that it has dragged on for so much longer than the states which went through the Arab Spring? The answer is complicated largely due to the complex web of allegiances and disputes that exist in the country. Social, economic, political and religious groups all have disagreements with other groups both within and outside Syria. The Syrian government is principally of the Alawite sect of Shiite Islam, whereas most of the population is either Sunni or of various other sects or religions generally hostile to the government. Although secular, the senior government forces continue to hold close links to the spiritual leaders of Shia in Iran. The government also operates largely by patronage, and therefore has strong ties to the business community, which is often of the same persuasions. Most of the poor in the country are of the Sunni or other groups. These interwoven groupings contain somewhat different memberships and actions can be unpredictable, since it is difficult to know exactly which way individuals with conflicted group identities will act.

The major reason that there has not been greater support is not due to Great Power objections, but is basically because the United States has learned its lesson about not becoming involved in regional unrest if at all possible. Egypt and most other Arab Spring uprisings were largely peaceful revolutions, and did not require external aid. Libya was the exception which taught the United States to stay uninvolved where possible.

International reactions to the war are as mixed and confused as the internal situation. Russia is a traditional ally to Syria, and provides a rare friendly Mediterranean port. China also has strong ties with the country, and both have strongly supported Assad’s rule. This is partly due to economic and political factors, but has a deeper and more significant aspect for both countries. Both Russia and China have long faced accusations of human rights violations and internal corruption. Both have consistently maintained the position that internal affairs are completely outside the jurisdiction and influence of foreign states. This position has been enforced repeatedly, whenever such a situation arises and the international community starts to consider involving itself in civil disturbances. It has taken acts akin to attempted genocide for either country to bow to pressure and permit international action.

Libya was not a peaceful change of power, but a full scale civil war. NATO, still involved in Afghanistan to varying degrees and recovering from Iraq, refused to put troops on the ground and create the impression of another Christian Crusade. Limiting attacks to air strikes allowed the Libyan rebels to eventually overthrow Muammar Qaddafi, without the expenditure of Western manpower or the appearance of the creation of a puppet state. This is the lesson learned by NATO militaries in Syria. They refuse to send troops into a chaotic situation against a ruthless enemy when the rebel forces have been steadily growing in size until near parity with government forces. And the situation is too confused, and is too close to civilian populations, to be able to risk using air strikes as they did in Libya. So they will stay uninvolved unless the worst occurs and their hands are forced by unfolding events.

Iran has more at stake than is first apparent. Although it has the obvious link of a shared Shiite faith with the Syrian leadership in a region generally dominated by the Sunni branch of Islam, Iran has a further reason to push for the preservation of its Syrian ally. Iran has always held the Imperial desire for access to the Mediterranean, as so many ancient Middle Eastern empires did. So, for reasons of both trade and prestige, Iran has sought to create a continuous line of Shiite states from Iran through Iraq to Syria and the Mediterranean. Although the people of Syria are largely Sunni or other groups, Alawite leadership of the country will continue to provide Iran, the heart of Shia Islam, with its long desired power base.


Funding for the SNC has come from diverse sources, but especially from Sunni groups, led by Saudi Arabia. As the home of the Sunni branch of Islam, Syria serves as a proxy battlefield for the centuries old fighting between Sunni and Shiite, led now by the Ayatollahs of Iran. This adds an extra touch of iron to the spines of those leading the fight, as neither wants to lose control over a powerful Islamic-majority state, especially against an archrival.


Issue Three.

The greatest concern for the Western world is not that of the political implications of the change from Shiite to Sunni rule. That has already been experienced in reverse in Iraq, and there is no fundamental difference for the Western powers, apart from the obvious concern at continued Iranian influence. Instead, the greatest source of interest for the West, and globally, is that of the humanitarian and human rights situation in the country. The nebulous nature of the war is such that there is no firm front line, so people throughout the country are apt to become victims of the fighting regardless of their location.

The greatest accusation against the government at this point, and the most disputed, is that chemical weapons have been employed at a low level. Reports of a gas being employed to kill and incapacitate have been made by both rebels and some neutral observers, though the United States concedes that the reports do not appear to match the qualities of any of the types of chemical weapons possessed by the government. If it is proven to be true, however, the Security Council would be forced to act, and the United States has threatened grave retaliation for any use of weapons of mass destruction, which includes chemical weapons. Such a clear cut case would negate any ability of China or Russia to protect Assad, and the United States and NATO would be effectively forced to begin military strikes.

An estimated one million people have already been displaced from their homes due to the fighting, many of them crossing the borders into neighbouring countries, most notably Turkey. This is destroying the fabric of the nation, and it may take many years for Syria to recover even after the fighting finally ends. And once the fighting does come to an end, it must be expected that there will be retaliatory tit-for-tat attacks continuing at a local level for a long time, as scores are settled. This will not only make rebuilding difficult, but will also deter foreign investment, as it did for Lebanon during the troubles there.

As the fighting constantly evolves, the rebels appear to be slowly gaining the upper hand. Although this may be advantageous from the perspective of democracy, the aftermath of any war is unpredictable. And there is no telling exactly what actions Bashar Al-Assad will be willing to take if he realises that he may well be cast out of power. But with neighbouring countries and the broader international community watching, there will be a time when participants will face judgement for their actions during this increasingly brutal war.

Human rights violations will be a major matter of interest after the war ends as well. Accusations of the use of cluster munitions, tanks, artillery and aircraft against rebels in largely civilian areas have dogged the Assad administration. As they are fighting for survival, that is still a largely academic point. But once the war is won or, as appears increasingly likely, lost, the chances rise that members of the current government and military, as well as rebel commanders, will eventually face war crimes trials.


When this bloody dance is over, someone will be called upon to pay the piper. Jade Brown is an Honours student at the University of Western Australia.


Issue Three.

The Perth Peacock is a completely not-for-profit publication. All of our contributors donate their time and their works. If you have an idea for an article please contact Nathen Fair at

The opinions expressed in the articles are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official opinion of The Perth Peacock or its Editorial staff.

We also encourage you to write in, or to comment on our Facebook page with your opinions on the issues raised and commented on in these articles. Everyone has an opinion and we want to hear yours.

The Perth Peacock aims to provide only the best international news commentary and analysis.



Issue Three.

The Perth Peaock, issue 3, March 2013  

The Perth Peacock, third issue.