World View: Syria Holiday Ceasefire Broken on First Day

This morning's key headlines from
  • A so-called 'truce' in Syria lasts only nanoseconds
  • U.N. alarmed as ethnic violence grows in western Burma (Myanmar)

A so-called 'truce' in Syria lasts only nanoseconds

Lakhdar Brahimi, who recently replaced Kofi Annan as the United Nations envoy to Syria, entered the world of Alice in Wonderland last week by begging all sides in Syria to agree to a ceasefire for the three-day Muslim holiday this weekend. Of course both sides said they'd agree, but there was barely any ceasefire at all, with each side blaming the other for breaking the truce. There was fighting across Syria, and there was a car bombing in Damascus that the Bashar al-Assad regime blamed on the opposition. However, the al-Assad regime has lied repeatedly about almost everything, and has set off car bombs themselves and blamed them on the opposition, so it's quite possible that Friday's car bombing was perpetrated by the regime. Either way, the whole cease-fire thing was a joke. Like Kofi Annan's farcical six-point peace plan, the cease-fire just makes things worse in Syria by providing the al-Assad regime cover to continue their massacres of innocent women and children in their beds. Reuters

U.N. alarmed as ethnic violence grows in western Burma (Myanmar)

The United Nations is expressing alarm at the level of ethnic and religious violence, which has substantially surged in the last four days, in Rakhine State in Western Burma. There was a burst of violence in June (see "11-Jun-12 World View -- Burma (Myanmar) declares state of emergency over Buddhist/Muslim violence"), triggered by an alleged rape of a Buddhist Rakhine girl by Muslim Rohingyas. But this new wave of violence and massacres is much worse, leaving dozens killed, almost 2000 homes destroyed, and thousands of refugees. Many Rohingyas have put to sea in boats hoping to reach Bangladesh, but Bangladesh already has hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas in squalid refugee camps, and has now closed its borders to fleeing Rohingya refugees. 

The Rohingya have a darker skin than Burmese, and they speak a Bengali dialect. They are, for all practical purposes, a stateless ethnic group, living on the Bangladesh-Burma border, but rejected by both countries. In fact, Burma refuses to identify the Rohingya as a unique ethnic group, preferring to call them Bengali, and referring to them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Burma is almost entirely a Buddhist state, including the Rakhine ethnic group that make up most of the population of Rakhine state.

This presents a good opportunity to explain further the Generational Dynamics concept of a crisis civil war. A number of people have questioned why I keep saying that a crisis civil war in Syria is impossible, and that the conflict going on there could fizzle at any time. As I've explained many times, a non-crisis war comes from the politicians, rather than from the people. The Syrian conflict is being driven by president Bashar al-Assad, and if he were to step down, it's quite possible that the conflict would fizzle immediately.

But clearly that's not what we're seeing in Rakhine State. There is no politician, to my knowledge, who is driving this conflict. If Burma's president Thein Sein were to step down, it would not affect one bit the fighting between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine. Another difference is that you don't see the U.N. sending envoys like Kofi Annan or Lakhdar Brahimi to Burma to negotiate a cease-fire -- who would they negotiate with?

Rohingya-Rakhine conflict is coming from the people, and it's not going to fizzle out. In fact, it's very close to exploding into a full-scale crisis civil war. BBC and AP

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