Tribal Bonds Strengthen the Gulf's Hand in a New Syria

(The National-Abu Dhabi) Hassan Hassan - Much has been said about the Gulf states' interest in regime change in Syria to steer Damascus away from Tehran and bolster their regional standing. When the regime falls, as it certainly will, the Gulf states are well-positioned because of deeply rooted tribal bonds that span Syria, especially in Al Jazira region (which makes up about 40% of the country), the countryside around cities like Deraa, Homs and Aleppo, and to a lesser degree near Hama, Damascus and even in the Druze stronghold of Suwaida. Members of the tribes migrated from the Arabian Peninsula to the Levant and Mesopotamia, some with Muslim campaigns in the 7th century and others later in search of water and grazing for livestock. The Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain in 1916 divided Mesopotamia and the Levant along artificial national borders that persist today, splitting the tribes that spanned from Syria, Iraq and Jordan all the way to the Arabian Peninsula. Relations, nevertheless, have been maintained despite efforts by the Baathist regime to weaken tribal loyalties. The Egaidat is the largest tribal confederation in Al Jazira, with at least 1.5 million members, and links mainly to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The Shammar has at least one million members in Syria. Other tribal confederations with links abroad include the Al Neim, Al Eniza, and Al Dhafir. As the bloody crackdown in Syria continues, tribal kinships have grown closer.

2012-02-17 00:00:00

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