The 1930s saw a complex web of changing European alliances that kept shifting until 1941, when the division of the wartime antagonists took its final shape after the Nazi invasion of Soviet Russia and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
After the Nazi/Fascist victory in the Spanish Civil War, at the sunset of the 1930s, the major Western powers of the time, Britain and France, signed a deal with the devil of the time, Nazi Germany. That Munich Deal gave up a large chunk of Central Europe to the Nazis and set up the invasion of Poland. Stalin, even more suspicious of the West than they were of him, panicked and decided to make his own Soviet deal with the German devil. Hence the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of the summer of 1939.
Thus World World Two evolved.
In Syria the alliances have also shifted over time. With the start of the 2011 spring protests, the absolute undemocratic Wahhabi Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf saw opportunities. As did influential Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood groups in these countries. They saw sectarian and strategic opportunities. As did some hawkish but perhaps gullible American politicians (McCain, Lieberman, Graham, Hillary Clinton, etc). They declared that the Assad regime is about to collapse and that they support the “Syrian opposition”. It was like the alliances of the war of 1939-1945: alliances of divergent interests among these mainly foreign groups. The common goal seemed to be to overthrow the Syrian regime, just as they did in Libya, and to bloody the noses of its allies among the dour Iranian mullahs. Then perhaps to fight among themselves over the remains of Syria.
Except that the Wahhabi elements, bolstered with Gulf money, weapons, and Salafi volunteers, soon took over much of the Syrian military opposition in-country. Their efforts were supported by the accommodation provided by the Turkish Islamist regime for Jihadists and weapons flowing through what I have called the Erdogan Trail. The local Iraqi-Syrian offshoot of Al Qaeda split from the original Wahhabi terror group and declared a Caliphate, an Islamic State stretching from west of Al Raqqa to east of Mosul. Other Al Qaeda affiliates and offshoots (Al Nusra, Ahrar Al Sham, Army of Islamic Conquest, a few other “Al”s, etc) took over what remained of the opposition assets and territory inside Syria.
The Western powers stuck to the simple narrative supplied by their Wahhabi allies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar that there is a legitimate Syrian moderate opposition fighting on the ground to overthrow the Al Assad regime and establish ‘democracy’. That these Gulf autocratic kleptocrcies are seeking to establish democracy in Syria, something they deny heir own peoples. But facts on the ground in Syria, and bloody facts in places from Sinai to Paris to Baghdad to Kuwait and Libya and West Africa have proven otherwise. The Western powers are wisely moving away now from the sectarian Syrian narrative as provided by the Wahhabi princes and potentates.
Syria is a mess created by both its regime and the fractious sectarian opposition as well as by Arab and other foreign powers. It needs a solution supported by its people, but not the outcome sought by the neighboring autocrats. That would only replace Sykes-Picot with new sectarian statelets in parts of Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. Even after the inevitable demise of this half-baked Caliphate of ISIS. It may already be too late to save the current shape of Syria and Iraq intact. Islamist Turkey, with its seething ethnic and sectarian divide might be next.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum