Syria’s National Vanguard

Syria passed a morbid landmark in March 2021 marking the 10 year anniversary since the outbreak of protests and subsequent Western backed hostilities against the al-Assad government.

Arguably the defining conflict of the century so far, the civil war is generally conceived by Western dissidents as merely pitting the multiethnic Baathist coalition of Bashar Al Assad against a ragtag group of Salafists, mercenaries and Kurdish separatists backed by outside powers.

This understanding while carrying much truth neglects the sizable nationalist faction on the pro-government side, which while fighting alongside the Damascus regime presents its own distinct brand of radical idealism.

Emerging from an underground school of patriotic dissidents in the 1930s, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) conceives of itself as an alternative to the sectarian milieu used to undermine national autonomy and fights wholeheartedly with Assadists forces.

Comparable to the romantic nationalisms that swept Europe in the 19th and 20th century, the SSNP regards itself as torchbearers of a grander vision of Greater Syrian civilisation encompassing lands as far afield as the Taurus mountains in Turkey to Iraq and Jordan in the East.

Playing a significant role in the conflict through its militia ‘Eagles of the Whirlwind’  numbering 8,000 strong, the party is set to play a major role in any post-conflict state already holding parliamentary seats not just in Syria but in Lebanon.

The Burkean recently sat down with journalist and SSNP media director Firas Al Shoufi who outlined the trajectory of the last ten years of fighting in the country as well as the party’s history and root philosophy which has taken the militant group into conflict with numerous regimes and ideologies throughout the century.

From the onset he makes it clear that the war is a direct product of colonial meddling which sees a strong and united Syrian people as a bulwark against exploitation and zionist expansionism, utilising sectarianism and factionalism as its weapons.

Supportive of the Assad government but with some criticisms on economic grounds, namely for previously opening the door to globalism through partnerships with the World Bank and other organisations, the SSNP regardless fights with Damascus and is clear in stating that they have no desire to overthrow the present regime.

Since the onset of war the SSNP has been ardent in their defence of the regime conscious of the abyss nations like Libya, Yugoslavia and Iraq have fallen into following Western backed overthrows.

To the SSNP and Al Shoufi the dismembering of Syria into sectarian statelets under the cover of human rights intervention follows the same roadmap of wars waged by Western powers since the original era of colonialism. Only through this lens can conflicts as far afield as Korea to Libya even begin to make sense as mechanisms to smash anti-globalist peoples.

Conscious of the fact Syria and surrounding nation states are built atop a multi-ethnic house of cards, outside powers merely have to tip this fragile state of affairs into anarchy to gain leverage. So to in Syria where the West and other powers have backed Wahabis and Kurdish forces against the central government.

Presently occupied on three sides (Israel in the Golan Heights, America in the East around Khasham and Turkey in the North backing Idlib rebels) Syria has a long way to go before ejecting colonial powers fully.

Naturally scathing of the Israeli state, to him and the SSNP the end goal of the zionist project ends not just at the Golan Heights but in the eradication of Arab and nationalist resistance from the Nile to the Euphrates and the opening up of the prospect of a Greater Israel.

Israel is not just a colonised blot on the map or an affront to Arab dignity but a clear and present danger to the stability of the Middle East and a foothold for imperial powers to operate from.

Attaining much fame across the West for their alleged humanitarian pursuits (including an audience with many Irish politicians) the White Helmets come up as being a major front for destabilising Syria.

Presented as fearless volunteers assisting the needy, to Al Shoufi they function as little more than the PR wing of the Salafist Al-Nusra front used to gather propaganda footage and to clean the crime scene when it comes to Islamist atrocities.

On the matter of the refugee crisis he is rather nuanced but the depopulation of Syria has to be seen as part of a wider ploy to subdue the nation and potentially plug the demographic crisis already existing in Europe. To him and many Syrian nationalists the best course of action would be a dialogue towards reconstruction that sees the return of Syrians to their homeland.

Regarding Syria’s pandemic experience even this has been used to twist the knife on the impoverished nation, used to hamper the flow of humanitarian aid and medicines to the country.

Entering the fight on the side of the Damascus government following the schisming of the army, the SSNP’s party militia The Eagles of the Whirlwind have played an important role in the Battles of Sadad and Maaloula and patrolling government areas.

For their efforts the party received control of the Ministry for Reconciliation Affairs and are on very good terms with the Assad government.

A decade of red lines, suspicious gas attacks and foreign aggression and the SSNP looks set to take a seat at the table regarding Syria’s future, but what is the worldview of their brand of Syrian nationalism scarcely known of in the West?

Syria a Nation: The Origins and Worldview of the SSNP

“The aim of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party is an all-embracing one directed towards the examination of the foundations of national life in all its aspects, the basic issues of the Social Nationalist society (economic, social, political, spiritual, and moral), and the final lofty ends of existence. It also comprises the national ideals, the significance of independence and the establishment of healthy nationalist society. In turn, this implies a new intellectual ethical outlook and a new theory of values. Consequently, the fundamental and reform principles of the Party reflect a new and complete philosophy of life.”-Antoun Saadeh

Conceiving Syria as an organic entity embracing a variety of ethnic, religious and linguistic groups  the SSNP carries with it an eclectic brand of syncretic nationalism forged from early into the 20th century and from the dying embers of imperialism.

Wrongly derided as mere “Syrian Nazis” for their awkward symbolism, the party instead posits a non-sectarian form of nationalism in contrast to the ethno-centrism of the Israeli state or even rival Arab nationalists.

Rather humorously the British neoconservative pundit Christopher Hitchens got into a bruising encounter with alleged SSNP activists for mistaking their party emblem for a swastika when visiting Beirut.

The party is keen to emphasise that they are not fascistic drawing instead on a brand of nationalism based off geography and culture rather than race and creed.

Conceiving themselves as inheritors of an ancient brand of nationhood derived from the Assyrian Empire, the current nation state of Syria is merely a fraction of their desired ideal of a Greater Syria from Cyprus to Iran.

Largely secular but not atheistic in orientation since its inception, it has ran afoul of not just Zionist and post-colonial regimes but religious extremists in the Islamic world as well.

Differing sharply from Baathism, the SSNP places the bedrock of identity on national and geographic signifiers rather than the linguistic interpretation of nationalism found with Arab nationalism. 

If Irish republicanism had its Wolfe Tone, Grater Syrian nationalism had Antoun Saadeh, a Lebanese born political journalist and theorist and the ideological progenitor of the party. His importance to the party cannot be overstated, reacting against the neo-colonialism and incipient Zionist aggression of his time.

Basing his nationalism not just in recognition of the ancient pre-existing civilisations, Saadeh also conducted a rigid scientific study of the sociology of the region establishing the veracity of the Greater Syrian nation.

Seminal in his writings is his 1936 work ‘The Genesis of Nations’ formulating his belief in a Syrian homeland and nationalism as a whole being a byproduct of natural social relations. 

The fatherland and its landscape, where man first opened his eyes to the light of day, inherited the mood of nature and had his life attached to its ways are the strongest elements in this psychological manifestation which is nationalism. What would nationalism mean to the Swiss if you removed the Alps and their lakes? And what would it mean to the French should France’s plains disappear and its rivers change their course?”

A scientific study, in the book Saadeh lays out the criteria of nationhood and how it evolves in the context of human development to foster social relations drawing from older Arab sources and contemporary European thinkers. While the SSNP are often labelled Arab national socialists it should be noted that Saadeh and the party since its genesis is overtly hostile to racialist notions synonymous with European colonialism at the time.

Very much comparable to the romantic and organicist nationalisms of Europe after establishing itself among a small cadre of students in 1930s Beirut amid the French occupation the party faithful soon began to agitate against colonial powers.

Vehemently rejecting the compromises and partitioning of the Greater Syrian nation through the Sykes-Picot agreement, the SSNP capitalised off the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli war and seeming failure of Arab governments to defeat the fledgling zionist state.

Saaedh and early SSNP activists shared a disdain for the Quisling regimes of the immediate post-colonial era, in particular their failure to safeguard Palestine.

Saadeh himself found himself martyred for the cause in 1949 by Lebanese authorities, under the covert direction of British and Israeli intelligence agencies in a show trial. So dangerous was the notion of his unifying brand of nationalism that colonial powers offered major financial concessions to see Saadeh and his deeds snuffed out.

Entering the political doldrums for some years, party members attempted an ill fated coup in Lebanon in 1961 before reviving and seeing action during the Lebanese Civil War against Israel.

Earning themselves many enemies in many foreign capitals the SSNP has stayed true to their founding mission of a Greater Syrian nation under the guiding vision of social justice and principled anti-colonialism.

In their national pursuits they merit historic comparison to the Sinn Féin movement and broader republican struggle of the early to mid 20th century, presenting an anti-colonial yet militant response to the effects of imperialist aggression in the hopes of seeding a national revival.

A decade after the dogs of war were unleashed on the Syrian nation, nationalists have endured the very worst of what globalism could throw at them. 

Through 80 tortuous years of jail cells and persecution, the dream of a Greater Syria remains more vibrant than ever and will have an opportunity to flourish should America enter her imperial death spiral.

Like Ireland , an autonomous and confident Syria is in the interests of all friends of freedom and after a decade of standing up to globalism with their lives we can only hope to emulate their commitment.

The author would especially like to thank the translation services provided by the SSNP which made this article possible

Posted by Ciaran Brennan

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