The country of Syria will have changed forever at the end of this war, whenever it ends.

Many described it as a revolution when it started. Within days it became a ‘civil war’. Within weeks it became a clash of civilisations. 

After more than 5 years of fighting it has become clear that this war is a proxy. On the one hand the war is an attempt at regime change by the US government. On the other hand it is an attempt to create a new Sunni state in the region funded and organised by the Turkish government, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and all affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood. Other Sunni groups have joined in the effort. 

Many things are unclear. Who will win is unknown. As hundreds of thousand of people have been killed or have died as a result of all-out war it is cynical to speak of anybody ‘winning’. By any record it would be shameful for the side still standing at the end of this war to speak of a victory when so much humanity has been lost.

What is clear is that the current war will reshape the country forever. A country which has against all odds remained a beacon of light and centre of learning, home to some of the great ancient cities of the world such as Damascus, Aleppo and Homs. 

The most serious forces that fight against the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad are not interested in secular democracy. They are theocrats.

They have found support from secular democratic countries in the Western world to establish their theocracy. They have also found support from theocratic dictatorial regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Islamic states in the Caucus region. As well as the Turkish state which is becoming ever less secular. An unlikely alliance.

Those fighting in Bashar al Assad’s Syrian Arab Army fight for dictator whose family ruled the county for decades with an iron fist. A fist which guaranteed religious freedoms and gave rise to one of only a handful of countries in the Islamic world with a true civil society and equality of citizens before the law.

Mr Assad was supported by Russia, Iran and Lebanon when it became apparent that his regime was on the verge of losing the war a few years ago. 

This war has come to a stalemate as three major forces each rule over a part of the country. A new more autonomic Kurdish region in the north, a secular dictatorship in the southwest and an Islamic State in the east.

The battle for the soul of Syria is a battle of civilisations. It is a battle between those who believe in secular society which is governed by civil society and those who prefer an Islamic theocracy. 

As time passes the outcome of this battle of civilisations will be decided not by the people of Syria (although many have fought and died) but by outside forces. It is up to the United States to choose whether it supports the secular dictator Assad or the theocratic forces that fight him. This choice will ultimately decide the outcome of the war and determine what kind of a nation Syria will be in the century to come. 


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