Terrific new book by Robert Worth has vital insights into the awful war in Syria

Middle East
on 9 Comments

This site has regularly criticized certain New York Times reporters for their coverage of the Middle East. We are happy to break that tradition with enthusiasm for the work of Times correspondent Robert F. Worth, some of which has just appeared in a superb new book titled A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil from Tahrir Square to Isis.

Worth has spent years in the region, and his experience shines through in his first-hand reports and interpretations of the dizzying events in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. He also has valuable material on Yemen, the most forgotten conflict in the whole region.

Arguably Worth’s best work in this outstanding book is his coverage of Syria. He is modest and self-effacing, but he must have risked his life for some of his reports. The armchair advocates for even deeper U.S. military intervention in the Syrian war should be required to listen to him.

A Rage for Order, by Robert Worth

A Rage for Order, by Robert Worth

Worth brilliantly centers his account of Syria’s collapse around two young women in the coastal town of Jableh, whom he got to know over time. Noura Kanafani is a Sunni Muslim, and Aliaa Ali is from the Alawite minority. When the story opens in 2011, the two are best friends, and they laugh at the idea that the first stirrings of more intense sectarianism could ever drive them apart. But by 2013, after years of growing violence, Noura and her family are in exile in Turkey, Aliaa has become a passionate defender of the Assad regime, and the two young women have bitterly ended their friendship. Worth has shown how the fighting causes sectarianism to grow fiercely, as unscrupulous leaders on all sides encourage the existing moderate prejudices to explode into armed hatreds, forcing everyone to choose sides.

By 2013, passions within Syria alone would have made a return to peace difficult. But Worth explains how the fighting was now internationalized: “. . . the Syrian war had spun outward and was drawing in almost every country in the region and many beyond it.” He adds, “There were thousands of rebels fighting in the name of jihad from more than a dozen countries, bankrolled by intelligence services and militias and zealots of every kind.”

Worth does not say what U.S. policymakers should do about Syria. But having just shown how violence promotes sectarianism and lasting bitterness, it is hard to see how he would then advocate more violence as any kind of answer.

The New York Times needs more reporters like Robert Worth. We respectfully suggest that the paper at some stage assign him to Israel/Palestine, where his skill and experience are sorely needed.

About James North

Other posts by .


Posted In:

9 Responses

  1. Keith
    October 24, 2016, 4:40 pm

    JAMES NORTH- “Worth has shown how the fighting causes sectarianism to explode, as unscrupulous leaders on all sides encourage the existing moderate prejudices to explode into armed hatreds, forcing everyone to choose sides.”

    Yes, the sectarianism unleashed by this imperial intervention was quite predictable, hence, reasonable to conclude it was desired as a means of fragmenting Syria in accordance with existing plans to remake the Middle East. This is, after all, exactly what happened in Iraq and Libya. But why “unscrupulous leaders on all sides?” Hard to imagine how sectarianism and Syrian fragmentation benefits Assad, or the rest of Syria’s secular government. In a short video, John Pilger discussed the West’s long history of divide and rule in the Middle East. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwLX7k57_8U

  2. gamal
    October 24, 2016, 5:30 pm

    “Worth brilliantly centers his account of Syria’s collapse around two young women in the coastal town of Jableh, whom he got to know over time. Noura Kanafani is a Sunni Muslim, and Aliaa Ali is from the Alawite minority. When the story opens in 2011, the two are best friends, and they laugh at the idea that the first stirrings of more intense sectarianism could ever drive them apart. But by 2013, after years of growing violence, Noura and her family are in exile in Turkey, Aliaa has become a passionate defender of the Assad regime, and the two young women have bitterly ended their friendship. Worth has shown how the fighting causes sectarianism to explode, as unscrupulous leaders on all sides encourage the existing moderate prejudices to explode into armed hatreds, forcing everyone to choose sides.”

    thats how America sleeps at night, it tells itself sectual fairy stories

    “the Syrian war had spun outward and was drawing in almost every country in the region and many beyond it”

    well not everyone has good self control in matters of sects, probably just couldn’t help themselves.

    .”But having just shown how violence promotes sectarianism and lasting bitterness, it is hard to see how he would then advocate more violence as any kind of answer.”

    North have you no respect for American creativity, sects sells every and anything.

    Is a Baptist army closing in on Mosul?

    • Mooser
      October 25, 2016, 11:49 am

      “thats how America sleeps at night, it tells itself sectual fairy stories”

      After “America drinks and goes home” we need a bedtime story.

  3. Brewer
    October 24, 2016, 11:40 pm

    The Neo-cons are always two steps ahead. The current assault on Mosul is designed to drive Isis fighters Westward into Syria to bolster the insurgency. Meanwhile, the U.S. backed outfit “The White Helmets” is being sanctified to provide an acceptable propaganda front for the Islamists’ opposition to the Assad Government:
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/24/87796/

  4. HarryLaw
    October 25, 2016, 5:49 am

    When I read the “Assad regime” I suspect the worst. The Syrian war was made in the United States and embraced by the UK, France and Germany who armed the “moderate” jihadis paid for by Saudi Arabia and Qatar with those arms going through Turkey. How else could they accumulate thousands of tanks and armoured vehicles, John McCain wants to give them manpads “Absolutely… Absolutely I would,” McCain said when asked whether he would support the delivery of Stinger missiles to the opposition in Syria.

    “We certainly did that in Afghanistan. After the Russians invaded Afghanistan, we provided them with surface-to-air capability. It’d be nice to give people that we train and equip and send them to fight the ability to defend themselves. That’s one of the fundamental principles of warfare as I understand it,” McCain said. https://sputniknews.com/us/201510201028835944-us-stingers-missiles-syrian-rebels-mccain/

    These things are so obvious now with the West openly defending the Jihadis. Defense Minister Ehud Barak argued that “the toppling down of Assad will be a major blow to the radical axis, major blow to Iran…. It’s the only kind of outpost of the Iranian influence in the Arab world…and it will weaken dramatically both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.” Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly.
    This assault on Syria is made in the West, just read Hillary Clinton’s e mails. Arming the Syrian rebels and using western air power to ground Syrian helicopters and airplanes is a low-cost high payoff approach. As long as Washington’s political leaders stay firm that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed, as they did in both Kosovo and Libya, the costs to the United States will be limited. UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05794498 Date: 11/30/2015 RELEASE IN FULL…”The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad”https://wikileaks.org/clinton-emails/emailid/18328

    Assad is the legitimate President of Syria, in the Presidential election in 2014 Assad received 88% of vote on a turnout of 70%, the Ba’ath party won 80% of seats in 2016 election. He clearly commands the support of Syrians of all political and religious persuasions. Professor Tim Anderson cuts through all this propaganda in a series of articles like this one. link to http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-dirty-war-on-syria/5491859 After the United States “success” in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya leaving them in ruins, time to move on to destroying the secular state of Syria, so that Israel can consolidate its claim to the Golan Heights and at the same time split the ‘ark of resistance’ Iran, Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah. What could possibly go wrong?

    • inbound39
      October 26, 2016, 6:56 am

      And this is how and why America has lost its International standing and status through it nauseating Special Relationship with Israel. The Relationship has done nothing other than make America a laughing stock. America takes all the hatred,expenditure and lives lost while Israeli’s have a nice glass of wine from their vineyards on illegally acquired land in Palestine and Netanyahu hurls insults at Obama that Obama does absolutely nothing about other than give Israel $38 billion American Taxpayer dollars. And America wonders why it is hated and laughed at.

  5. HarryLaw
    October 25, 2016, 7:16 am

    Non of these developments happen by chance, Seymour Hersh wrote about them in 2007 in a piece called ‘The Redirection’ http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection Then the Bush administration decided
    “To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”
    Not for the first time the US backed the wrong horse. Now in order to stop the ‘arc of resistance’ Iran. Syria, Iraq, Hezbollah and the Yemenis all backed by Russia and to a lesser extent China they [the US] are doubling down with more support for the Jihadis, the US are going ape shit. They are losing control of the middle east. In my opinion only when those medieval satraps in the GCC group of nations [who are exporting their Wahhabi death cult all over the world] are overthrown can we have peace in the region.

  6. HarryLaw
    October 25, 2016, 7:46 am

    The Palestinians just like the Syrians are under attack from reactionary forces, here is what a Saudi official said in Washington recently..
    Salman Al-Ansari President of the Saudi American Public Affairs committee in Washington said..”Israel, he noted, was “one of the most sophisticated and technologically advanced countries in the field of mining,” as well as “a world leader in the water engineering industry” — both matters of significant interest to the developing Arab Kingdom.
    Al-Ansari stressed that the two nations share security concerns, with both “facing constant threats from extremist groups that are directly supported by the totalitarian government of Iran.”
    Israel and Saudi Arabia, he argued, could serve as “the new twin pillars of regional stability,”
    http://www.timesofisrael.com/saudi-lobbyist-in-us-urges-collaberative-alliance-with-israel/ Where do the Palestinians resident in both Jordan and Palestine figure in all this? answer, they don’t, all the Saudi and Israeli machinations are directed at the ‘arc of resistance’ Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and now Yemen, maybe Egypt next since the Saudis have just stopped oil shipments to Egypt because Egypt voted with a Russian Resolution on Syria at the UNSC. Surely the Saudi masses will rise up and overthrow these terrorist supporting satraps. When it comes to their survival these Saudi perverts would sell their own Grandmothers.This is what a prominent Saudi Prince told Richard Dearlove head of MI6 before 9/11 Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”
    Israel, the Washington the head of the Saudi American committee noted, was “one of the most sophisticated and technologically advanced countries in the field of mining,” as well as “a world leader in the water engineering industry” — both matters of significant interest to the developing Arab Kingdom”. What he did not say was Israel is expert in the theft of water and minerals from the Occupied Palestinian Territories in breach of International Law, See the Quarries case https://www.adalah.org/uploads/oldfiles/newsletter/eng/feb12/docs/Quarries%20case%20English%20Final.pdf

  7. mcohen.
    October 25, 2016, 10:59 pm

    is the book available on kindle

Leave a Reply