Today in Middle Eastern history: the Hama massacre begins (1982)

Like any major conflict, when it broke out in 2011 the civil war in Syria didn’t have one single cause and there was no One Simple Trick to preventing it. Some of its causes built on one another. For example, rising food prices caused in part by a severe Mediterranean heatwave/drought exacerbated Syria’s escalating socioeconomic inequality–the product of “Shock Doctrine”-esque free market “reforms” implemented toward the end of his life by former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and continued under his son/successor, Bashar. These tensions were also fed by a burgeoning youth population that simply couldn’t find enough jobs, despite all those supposedly beneficial capitalist innovations. Others were somewhat independent, like the Syrian government’s disdain (at best) for basic human rights. Some were brand new, like the external impetus generated by the Arab Spring movement and Bashar al-Assad’s decision to respond to Syria’s Arab Spring protests with violence. Others were long-standing, like the tension between the Assads and Syrian Islamists, especially of the Muslim Brotherhood variety.

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