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The Astrological Journal

Syria and the House of Assad

by Robert Anderson

The astrology of the horrifying conflict in Syria sheds light on complex issues that cut across national borders and religious divides, using natal and mundane chart methods.

History

PalmyraThe area covered by modern Syria was formerly the site of the world's earliest recorded civilisation but since then and until the 20th century it has been dominated by powerful neighbours. Over the last 4,000 years these neighbours have included the Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Persian, Macedonian, Roman, Arabian, Turkish (Ottoman) and French empires.

In 1916, the Sykes-Picot agreement between France and the UK was ratified. To some observers it aimed to fracture the Ottoman empire - bringing to an end the succession of Islamic Caliphates that had lasted 1,300 years – and to ensure that its geo-political integrity could never be reassembled by a succeeding Islamic power. This split of 'Greater Syria' into Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and a reduced Syria, was forced through by the UK and France.

Syria gained pseudo-independence in 1920 under British control. But later in 1920 the mandate over Syria was assigned to France and this continued until 16/9/1941 when it was granted de jure independence. De facto independence followed on 1/1/1944 when all mandate powers were transferred to the Syrian government. It is bounded to the north by Turkey, to the east and south by Iraq, Jordan and Israel, and to the west by Lebanon.

After WW2, Syrians and their neighbours began to agitate for more independence and there was a general rise of pan-Arabism. From 1958 to 1961 Syria was part of the United Arab Republic in federation with Egypt, Palestine, Libya and Iraq but it was undermined by internecine squabbles and violence. However, Syria continued to support Palestine – to the annoyance of the US and the alarm of Israel.

The next major change brings us nearly up to date. At dawn on 13 November 1970 the radical nationalist Ba'ath Party swept to power in a coup led by President Hafez al Assad

Thus arguably we have three valid charts for the modern state of Syria.

But I think it is logical to discount the De Jure chart because there was no significant handover of powers to a Syrian government in 1941. However, choosing between the De Facto chart and that for the Assad Coup is more difficult.

Assad coupThis represents Syria's takeover by the House of Assad which to this day remains in power, albeit beleaguered. In this 1970 chart the Sun-Venus-Jupiter conjunction opposes the Moon-Saturn conjunction. This could be said to symbolise the tension between the ruling elite (Sun and aspects thereto) and the common people of Syria (Moon conjunct Saturn). Pluto is in the 10th House – symbolising a focus on 'power-politics' and the potential for violent upheavals, and there is a Mars-Uranus conjunction in the 11th House – suggesting that countries Syria regards as friends may contribute to violent instability in her fortunes. Mars rules the chart and is in mutual reception with Venus. Nevertheless, MC = Pluto/North Node gives a need to associate with others if political objectives are to be achieved. It is noteworthy that the Mars-Uranus conjunction at 11-15 Libra is sensitive to the transiting Uranus-Pluto square in the period 2013 to 2015.

The De Facto chart - analysis

This was the first recognition of Syria as an independent republic. Like the Assad Coup chart it also has a 'dangerous' look. It too has a Mars-Uranus conjunction and Pluto in the 10th House. However the De Facto chart's Mars-Uranus is more sinisterly placed in the country's 8th House which rules death and public mortality. Mars rules the armed forces and also all trades that minister to these. It has connection with violent criminality. Associated with Uranus it may cause explosions, both physical and emotional, and has relation with revolutions. Uranus is linked with the administrative officers of the State and their functions. Afflicted by Mars it is rebellious and anarchic. Mars forms a wide yod with Pluto and the North Node to the Sun.

That fateful forces are at work for Syria's citizens is also evidenced by the Pluto conjunction with the North Node in the 10th house in semi-square to Saturn. The national flower of Syria is the jasmine. It is both beautiful and fragrant. But in Syria's case what you see is not what you get. Indeed, its choice as the symbol for a public persona brings to mind the observation by a Sufi Master that "It is foolish to think that a perfumed scorpion will not sting you" (maybe symbolised by the Venus in Scorpio?). Similarly, the ability to wound itself and its people is indicated by the Moon in opposition to Chiron, while the hard-heartedness seen on news screens today is reinforced by the Saturn square to Venus (ruler of the Libran Ascendant). Only natal Saturn in the 9th house, suggesting the restraining influence of foreign countries, offers a prospect of moderation for this stung and stinging country.

Syria independence That Syria as an entity was in for a frustrating time is suggested by no fewer than six planets – Mercury, Mars, Uranus, Saturn, Pluto and Jupiter – being retrograde.

Re-emphasising these traits are a number of parallel aspects (which act as conjunctions in the latitudinal plane). The Sun, as well as being square Neptune, is parallel both Mars and Pluto, a toxic combination; Saturn is parallel Uranus, while Chiron is parallel with Neptune. The Moon, representing the people, is found by midpoint to equal the repressive combination of Saturn and Uranus and the clutches of Mars and Saturn.

The Muslim Brotherhood had been working to oust the Syrian Ba'ath Party since 1964 – by a series of bombings, shootings and assassinations. However Hafez al Assad's government's ruthlessness in dealing with dissent was revealed when a rising by the Muslim Brotherhood was brutally put down with the loss of thousands of lives. This was at Hama in February 1982, just as transiting Uranus opposed the De Facto chart's natal Uranus-Mars conjunction. This massacre effectively banished Islamist groups from Syria for nearly twenty years.

So for me the choice of natal charts for modern Syria is made in favour of the De Facto chart. This is not only because of the points made above but also because, with its Sun at 9 Capricorn and its angles at 13-14 degrees of cardinals, it is even more prone than the Assad Coup chart to the impact of the transiting Uranus-Pluto square as we move towards 2013 and beyond - and this seems to fit current events only too well. But it is reasonable to add that whereas the De Facto chart may be more indicative of Syria as a nation, the Assad Coup chart has more relevance to the House of Assad.

Mundane interpretations of the other planetary house placements are also helpful to an understanding of Syria's De Facto chart. Charles Carter's commentary is instructive here. Syria's 1st House contains no planets - maybe weakening any sense of national unity.

Syrian economyThe 2nd House represents the economy of the country and its material prosperity; all that is related thereto, and those closely engaged therewith. Venus is here and can promote a sense of national well-being and tends to preserve peace but in actual time of war it is a planet of victory. Squared by Jupiter in Syria's case it suggests the presence of resources – but maybe also extravagance in their use. Venus is important as it rules this chart for Syria – but it is debilitated in Scorpio.

The 3rd House governs education and all methods of transit. It is said to indicate neighbouring nations and the country's relations with them. The Sun is placed here and stands for the supreme authority in the State, including those in control of whatever department of the national life is under consideration. Thus eclipses of the Sun tend to affect these people. Generally, the Sun, if well-placed, benefits whatever house it occupies. So in this chart it indicates the importance of relations with neighbouring countries to the stability of the Syrian government. But it is squared by Neptune in the 12th House – suggesting the likelihood of confusion and misperceptions, and undermining by corruption and/or criminal conspiracies.

The 4th House governs land, the produce of the land and the common people. It is said to represent the Opposition in government. Mercury is in Syria's 4th House. It rules the Press, education and all means of communication. Political speeches and meetings come under this planet and it has also considerable effect upon general trade. It often indicates changes. Its value depends upon sign and aspect. In this chart Mercury is retrograde and is in mutual reception with a 9th-House Saturn which is also retrograde. This highlights the importance of communications with other countries but does not bode well for management of natural resources - or indeed for progressive or credible political statements.

The 5th House is said to rule children and the birth rate among other factors. The Moon is here in Syria's chart and relates to the masses, and it has also to do with land and crops. It signifies women, as distinct from men. It is not necessarily beneficial to the matters ruled by the house it occupies, its value depending largely upon sign and aspect. Chiron opposes the Piscean Moon in this chart – sadly suggesting pain and sacrifice for the population – particularly for women and children.

The 6th House contains no planets, suggesting that the influence of the ordinary employed classes is not strong. The 7th House governs relations with foreign countries. It is said to be the house of open warfare and enmity, as well as of treaties and alliances; but friendly nations should also be considered under the 11th House, and foreign relations have some connection with the 9th. There are no planets in the 7th but its ruler – Mars – is conjunct Uranus in the 8th House – suggesting violent and drastic upheavals.

The 8th, 9th and 10th Houses and planets therein have already been discussed – though it is worth emphasising that the 10th House is probably the most important and powerful of all houses in mundane astrology and the presence of a Pluto-North Node conjunction in Syria's 10th House is likely to be a fateful placement not only for this country but also for others in the immediate locality and possibly beyond.

The 11th House is said to denote friends of the nation. Jupiter is placed here and suggests that Syria will have some influential and helpful allies. Jupiter also rules the 3rd house so there may be some supportive neighbours too.

The 12th House shows underground movements and secret enemies of the State. Neptune is here in square to the Sun connoting a tendency to confusion, muddle, waste and inefficiency, with the possibility of treachery and corruption. It may also indicate the Syrian leadership's dependence on its oil and gas reserves.

The House of Assad

Assad FamilyAs with Iraq, Syrian politics had been dominated by the secular Ba'ath Party since the 1960s. In his youth, Hafez al-Assad had wanted to become a medical doctor – but his parents could not afford the fees. So instead he joined the military, rose to the rank of commander and through a series of coups starting in 1963 brought the Ba'athists to power and made himself the absolute ruler of Syria. Hafez's strong-man autocracy was partly built on a personality cult reminiscent of Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi – characterised by giant pictures and statues of himself on display throughout the country.

The Assad family are Alawites – an obscure Muslim sect related to Shi'a Islam. At only 12% of the Syrian population, the Alawites are vastly outnumbered by Sunni Arabs at 65%. There are also Sunni Kurds 9%, Christian Arabs 10%, and Druze Arabs 3%.

This might be an appropriate point to outline the different types of Muslim faith. Both in Syria and worldwide, Sunni Islam predominates – with Shi'a a distant second. There are perhaps 940 million Sunnis worldwide – compared with 110 million Shi'a Muslims. Both agree on the fundamentals of Islam and both accept the Qur'an as its holy book.

When the Prophet Muhammad died early in the 7th Century A.D. his followers debated who should be his successor. The majority favoured his father-in-law Abu Bakr as the Caliph (politico-social leader). A smaller group favoured Ali – the Prophet's son-in-law and cousin – in both spiritual and political terms. In the end Abu Bakr was chosen. The meaning of 'Sunni' is 'one who follows the Sunnah – the guidance of the Prophet'. The term 'Shi'a' is an abbreviation of 'Shiat Ali' – partisans of Ali.

Alawite and Druze faiths are hybrid religions regarded as heretical by extreme Sunnis. Druze incorporates other Abrahamic creeds as well as Neo-Platonic and Gnostic beliefs.

The Alawites say they are Shi'a Muslims despite believing neither in traditional prayers – nor that the Qur'an is the Holy Book. They celebrate Christmas, Easter and Epiphany and believe in reincarnation (though not for women). They also believe Muhammad's son-in-law Ali was God incarnate. Alawite means 'follower of Ali'. The Alawite testimony (Shahada) is 'There is no God but Ali' – which is guaranteed to enrage a Sunni-Salafist!

With Hafez's rise to power the fortunes of the hitherto persecuted Alawites improved.

However, by the early 1990s Hafez's health was failing and his eldest son Bassel – a charismatic military man – was being prepared for the top job in what had become the socialist, pan-Arab and neutralist state of Syria. Hafez had other sons: Rifaat – but he had tried to overthrow his father and so was out of favour, Maher – but he was considered too aggressive and unpredictable, and Bashar – but he was a doctor and ophthalmologist doing post-grad work in the UK. However, before he could succeed his father Bassel was killed in a car accident in 1994.

The next in line of succession was Bashar al-Assad. He gave up his career and returned to Damascus to support his grieving family. Six years later his father Hafez died and Bashar took power. In those six years from 1994 to 2000 Bashar was intensively groomed for leadership – elevated within the army to the rank of brigadier-general and publicly promoted as 'The Hope' for Syria.

Bashar Al-Assad

Bashar chartBashar was born on 11 September 1965 in Damascus. There is no official birth-time. However Isaac Starkman has rectified Bashar's birth-time to 16.43hrs EEDT(i)and I have used this birth-time to produce Bashar's natal chat – bearing in mind that caution is advisable when working with rectified charts.

Though this is not the place for a detailed analysis of Bashar's natal chart, it is appropriate to give an overview before attempting an interpretation of the synastry between his natal chart and that for Syria.

Bashar is a child of the 1960s – with the characteristic Uranus-Pluto conjunction in his natal chart. His chart could therefore be expected to resonate strongly with the transiting Uranus-Pluto square 2012-2015. To some extent his natal chart recalls the Assad Coup chart in that it features a strong opposition axis involving several planets. A Virgoan stellium of Mercury, Uranus, Pluto and the Sun opposes a conjunction of the Moon, Chiron and Saturn in Pisces. This opposition is 'eased' by Bashar's Mars-Neptune conjunction at 14-17 Scorpio, but of course Mars and Neptune make strange bed-fellows and can be conducive to over-zealous actions in the pursuit of dreams or ideals. If Starkman is right about Bashar's birth time, the opposition lies roughly on the 1st-7th House axis – with the Solar stellium in the 7th House.

With his rectified Ascendant in Aquarius and Saturn in the 1st House, plus a Libran Venus in trine with Jupiter, Bashar may come across as quite rational, calm and mild-mannered – but this would belie the intense focus and capacity for drastic action signified by Uranus and Pluto conjunct his natal Sun. His Scorpio Mars is conjunct Neptune, suggesting that to some degree he is an idealist – willing to work hard for what he believes in. But again, if Starkman is right, Bashar's Neptune is widely conjunct his Midheaven – so as a man of power his idealistic actions may have an impact on world events – and he may for a while have been seen as a potential redeemer by his people.

Arguably it is justifiable to view Bashar's Moon-Chiron-Saturn conjunction also as reflective of parental influence. I have not seen any commentary on Bashar's relationship with his mother – but Moon conjunct Chiron does not suggest a warm or comfortable maternal influence. Likewise – taking Saturn as personifying the father-figure – Saturn conjunct Chiron does not suggest a positive paternal image. This is hardly surprising given Hafez al-Assad's record as a ruthless military leader. As a young man, Bashar may have hoped to carve out a medical career in the Western world and settle down with his glamorous wife Asma – but it was not to be.

On 11 June 2000 Bashar was nominated by the ruling Ba'ath Party as President. In his inaugural speech Bashar promised economic reform. But he surrounded himself with technocrats rather than political reformers. He had inherited an authoritarian power-structure – a mukhābarāt state – controlled by the security services. This had been reluctantly accepted by the Syrian population as the price of political stability and protection from its warring neighbours: Lebanon and Iraq. Indeed Syria had been under a form of martial law since 1963 – before the Assad coup – and this was not to change in any meaningful way.

Bashar al AssadWith regard to the synastry between Bashar and his native land, Charles Carter has remarked that the MC-IC axis of a country's leader often links to his national chart. Bashar's rectified MC is at 25 Scorpio – conjunct De Facto Syria's Venus (and chart ruler) and square its Jupiter. In addition, Bashar's Moon-Saturn-Chiron conjunction is echoed by the wide t-square between these planets in the De Facto chart.

In terms of inter-aspects between Bashar's and Syria's natal charts, Syria's tight Mars-Uranus conjunction is closely square Bashar's Mercury – part of his Virgo stellium and possible ruler of his 8th House. But Syria's Mercury is unaspected. This feels like Bashar could easily be influenced mentally by his country's propensity for sudden, warlike aggression – against his own people or others. In addition, Syria's Pluto-North Node conjunction sextiles Bashar's North Node and closely conjoins his rectified Descendant – suggesting that their fates are inextricably linked for good or ill. The conjunction of Mars-Uranus in Syria's chart with Bashar's North Node suggests that it will probably be 'for ill'.

Moreover, Bashar's harsh opposition between Saturn and Uranus-Pluto aligns all too closely with Syria's Moon-Chiron opposition – potentially piling on the pain for his suffering subjects. Bashar's Mars-Neptune-rectified MC conjunction falls in Syria's 2nd House hinting that his determination to follow his ideals at all costs may compromise moral values, bankrupt his country – or both.

For ten years after becoming president of Syria, Bashar was able to maintain an uneasy peace in Syria despite sanctions imposed by a suspicious USA and rumblings of discontent from his own people.

The fact remained that Bashar was constantly fighting corruption and conflicting vested interests within the Syrian elite. And by 2011 the contagion of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen had spread to Syria. This coincided with a partial solar eclipse on 4 January 2011 at 11:02hrs local time in Syria. The eclipse Pluto and North Node were both conjunct the eclipse Midheaven at 5 Capricorn. The eclipse Sun-Moon conjunction was on top of Syria's natal Sun, and eclipse Saturn was conjunct Syria's Ascendant – an ill wind was blowing that would shake Syria's national prestige and its president's authority. This eclipse was also remarkable for having a track that encompassed the countries embroiled in the Arab Spring.

Arguably the Arab Spring was a mass reaction of educated but unemployed Arab youth against ageing, oppressive 'strong-men' seen as too close to Western powers – especially the USA. The self-immolation of Bouazizi – a graduate eking out a living as a market trader in Tunisia – seemed to break the barrier of fear that had suppressed effective protests hitherto. The savvy use of social media by the young protesters facilitated the spread of their message.

If Bashar al-Assad thought that Syria was immune from the Arab Spring he was mistaken.

His progressed Mars at 16 Sagittarius was squaring his natal Sun-Uranus-Pluto opposition to Moon-Saturn-Chiron, and transiting Mars was at 16 Pisces.

Civil War in Syria

The flash point was Deraa – a small town in a poor agricultural area in south-west Syria. On 15 March 2011 some schoolchildren were punished severely for writing graffiti calling for the regime's downfall. When their families organised a protest the crowd was fired on by the Syrian security service and four people were killed. Anti-government protests began to spread, fuelled not only by outrage at the increasing number of fatalities but also by anger at the grossly unequal distribution of wealth and the unaccountability of the security services.

At 08:39 local time on 1 July 2011 there was another partial eclipse of the Sun that added fuel to the fire. In the eclipse chart Pluto opposed the Sun-Moon conjunction and this opposition aligned with Syria's Sun at 9 Capricorn.

CheckpointAs 2011 drew to a close the opposition to Assad became increasingly desperate and violent. Like the regime they were opposing they had gone too far to turn back. By January 2012 an estimated 5,000 civilians had been killed.

A move to pass a UN Security Council resolution for 'regime change' was vetoed by Russia and China. A General Assembly resolution regarding the Arab League transition plan was passed but it lacked the power of a Security Council resolution.

Unlike the governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen – which quickly fell under the pressure of the Arab Spring, Syria's government had strong armed forces which remained largely loyal to the House of Assad.

At the end of February 2012, transiting Chiron squared Syria's Uranus-Mars conjunction while transiting Jupiter applied to square its Pluto-North Node conjunction and formed a semi-square to natal Saturn. At the same time Pluto moved to an exact transit of Syria's Sun. Transiting Uranus built up the pressure with an applying opposition to the country's natal Neptune. This was a severe and highly combustible mix which was unlikely to produce anything less than civil war

The USA hesitated to intervene militarily – as it was clear the opposition to Assad was not unified and probably contained al-Qa'ida elements. Arming disparate opposition forces might have dire consequences.

By March 2012, the UN estimated that up to 10,000 Syrians had been killed in the unrest – not to mention 30,000 refugees who had fled the country.

Attempts led by Kofi Annan and the UN in April 2012 to agree a ceasefire broke down by June 2012 amid mutual recriminations. This failure was hardly surprising: the lunar eclipse chart at 14:11 local time on 4 June 2012 had Uranus conjunct its Descendant squaring Syria's Sun and Pluto on its IC conjunct Syria's Sun. Bashar's progressed Moon was conjunct his progressed Mars around this time, and transiting Mars in Virgo conjoined his natal Sun-Uranus-Pluto in June 2012 – increasing a powerful urge for extreme action.

As at December 2012 the death toll was estimated at over 100,000, and 1.5 million refugees had fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Syria beyond 2012

In considering events in and around Syria beyond 2012 it is important to give due weight to the powerful backdrops provided by the transiting square between Uranus in Aries and Pluto in Capricorn – and the transiting mutual reception between Saturn in Scorpio and Pluto in Capricorn – which both persisted from 2012 to 2015.

Much has been written elsewhere about the potentially revolutionary effect of the Uranus-Pluto square and its resonance with the Uranus-Pluto conjunction in the 1960s. With its Sun at 9 degrees Capricorn, and angles at 13-14 degrees of cardinals, the De Facto chart for Syria is acutely sensitive to the transiting Uranus-Pluto square. Transiting Pluto conjoined Syria's Sun three times in 2013 (2 January 2013, 11 August 2013 and 29 October 2013) – putting on huge pressure for 'regime change' but also urging Bashar to use his power ever more ruthlessly in defence of his position. Transiting Uranus squared Syria's Sun twice in 2013 (13 April 2013 and 3 November 2013) – bringing shocks and setbacks to the Assad regime but also urging Bashar to ever more drastic action.

Both Saturn and Pluto are concerned with power and control. It can be said that their basic difference is that Saturn will strive to preserve the structures of the status quo at great cost whereas Pluto is prepared to destroy the very ground that they stand on to further its ends, and thus precipitate a collapse into chaos. The working of this combination of energies is grimly exemplified by the conflict in Syria. Typical of Saturn is Assad's iron determination to protect the status quo. Typical of Pluto is the desperation of the revolutionary forces, prepared to fight to the death to overthrow him, and see their country razed to the ground in the process. Transiting Saturn conjoined Syria's ruling planet Venus late in 2014. Saturn and Pluto are in semi-square in Syria's natal chart – they are in opposition in Bashar's – so again there is a special sensitivity to these ongoing transits.

2014 and beyond – the rise of Islamic State

IS chartOn 28 June 2014, reportedly at 19:05hrs local time (source Astro.com), a new and highly dangerous player joined the theatre of jihadist war – so-called Islamic State – based in Ar-Raqqah, Syria.

Pluto on the Ascendant squaring the Mars-Uranus opposition aligned with the Moon's Nodal Axis speaks for itself.

On 1 July 2014 a twenty-minute proclamation was issued by the IS leader – self-styled Caliph Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi (b. 28 July 1971, Samarra, Iraq) across extremist websites and social media. Digital technology is a major weapon in the Islamic State's comprehensive armoury – along with a fanatical bravery that arguably makes one IS fighter worth ten ordinary foot-soldiers on the battlefield. It promotes Salafist-Islam – its earliest form – dating back to the 7th century A.D. Its goal is a worldwide Muslim nation or Ummah – achieved by jihad (holy war). Established Arab governments tend to be against IS – as are the liberal Arab middle classes – but there is a large group in the Middle East who support – or do not oppose IS. It has grown rapidly in power and credibility among jihadists and now dominates the opposition to Assad in Syria.

In May 2015 IS over-ran Palmyra in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq. In September 2015 it captured Jazal – the last remaining oilfield under Syrian control. By September 2015 the Syrian government controlled only one-sixth of Syria – while almost half of Iraq was in IS hands. In Syria, IS had thus occupied a similar area of land to the UK and was controlling a population of not less than six million people.

Headline-grabbing atrocities are also IS's stock in trade: the beheading of an elderly archaeologist at Palmyra, burning alive a Jordanian pilot, drowning caged prisoners in Mosul, roasting Syrian prisoners alive over log fires – then posting graphic videos over jihadist social media.

Al-Baghdadi has kept a low profile – potentially reducing the impact on IS of his death or incapacity. He has three experienced deputies ready to take over if necessary.

In its second year of existence, IS had turned Middle Eastern politics upside down. Formerly, Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Bloc maintained a balance against the Shi'ite Bloc headed by Iran. This is no longer tenable. The refugee crisis which is pushing 4.5 million Syrians to flee their country – half of them heading for Europe – is pressuring external powers to intervene.

Russia, an established ally of the Assad regime – is now militarily engaged in Syria – in an uneasy alliance with the Western Powers. It remains to be seen whether its intervention is aimed at extending its influence in the region (as per Crimea) – as well as propping up Assad. Either way, Western Powers have changed their stance regarding the Syrian president – now agreeing that he should be part of a transitional government and no longer calling for his immediate removal.

IS has governates not only in Syria and Iraq but also – since September 2015 – in Libya, Algeria, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

IS also attacks beyond its territories e.g. suicide bombings in Kuwait, a massacre of tourists in Tunisia, and attacks in France (Charlie Hebdo, the Bataclan Theatre and others)

IS' ambition is to make the holy cities of Mecca and Medina (in Saudi Arabia) the centrepieces of their Caliphate. It has already breached Saudi security. In the summer of 2015 it inspired suicide bombings of Shi'ite mosques in that country. Saudi Arabia is also under pressure from Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. Bombing raids by the Saudis have killed at least 7,000 civilians, fuelling anti-Saudi feeling and playing into the hands of the Sunni-IS narrative.

refugees The Syrian crisis is deeply divisive. In support of Assad there is Iran, Russia, China and Hezbollah (in Lebanon). Opposing his regime are the US, the UK and most of Europe, Turkey and the Sunni bloc of the Gulf States i.e. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan – and of course IS – which opposes anything falling short of its extreme Salafi-jihadist ideology.

To date, Western military interventions have been lamentable failures. Washington's efforts to transform thousands of 'moderate' rebel fighters into crack anti-IS soldiers produced just 52 at a cost of $500 million. By September 2015 only 4 remained in action – the rest having surrendered their expensive vehicle and weapons to the al-Nusra Front (an al-Qa'ida-linked offshoot of IS) to obtain safe passage out of the war zone.

In June 2015 Washington announced that air strikes had killed 10,000 IS fighters in just nine months – yet the group's capabilities were undiminished – suggesting it has far more fighters than originally thought. Some sources suggest at least 300,000.

Despite IS threats against the House of Saud, Saudi Arabia has spent an estimated £5 billion arming Syrian rebels – just as it supported and armed mujahideen Afghanis from whom the most extreme Islamist groups subsequently emerged. However as it became clear that aiding the Syrian rebels was not achieving a quick overthrow of the Assad regime, the Saudis began to back off – much to the annoyance of the Qataris who had also been arming the rebels. Western powers had always been wary of doing this in case weapons fell into extremist hands.

It seems clear that the fortunes of Syria and its people will be inextricably linked with Bashar al-Assad unless or until he steps down or is deposed – and there is no sign of this happening at present.

Sadly for the non-combatant population of Syria, indications are that violence will continue with consequences of a huge and rising death toll and millions displaced from their homeland. By March 2015, 300,000 Syrians had been killed and 9.5 million had fled their homes (4.5 million seeking refuge abroad – and half of these heading towards Europe). Given that the 2011 population was only 21 million this is an astonishing number.

Despite the Assad government losing control of large areas of Syria there is little to suggest that it will collapse any time soon. Bashar al-Assad appears adept at maintaining a situation whereby he does more or less what he pleases and retains the support of Russia and other allies – yet avoids antagonising Europe and the USA to the point where they intervene against him militarily – and again there seems little reason to suppose that he will lose this ability.

He may take stock of the miserable condition of his country and its people and ask himself how long the killing and destruction can continue. No doubt he will realise that not only the Western powers but also his Russian and other allies view the involvement of jihadist elements in the civil war with great alarm and that this may not only lead to enhanced support from his allies but also maybe to a softening of the Western powers' attitude towards his government.

2016 and beyond

Amidst the current chaos and killing it is difficult to believe that Bashar al-Assad was once a fairly normal young man. Has he been corrupted by the authoritarian and sycophantic ruling group that he inherited from his father? Is what appears to Western democracies to be the paranoia of a tyrant being reinforced by the violence of insurgents and the condemnation of other countries?

map of civil warIt is of course also true that although he wields great power in Syria, Bashar does not have total control even among his Alawite supporters. In his book on the House of Assad, Professor Lesch comments that Bashar's early attempts at a 'Damascus Spring' of reforms were stymied by opposition from the 'old guard' within the Syrian elite.

Likewise, in the early days of the civil unrest, Bashar's younger brother Maher emerged as the tough guy and enforcer – head of the elite 4th Armoured Division and the Republican Guard. While Bashar made conciliatory noises about protecting civilians, Maher's men were busy shooting protesters.

Nevertheless, Lesch – who was for a while a confidant of Bashar's – wrote in 2007 that Bashar had gained self-confidence to the point of smugness. Bashar felt that Syria had some leverage in the world. If Syria couldn't be seen as a peacemaker it still had the ability to stir up trouble. In 2008 Lesch noted that Bashar, though unimposing physically, softly spoken and with an almost childlike laugh, was holding on to power in Syria quite effectively. But he had lost the self-deprecating humour and unassuming manner of his early years as president and acted as if he was beginning to believe the hype of his 2007 re-election machine – that it was his destiny to rule.

The Uranus-Pluto square has not quite finished with Syria. Though transiting Pluto was conjunct Syria's Sun in 2012 and 2013 – and transiting Uranus squared its Sun in 2013 – transiting Pluto contacted all Syria's angles in 2014 and 2015 and so did Uranus. If anything, the pressures on Syria and the Assad government increased – but, apart from sending aid to refugees, will the Western powers wish to become involved sufficiently to put military 'boots on the ground'?

In his article in the Astrological Journal January/February 2016 edition, Roy Gillett references André Barbault's forecast of a dangerous configuration of planetary aspects during the first ten days of June 2016 – in which Mars is prominent.

Roy Gillett also mentions the series of Syria Main Powers meetings in Vienna aimed at paving the way to a negotiated peace. IS and al-Nusra are specifically excluded from these meetings – but all other 'rebel' groups are potentially included. On 18 December 2015 the 15-member countries of the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2254 setting out a plan for political transition in Syria. Iran was represented but did not have a vote as it is not a member of the UNSC. After the meeting Iran objected to the inclusion of any rebel groups Syria or Iran regard as terrorists. Also the resolution did not make clear Mr Assad's position during and after the transitional arrangements. So it seems there is a lot more work to do.

There is an argument for speculating that the USA may to some extent lose interest in the Middle East and thus in Syria's affairs. The annular solar eclipse of 23:48hrs on 20 May 2012 tracked from the USA across to Japan and China – where tension is beginning to build in a way that is attracting the USA's attention.

In any event, it is to be hoped that despite the atrocities already committed by parties to the Syrian conflict, there will not be the descent of Syria and neighbouring countries into the total chaos that many fear. Unlikely as it may seem, maybe the House of Assad will still have a role to play in holding this part of the world together for some time to come.

Endnote:
In his rectifications Isaac Starkman favours 'Polaris' software which uses primary directions in a topocentric system. Rectified times sourced from Noel Tyl's blog: www.noeltyl.com/discussion/index 25/7/2013 20.30hrs BST

References and Sources:
Atwan, Abdel Bari, Islamic State – the Digital Caliphate (Saqi Books, 2015)
Baigent, Campion and Harvey, Mundane Astrology (Aquarian Press, 1984)
Campion, Nicholas, The Book of World Horoscopes (Aquarian Press, 1988)
Carter, Charles, An Introduction to Political Astrology (L. N. Fowler & Co., 1951)
Lesch, David W, Syria – The Fall of the House of Assad (Yale University Press, 2013)
Magnay, Keith, The Astrological Journal, Volume 54 02 (The Astrological Association)
Magnay, Keith, The Astrological Journal, Volume 55 01 (The Astrological Association)
Tyl, Noel, Predictions for a new Millennium (Llewellyn Publications, 1996)
Wyss, Phoebe, The Astrological Journal, Volume 55 02 (The Astrological Association)

Image sources:
All charts provided by The Astrological Journal
Ancient city of Palmyra: By Bernard Gagnon (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Oil refinery: By High Contrast (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Assad family: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Bashar al Assad: Kremlin.ru [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Checkpoint with Assad poster: By Elizabeth Arrott [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Refugees: By Voice of America News: Margaret Besheer reports from the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli; "Syrian Refugees Seek Out Smugglers". [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Map of Civil War: By Syrian civil war map: User:Gurnotron File:2011 Libyan Civil War.png: User:Spesh531 derivative work: --Spesh531, My talk, and External links [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

First published in: The Astrological Journal, May/Jun 2016

Author:

Robert Anderson Robert Anderson, FMAAT, DMS Astrol., FAPAI, holds a distinction diploma in natal and mundane astrology from the Mayo School. He currently serves on the Council of the Association of Professional Astrologers International (APAI) and is a Trustee of the Astrological Association (CIO).


© Robert Anderson - published by The Astrological Journal / The Astrological Association of Great Britain 2016

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Current Planets
25-Jun-2017, 12:12 UT/GMT
Sun47'40"23n22
Moon2354'13"18n41
Mercury854'41"24n40
Venus1943' 7"15n02
Mars1344'42"23n43
Jupiter1335'26"4s08
Saturn2346' 6"r21s57
Uranus2755'35"10n12
Neptune1414'34"r7s02
Pluto1829' 1"r21s23
TrueNode2519'30"r13n05
Chiron2851' 1"3n07
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