mercredi 27 avril 2011

Syrian crisis could eclipse regional impact of other turmoil

Syrian crisis could eclipse regional impact of other turmoil - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review


As thousands of soldiers storm Syrian protesters' strongholds, the possible effects of the intensified opposition movement there could have a far-reaching effect due to the Damascus government's role in the region's balance of power. President al-Assad's ties and Israel's interests - closely guarded by the US - elevate the significance of the regime's possible fall

Thousands of pro-government demonstrators wave Syrian flags and hold portraits of President Bashar al-Assad (portrait-L) and Lebanon's Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. AFP photo.
Thousands of pro-government demonstrators wave Syrian flags and hold portraits of President Bashar al-Assad (portrait-L) and Lebanon's Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. AFP photo.

As Syria’s crackdown on the country’s opposition movement escalates to include military intervention, experts are anticipating a far-reaching impact due to the Damascus regime’s complex role in the regional balance of power.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alliance with Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Gaza’s Hamas, his improved relations with Turkey and Israel’s interests – heavily guarded by the United States – make the possible fall of the Syrian regime potentially more significant than any other power shift in the protest-hit Middle East.

“In the case of Syria, the U.S. position is largely governed by its perception of how the turmoil in Syria will affect Israel, and both Israeli and U.S. regional interests, if not designs. This complicates the Syrian scenario greatly,” Ramzy Baroud, an internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of the Palestine Chronicle online newspaper, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

Uncertainty about what might result from the fall of the al-Assad regime, mixed with fears of a more radical government, is dominating the concerns and policies of both Turkey and the West regarding the situation in Syria.

After the Syrian army intervened to crush nationwide anti-government demonstrations, causing a spike in the five-week uprising’s death toll, the West started seeking possible sanctions against al-Assad’s regime, just as recently released WikiLeaks cables confirmed U.S. funding of the Syrian opposition. Europe has urged the U.N. Security Council to strongly condemn the violence against protesters, and the White House has said it is considering sanctions against the Syrian government.

“Different from Tunisia’s and Egypt’s armies, the Syrian army is committed to the regime. Due to the army’s position, the West and Turkey see only uncertainty for the end game if any intervention is considered,” İlter Türkmen, a career diplomat and former Turkish foreign minister, told the Daily News.

“The U.S. was forced to concede on Egypt, and was comforted by some guarantee that the Camp David agreement [on Israel] would be honored in a post-Mubarak Egypt,” Baroud said. “But there are no guarantees regarding the future scenarios in Syria, for its regional impact could be greater than Egypt, Libya or any other country experiencing armed or popular revolution.”

Even before the WikiLeaks revelations, Baroud said, “it was always clear that the U.S. wished to destabilize Syria; a weakened Syria is easier to coerce and manipulate and is always good for Israel.” But he added that a complete regime change in Damascus without full clarity regarding the next phase “could create a major security nightmare for the U.S. and its allies.”

Turkey’s growing ties with its Middle Eastern neighbors have not only irked the United States and the European Union but also lessened Syria and Iran’s isolation, according to Baroud.

“On the one hand, Syria occupied a central place in the U.S.-Israeli classification of the region into camps: ‘moderates’ – propped up and supported by the U.S. for their ‘friendly’ policies – and ‘extremists’ or ‘radicals’ – chastised and punished for harboring ‘hostile’ agendas, from the U.S. perspective,” the Palestine Chronicle editor said.

He added that the so-called radicals – Iran and Syria – were largely isolated until Turkey began reaching out to both countries, disrupting the balance of power between both camps. “The Turkish position has ignited Israeli ire and wrought much criticism by various U.S. officials,” he said.

Shahab Jafry, a freelance journalist based in Dubai and a former Khaleej Times writer, agreed with Baroud: “As unrest spreads across the Middle East, Turkey is quietly placing itself in the best position for arbitrating when the need arises, squeezing U.S. influence in the region.”

Highlighting how Israel’s interests influence U.S. policies on Syria, Baroud said Israel saw the Egyptian revolt earlier this year as a “loss of the cornerstone of the moderate camp.”

“The regional balance was being shattered, especially at a time when an Iranian revolution to weaken the government of [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad was not actualizing as it was previously hoped,” he said. “Then, the Syrian moment arrived. The Syrian crisis was not fully expected, thus the delayed U.S. response.”
According to Baroud, the protests in Syria have created a situation “more convoluted and complex” than the ongoing violence in Libya.

“The regional political overlapping is too immense to ignore. Syria is a major Iranian ally, and the latter has been under Western scrutiny and constant Israeli [and] American threat for years,” he said. “Iran cannot afford to lose Syria. Even after the Syrian pullout from Lebanon in 2005, Damascus remains influential in Lebanese politics, notwithstanding its support of Hezbollah.”

Baroud noted that “various Palestinian parties that have been shunned as ‘terrorists’ for rejecting the U.S.-sponsored ‘peace process’ are based in Damascus, which is seen as friendly to Palestinian and other Arab resistance movements.” He added that stability in Syria is “essential” to Turkey due to the neighboring countries’ geopolitical proximity as well as their economic and other ties. “Turkey cannot afford having two unstable neighbors, considering that the volatile Iraqi northern border is a major source of instability,” he said.

“Even the possible fall of al-Assad’s regime would create temporary instability in the region. Ankara would start to plan the post-al-Assad era to be able to establish good relations with whoever takes power,” said Türkmen, adding that after some point, neither Turkey nor Iran could do much to help the Syrian president.

Syria has proven “reliable” in terms of keeping tight control on its long border with Iraq, Baroud said. “Israel might want to see the demise of a rival, as quickly as possible, not at all concerned, of course, with the rights and demands of the Syrian people,” he said. “The U.S. wants to see a controlled chaos, where Damascus is weakened, and by extension the Syria-Iran alliance, but it is still uncertain of the possible consequences, thus its reluctance, and use of measured language.”

 special thanks to


Aucun commentaire:

Enregistrer un commentaire