Dr.  Alobeid Aref
(Εxpert in Middle East Affairs)

Copyright: www.rieas.gr

The Syrian crisis is approaching two years and the reality is tragic as the deaths have exceeded fifty thousand officially but unofficially the number is much bigger, tens of thousands have been arrested and thousands missing, the injured cannot be counted because they do not dare to go to hospitals because of the regime's reprisals. Today, violations of human rights, torture, rape, extortion, bombings and the lack of essential goods are the everyday life of the Syrian citizens.

There are two aspects related to the Syrian crisis, on the one hand, the internal view showing that Syrian people, who launched their rebellion on March 15, 2011, request and fight not only for democracy, freedom, equality, dignity, morality, justice, the best economic and political conditions, but also for their national identity in the Arab and Islamic world. The long-term inertia of Assad’s regime about the issue of political reforms combined with the failure of governmental economic development programs and the state of emergency (martial law) which  has been in force since 1963, corruption, poverty, Illiteracy, unemployment, lack of democratic institutions, the monopoly of the media by the state, the violation of human rights, the issue of missing persons calculated at 17,000, the policy of conversion of Sunnis Muslims, which is the majority in the country to Shiite with the connivance of the regime 300,000 Kurds live without Syrian citizenship are factors that led to the uprising.

On the other hand, the outer view shows that Syria is one of the pillars of the international system that attracts the interest of the major powers, notably the USA. For the international community, the cases of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen are different because they have effects inwards while the case of Syria has influence outwards. Therefore there is a fear of changing the status quo in the Middle East region. That is why the outcome of the Syrian uprising has been delayed so far because of the reluctance of regional and major powers to equip the Syrian uprising with quality weapons to face the heavy weapons of the regime. Moreover, in case of supply of individual or simple weapons for Syrian Rebels by international intelligence agencies this provision is made only for specific groups such as Muslim brothers, but not Salafistes or extreme Islamic groups.

Every great or regional power tries to serve its own national interests. Russia seeks to ensure the use of Syrian naval base in the Mediterranean and the Syrian market for arms sales while China combines its attitude with that of Russia for international reasons. Regarding the attitude of the U.S.A and EU, these Western countries imposed sanctions on the Assad regime in order to restrict the issue of sales of oil and gas but these great powers did not show determination to save the Syrian people. We should emphasize that the persistence of the Syrian people to change has forced Western countries to change their position gradually and officially recognize the National Coalition of the opposition as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people, but not a unique one.

The conflict between Iran and Turkey affected the internal situation in Syria when it reinforced the social and religious controversy between Alawites and Sunnis Syrians. Iran supports the regime while Turkey backs up the people but the gap between the people and Syrian leadership is huge. Also, this difference in attitude between Ankara-Tehran has negatively affected the movement of Syrian rebels. Israel is a key player in the Syrian crisis and the veto which it used on western countries for the eve of Assad is more powerful than the veto of Russia.

All solutions and initiatives proposed by the regional and international forces always require the existence of the opposition and Assad's regime together in the new period of Syria. Also, these attempts give more time to the Assad in order to manage to quell the uprising. For players of the international system, the Alawites’ community remains the best option for the Syrian leadership as a safe and secure place for the interests of the major powers because the Syrian regime of Alawites absorbs all liberation movements (world, patriotic or Islamic) in the Middle East area. Also, this community responds to expectations and requirements of the international system as a clear example of the Israeli-Syrian front where there had been no change since 1973.

The solution for the Syrian crisis seems difficult and ominous because nobody can enforce the Assad regime on the majority of the Syrian people who will not, after all these massacres committed against them for about 50 years, tolerate the domination of Alawites. Furthermore, the Sunnis Arab Syrians, in comparison with other minorities, exclude the coexistence with the new version of the Assad regime which was prepared and offered by the Western powers.

Plans for dissolution of Syria remain weak and limited scenarios. Apart from that, the lifting of the Assad regime’s legitimacy as a representative of the Syrian people is the predominant scenario but it is important for the opposition to be united and in such case the National Coalition, as the sole representative of the Syrian people, may resort to international organizations to resolve the crisis. Already disorientation of the goals of the Syrian uprising is visible and there are several opposition groups trading in the same rebellion for personal interest. What is more, the attitude of the opposition on the issue of military intervention so far is limited to applying a fly zone over the country, the implementation of maritime interdiction and supplying the Free Syrian Army with weapons to undertake the project of overthrowing Assad.

Moreover, the scenario of military intervention could take place in two cases as Assad's refusal to implement security zones for the protection of refugees and control of depots of chemical and biological weapons in order not to fall into extreme hands after the collapse of the regime of Assad. Besides this, collapse of the Syrian economy is visible and could be used as a means for overthrowing Assad if additional sanctions were imposed on the regime and the help of Russia and Iran was limited.

The rise of Salafism is an important phenomenon in the Syrian crisis and this is due to the indifference of the international community to resolve the crisis.

The weakness of the Syrian opposition, the politicization of the national army, the non-active role of Damascus and Aleppo and the inertia of the middle class and the communities are factors that directly affect the future of the Syrian crisis and favor Assad. Also, the dependence of the future of the Syrian regime on an external factor such as (Turkey, Iran, USA, Russia, Israel, etc.) converts the Syrian crisis from national to regional and international because of the interference and the different attitudes of competing regional and international forces.

Moreover, because of the strategic importance of Syria, the uprising's success could change the map of the Middle East region and its failure could transform the Arab Spring into Arab Fall.


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