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The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Oct 29, 2012

The Syrian Tragedy

The Spring Revolution, which started in December 2010 and spread to Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Tunis, has led to the removal of corrupt governments in all of these states. However, the revolution in Syria, which began in March 2011, is still going on and has led to the killings of more than 30,000 people. At the time the rebellion started, I stated that Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, would only leave office through a military coup or by being killed. During the past 20 months, more than 30,000 soldiers and officers have defected from the regular army and formed the Free Syrian Army to fight Assad’s regime. During that period, Syria’s human resources, its economy and physical structure have been the target of destruction by both sides.

In the mean time, the Syrian Spring Revolution has turned into an international conflict where regional states as well as super powers have been drawn into the conflict.

At the regional level the alliances with or against has been influenced by religious sectarianism (the Sunnis vs. the Shiaa). The Syrian regime is controlled by the Alawite – a Shiaa offshoot – and is being supported by Iran, Iraq and the Shiaa segment of the Lebanese population, led by Hassan Nasserallah.

On the other side, the Persian Arab Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are ruled by Sunni regimes that have been the backbone supporters of the forces fighting the Syrian regimes. Money and arms have been sent by both states to the rebel forces.

It is of interest to point out that the conflict between the two major sects of Islam dates back to more than 1400 years ago.

The foreign interferences by states from outside the region include the U.S. and some West European states such as Britain, France and Germany. They support the rebel forces and call for the removal of Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The opposing group consists of Russia and China, who support Assad’s regime and call for peaceful dialogue.

Unfortunately, such foreign interference is destabilizing the region and is serving the interests of these superpowers and not the Syrian people who are bleeding to death. As a result of such interferences, the U.N. has been attempting to stop the war among the feuding groups and is calling for a ceasefire and a peaceful transitional period.

The first attempt under Kofi Annan failed. Another attempt was initiated by the U.N. under the direction of Al-Akhdar Ibrahimi. During the past few weeks of discussion with some of the political leadership on both sides, an agreement of ceasefire was accepted, which started at the beginning of the Islamic holiday on October 26 and will be effective during the following four days. Unfortunately, on the first day of the ceasefire, a car bomb exploded in Damascus and an exchange of fire in several Syrian cities between the regular government army and the opposing forces shattered the ceasefire agreement. 167 were killed. I am of the opinion that some of the militant Islamic groups such as al-Qaeda and the Salafis are not supportive of such agreements.

The U.N. envoy al-Ibrahimi was hoping to convince the leadership on both sides to extend the ceasefire with the hope of finding a solution to stop the war and establish a transitional government that will lead to a free election.

The success of such a hopeful strategy is unlikely for the following reasons:

First, there are too many players in the Syrian political arena. Several political Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, al-Qaeda and others who are involved want to control the future Syrian government. Second, the various civil political groups, including the Syrian Free Army with fragmented leadership, is seeking to control the future transitional government that will influence the direction of the election in Syria. The struggle has already started between Islamism and secularism. Third, the Syrian conflict began to negatively impact neighboring states such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, where more than 300,000 Syrian refugees are located. Fourth, the impact of the Syrian civil war on neighboring states, especially in Lebanon, ignited the conflict between the supporters and the enemies of the Syrian regime, which based on sectarianism.

The latest assassination of Weesam al-Hassan, the head of the secret Lebanese security division, has been attributed by some politicians to the Syrian government.

Also, a few days ago, the Jordanian government arrested several Salafis in Amman who were accused of planning to start a series of explosions in public places similar to 9/11. In turkey, the press reported protest movements against the government interference in the Syrian conflict. Furthermore, there has been shelling taking place on both sides.

I would like to conclude by pointing out that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The conflict will continue until Bashar Assad is killed. He will not leave his office peacefully. In the mean time, the bloodshed will continue and man y innocent civilians will pay the price.

Even after the removal of the Assad regime, the struggle will continue between the Islamisists and the secularists.

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