Revolt in Syria - Page 2
So, should the West be sending our forces hurtling into Syria like in Libya, or even like neighbor Iraq. Not quite. Syria is a complex country. Assad belongs to the Alawite Islamic minority, which comprises 11% of the population, 74% are Sunni Muslim, 10% are Christian and 5% are Druze.
Ethnically the population is a mix of Arab, Armenian and Kurds. A further complication is that Syria is an ally of Iran – a cynical partnership if there ever was one, as the two governments in effect despise what the other espouses, one being a Shia theocracy and the other a secular socialist republic.
What they share is an anti-imperialist attitude towards the West and the use of the Israel-Palestine issue as the whipping boy that drums up feverish support. The latter gives each an opportunity to involve themselves with Hezbollah, and thereby play a key role in Lebanon’s so called domestic politics.
I wish there were some way I could pay my Syrian friends back for their kindness during my visit all those years ago. Like all the people of the Middle East – Iranian, Iraqi, Libyan, Tunisian, Egyptian, Bahraini, Yemeni, Saudi, Afghani and Palestinian – they deserve the right to have responsible governance and democratic freedoms.
But we cannot simply wish away tyrants like Assad. There are Republicans in the USA who have criticized President Obama’s intervention in Libya, yet who call for intervention in Syria as an opportunity to hurt Iran. These hawks disregard the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where military intervention has worsened the lot of the civilian population.
They should bear in mind the warning of former CIA operative Robert Baer in The Financial Times that: “the potential for violence in Syria makes Libya and Yemen look mild. Moreover, chances are good that chaos in Syria risks spilling into neighbouring countries – notably Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and maybe even the Arab side of the Gulf, which is already riven by sectarian divisions. This is a worst case scenario, but the point is if it comes about, there will be no way the west could just stand by and hope for the best.”