Syria: The Powder Keg

The unfolding international situation within Syria has become inflamed with recent developments suggesting Iranian snipers being brought in to quell protests in Latakia, already leaving 35 dead in 4 days.

Forces loyal to the regime of the President, Bashar al-Assad, continued hammering opposition strongholds in Latakia, the country’s main port city.  The site for the most concentrated attacks have been in the district of Ramleh, which has been pummelled with tank, gunboat, and automatic gunfire, following the large anti-government demonstration that broke out on Friday.  Syrian security forces have herded thousands of people into a nearby soccer stadium, stating that they must evacuate because military forces were going to “flatten” the area.  The circumstances continue to worsen because the area is home to a large refugee camp of 10,000 Palestinians, which has already been depleted by an exodus of 5,000 refugees already.

Moreover, the UN, in charge of overseeing the refugee camp and any needed assistance, has followed up on its past condemnation (a rather feeble attempt) to state that it is “gravely concerned” about the situation in Latakia and has demanded access to the housing stadium in which the Palestinians and local Syrian have been forced within.  As stated in Syria: UN Involvement Limited to Words, international intervention has been limited to threatening rhetoric, but the situation has escalated as sanctions by both the US and Europe are slowly constricting on Bashar al-Assad and his available resources to further rage violence against his own people.

“Syria’s authorities are still killing their own people despite multiple efforts by other countries, including former allies, to make them stop.  It’s time to show the government that Europeans won’t help to fund its repression.” – Lotte Leicht, EU director at Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on the European Union to freeze the assets of the Syrian national il and gas companies and the Central Bank of Syria. Without direct military intervention, very unlikely considering the situation in Libya and the geopolitical location in Syria, the steps taken by the international community do mark a step forward against Syria’s repulsive actions.  Moreover, the news that both Russia and Turkey, allies of Syria, have also joined along in releasing statements against the violence of both security forces and rebels, marks a step forward for international condemnation against the regime.

For instance, Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutuglu, released a sharper criticism against Syria.  This comes as a major development after having visited Damasus last Tuesday, where he had been promised of an ease in military operations and the promise of future reforms, such as the rumors of future multi-party elections.  Clearly, the intensification of violence in Syria attests to the inability of Syria to live up to its word, as well as the falsehoods that are released from Bashar al-Assad.

“This is our final word to the Syrian authorities, our first expectation is that these operations stop immediately and unconditionally.  If these operations do not stop there will be nothing left to say about the steps that would be taken.” – Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish Foreign Minister

Though Turkey has joined the list of condemning statement by the international community, the statement also seems to join the list of feeble attempts at threatening rhetoric that will not be successful.  Nonetheless, Turkey has stopped at least two weapon shipments through Turkish territory from Iran to Syria this year marking their stance against Iran, as well as violence in Syria.  Turkey has not gone so far as imposing sanctions against Syria, which both the US and Europe have done by imposing sanctions on Syria’s access to oil and gas, which are Syria’s main exports.  So, what doors are open to Turkey?

Turkey has called on its retired officers along the Turkish-Syrian border to be prepared for possible military action.  If Bashar al-Assad continues repressing his people through military force, the international community will take harsher steps.  With the already existing presence of Iranian snipers, Bashar could possibly ask Iran and their allies the Hezbollah to send Syria more troops.  This could lead to Syria becoming an Iranian protectorate, boosting Iran’s strategic aim of extending its empire to the Mediterranean.  Meanwhile, Turkey cannot afford an influx of Syrian refugees.  The main problem existing between the relationship between Turkey and Iran, Iraq, and Syria is the issue of Turkey’s culturally divided state. So saying, there is not guarantee that the Syrian Kurds won’t get weapons from their counterparts in both Iraq and Iran, who could also work alongside the Turkish Kurds; which all could exacerbate the Kurdish problem in the region.  Hence a large slipper slope for the international community and the reluctance for international powers to become further involved in the conflict.

For example, Russia is another ally of Syria because of the military trade between Russia and Syria.  Russia has continued to ship military assets to Syria, such as the T-72 tanks which have been responsible for much damage and civilian casualties.  Though Russia has issued a statement condemning the violence, they have not taken further steps, despite Turkey opening its doors to military intervention and the US insisting on Russia to stop its arms trade.  Russia has been unalterably opposed to the Western armed endorsements against Russian clients, Libya and Syria, and Russia is further opposed to action because it fears the loss of its naval base in Tartus. Moreover, relations between Russia and Turkey have always been less than friendly due to the cultural disparity; therefore, Russia is opposed to seeing Syria incorporated into an alliance with Turkey.

Rather than taking a direct position against either Syria or the West, Russia has sidestepped the issues by focusing on the Iranian nuclear program.  Russia may be able to use this tactic to form a link between Iran and its intervention in Syria, this introducing the growing conflict with the international community present for the negotiations.  With the major powers present, the talks would present a possible chance to ease tensions and possible tackle the situation.

So saying, widespread condemnation has escalated due to Turkey opening the door for possible military action.  This introduces the divergence between Russia and Turkey, as well as Turkey and Iraq, Iran, and Syria.  With the West supporting the sanctions against Syria, they have taken more direct step against Syria, but in a less serious manner than Turkey.  Nevertheless, their support for Turkey’s objectives also puts them at odds with Russia and Syria’s other allies, allies who already have a rather unfavorable view of the US and their intervention in the region. Therefore, the countries have clearly marked their stances against one another, marking a line of conflicts that could emerge because of the list of alliances and foes.

Any interference of the Western forces, especially the Americans, in the internal affairs of the regional countries will merely increase the hatred of the people toward them” – Ramin Mehmanparast, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman.

In retrospect, the Iranian nuclear talks may be an essential key to indirectly confronting the situation with the P5+1 and overcoming a series of chronic disputes, military fights, and proxy wars through the region.

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3 responses to “Syria: The Powder Keg

  1. Pingback: Syria: US,UN and Global Statements, Sanctions, and Condemnations | Year of 1989

  2. Pingback: The “Arab Spring” | Year of 1989

  3. Pingback: Syria: Failure of UNSC and Turkish Military Exercises | Year of 1989

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