Indecisive West, Russia Fear Islamists Will Surround Israel
By: Oral Calislar Translated from Radikal (Turkey).
How is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad still in power given the strength of the opposition and the pressures he faces? His end seems near. The latest attack (on July 18, 2012) will provide moral support to the opposition, making the situation even tougher for the dictatorship in Damascus. The last bastion of Baathism is on the verge of falling.
About This Article
The West’s reluctance to intervene in Syria is understandable, given the pesent states of Libya and Egypt. Oral Calislar writes that despite US efforts, Islamists took power in Egypt, and Israel is afraid of that happening in Syria. The risk of Israel being caught between a Muslim Brotherhood-ruled Egypt and an Islamist Syria truly worries the West.Publisher: Radikal (Turkey)
Israel’s Fear of Sandwich
Author: Oral Calislar
First Published: July 20, 2012
Posted on: July 24 2012
Translated by: Timur Goksel
However, questions still remain: Why has the West not been as active in Syria as it was in Libya and Egypt? Why is the West still searching for reconciliation in the country? Why does Russia feel strongly enough to support Syria as much as it has?
Egypt and Tunisia scared away the West
The West supported the Arab Spring, albeit with some initial hesitancy. In the end, the West calmly accepted the Muslim Brotherhood’s march to power in Egypt.
But the genie is out of the bottle now. As the Arab Spring toppled pro-Western, one-man autocracies, the maneuvering space available to radical movements also expanded. This in turn opened the way for threats and attacks against non-Muslim communities.
The first example of this was in post-invasion Iraq. Christians, which make up four percent of Iraq’s population, became targets for al-Qaeda and radical Islamists. They began to emigrate in order to stay alive.
In Egypt, Christians make up 6-10% of the population. After the uprising, some Islamic groups started to attack Christians and their churches. No matter how hard the Muslim Brotherhood tried to disown these attacks, it was obvious that the radical Islamist segment was gaining strength.
In Syria, Christians constitute 10% of the total population, and Christians are part of the Assad regime. Although they resent the regime, many Christians do not approve of deposing Assad as they are more worried about the possibility of an Islamist regime in Syria.
When you include Israel’s security in the equation, the situation becomes more clear. The Mubarak regime in Egypt was on good terms with Israel, but the Muslim Brotherhood cannot continue to nurture the Egyptian-Israeli relationship in the same manner. The West is concerned that a new ruling power in post-Assad Syria could embolden the Islamist wave in the region.
Israel is worried about being sandwiched between a Muslim Brotherhood-ruled Egypt and an Islamist Syria. The risk of this happening truly worries the West.
These kinds of fears guide Kofi Annan’s efforts for a “conciliatory regime” in Syria. But Assad is not accepting a conciliatory solution. He noticed the reluctance of the West, secured Russian support and continued with his intransigence.
However, the current developments are decreasing the Assad regime’s chances for survival. It is not easy to stand against the winds of change in the Arab world, and this regime cannot continue to exist. Russia and even the United States are trying to find ways to prevent Islamist hegemony over the new regime in Syria. This explains their efforts to establish a coalition.
Similar calculations were also made concerning Egypt, but Islamists were ultimately able to take control of the government anyway.
Syria has more of a secular past. Islamism in Syria is not — at least for now — as intense as it is in Egypt. However, the sectarian Sunni-Alawite rift is important. Assad’s family is Alawite (a group that constitutes 12% of the total population), but the vast majority (72%) are Sunnis.
We still cannot find the answers to these vital questions: “How will the new government be shaped?” or “Could this rift split the country?”
Indecisiveness on the part of the West and Assad’s determination to not take any backward steps make prospects for Syria all the more bloody.
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