Foreign Powers Compete in Syria, Set Stage for Civil War

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Now that the Syrian opposition has proven incapable of toppling the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Arabs and the West are divided over their strategies. The West rules out military intervention, while Arab powers are arming the opposition factions to suit their interests. This confused dynamic will lead to a protracted conflict, writes Samih Saab.

Arabs may not have expected their call for joint Arab-UN peacekeepers in Syria to be greeted with such a cold reaction in the West. Indeed, the "Humanitarian Corridors" suggested by the US, Europe and Turkey do not meet the minimum requirements of the Arab League plan to topple the Syrian regime by force now that the internal opposition seems unable — whether through peaceful or violent means — to achieve its goal.

This stone-faced reaction results from the fact that the West is carefully assessing the consequences of any military intervention similar to the Libyan scenario. If the US believed that a military intervention served its interests, it would have gone around the Security Council and established an alliance similar to the one it had gathered to invade Iraq in 2003. But there must be an obstacle preventing the US from supporting direct military involvement in the Syrian crisis. Is it the Iraqi lesson? Is it the Afghan lesson? Or is it fear that foreign involvement will lead to an exacerbation of the crisis that will impact neighboring countries, including Israel?
 
In any case, these Western calculations will not prevent some Arab countries, and the GCC in particular, from providing the Syrian opposition with "all forms of support," as stated in the final resolution adopted by the Arab foreign ministers.

If the Arabs take such a step it will by no means result in a transition from one regime to another. Rather, this type of involvement will lead to a civil war that could last for years as long as the Syrian regime is supported by Russia and Iran.

In addition to the support that the Gulf States will provide the opposition in order to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, Islamic Jihadist movements are entering the Syrian arena just as they did in Iraq. This is consequently turning Syria into 1936 Spain, when European fascists, Nazis, communists and democrats fought it out on the Iberian peninsula until General Franco won in 1939.

Today, most of these Arab states are supported by the West, which will eventually join them in arming the Syrian opposition. On the other hand, the regime is backed by Iran and Russia. Syria will thus turn into an arena for the regional and international settling of scores, extending the crisis.

Such a conflict on Syrian territory will not merely be a turning point in what has become known as the Arab spring, but will rather lead to further conflicts extending into neighboring countries. The fact is that no civil war remains limited to the country it breaks out in.

Will the countries pushing Syria in this direction recognize their mistakes before it is too late?

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