ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Geopolitical War: Syria's Descent into Turmoil

Mired in a two year bloody civil war, the sectarian divisions in Syria have intensified, and the death toll is rising by the day. The rebel groups have suffered serious setbacks in the recent times, but it is too early to declare the Assad regime victorious. While countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar want to dislodge the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis, Russia and Iran are putting their might behind Assad. This could prolong the civil war further and threaten the stability of the region.

Ever since protests erupted against the Ba’athist regime in Syria in March 2011, foreign leaders, as well as international political analysts, have made several predictions about the eventual fall of President Bashar al-Assad. Four dictators in the Arab world have been toppled sinceTunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Sale. Will Assad be the next? It is difficult to find answers because no consistent pattern is visible in the uprisings in West Asia, popularly known as the “Arab Spring”. The movements in Tunisia and Egypt were spontaneous and non-violent. In both countries, the national armies defied their rulers and decided to side with the protesters. The dictators had to give up power without much resistance when popular pressure mounted. In Libya, anti-government demonstrations were initially concentrated in the eastern parts of the country, and turned violent when the Gaddafi government sent troops to crush the protests. Soldiers defected in large numbers, set up bases in places where the opposition was strong and along with a wide variety of anti-Gaddafi forces waged a civil war. Finally they won. Though the credit goes to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which crushed the government’s military capabilities through aerial bombing. In Yemen there were violence, counter-violence, foreign intervention (in favour of the government), mediation and finally a change of guard. The dictator had to resign, but the regime continued to exist. Is the position in Syria close to any of the scenarios outlined above?

The current situation in the country is marked by genuine anti-regime protests and subsequent government repression; defection of soldiers from the army; a rebel army waging a bloody civil war; sectarian tensions; foreign intervention both in favour of and against the government, diplomatic efforts to diffuse the crisis, etc. Among the multiple elements which constitute the Syrian crisis, foreign intervention appears to be the dominant one given the progression of the anti-regime protests into a bloody civil war. Big powers have lined up on both sides. The European Union (EU), the United States (US), Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have publicly offered support, both military and non-military to the rebels, while Russia, China, Iran and Iraq have thrown their weight behind the Assad regime. The geopolitical importance of Syria, especially in a region where rivalries run deep, has transformed the Syrian crisis into a regional crisis.

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