The conflict in Syria has been ongoing since 2011 and has left approximately 100,000 people dead, with tens of thousands more wounded, and displacing millions, internally and externally.
The war is between the Syrian government which is mainly an Alawite-a faction of Shiite Islam and the predominantly Sunni opposition which makes up the rebel groups. The Syrian government’s allies include Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shiite militia group, which has deployed hundreds of its fighters to Syria in recent months, while several jihadist outfits have joined ranks with the rebels as well.
The U.S., UK as well as the international community have largely stood idle during this 21-month conflict. But things changed last week, when a deadly gas attacked purported to be by the government ended up killing at least 1300 people and injuring hundreds, many of them children.
Syrian Prime Minister Wael Al-Halqi accusedthe West of inventing excuses to intervene and warned that the country would become a “graveyard” for any invaders. However, regardless of the recent events, several countries of the world have some serious stakes in Syria. Whether you’re looking at Russia and Iran or the United States and Israel, what happens next in Syria will have some major repercussions around the world.
You may also like to read: Middle East Chart Shows How Messed Up The Region Is
The Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia is among the most prominent countries backing the Syrian opposition.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal calledon the International Community on Tuesday to take “decisive and serious” position against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been the most ardent backers of Syria’s rebels and have pressed for stricter action against the Syrian regime.
And Saudi Arabia even went as far as secretly offering Russia a sweeping deal to control the global oil market and safeguard Russia’s gas contracts as well as naval bases in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled. Saudis also hintedat Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if their demand is not met.
Lebanon & Jordan
An attack in Syria will bring an onslaught of refugees in the neighboring countries of Lebanon and Jordan. Both countries will have to deal with the exodus of those fleeing the war with very little resources available to manage them.
Hezbollah, which supports the Assad government, has become a force to reckon with in Lebanon as well. However a large section of the Lebanese population supports the rebels.
In Jordan however, the existing anti-government sentiment among the Salafi community is set to rise. Especially since Jordan has allowed the US military to base a small contingent to assist its own security forces.
Iran allies with Damascus and has proudly cast itself as ‘Axis of Resistance. The country has a dominant Shiite population and staunchly supports Bashar al-Assad’s regime. A relationship with Syria allows Iran to hold, and indeed flaunt, power in the region, maintaining its status quo with the United States. In essence, at the moment, the boundaries are drawn between Shiite and Sunnis and there is an almost-cold war-like situation happening in Syria. With Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey supporting the rebels while the Iranians are strongly backing whatever is left of the Syrian regime.
Turkey, a member of NATO, is actively developing a contingency plan for the possible collapse of al-Assad's government as well as giving refuge to thousands who have and are descending on the Turkish soil.
The country is also a vital link for the opposition for a constant supply route for fighters and weapons.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu toldTurkey's Milliyet newspaper that the country was ready to join an international coalition for action against Syria even in the absence of agreement at the UN Security Council.
Bashar al Assad has enjoyed unchecked power thanks to the US. Now the dilemma for the US is whether it should retaliate against the shocking human rights violations in Syria, opposing the Assad regime or not. The move to oppose Assad would have the US directly aid the miltants – not to mention start off another war. While if the US ends up doing nothing it will invite global ire. The US is already involved in war on several fronts and has no support on home ground for an intervention in yet another battle on the foreign soil.
This is a Catch 22 for the US, which leaves the decision up to them to decide.
The recent alleged chemical weapon attacks have no longer left the US a chance to do nothing. So if the US intervenes in Syria against Assad, it would mean fighting alongside the Syrian rebels and Al-Qaeda.
Under the circumstances however, the Obama administration is actually considering an attack on Syria despite all the reasons why it shouldn’t as well as the overwhelming opposition at home.
Israel is watching the Syrian conflict unfold with significant concern, particularly because of the possible deployment of chemical weapons in Syria and the transfer of heavy weapons to its opponents in Lebanon, specifically to Hezbollah.
To deal with the latter Israel has already at least 3 separate air attacks against suspected arms shipments to Syria. While the Syrian regime is not expected to take on Israel while battling its domestic opponents, it has, however, given anti-Israeli militant groups the green light to conduct attacks against Israel.
At present, the impact of the Syrian crisis on Israel remains relatively contained. In a post-Syrian conflict scenario the possibility of a confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel is high, particularly if the Syrian regime emerges victorious.
The make-up of the post-conflict Syrian government is also important for Israel.
Should the current regime remain in place, the status quo with the Assad regime is likely to re-emerge – essentially a state of affairs where both sides maintain an aggressive policy stance towards the other but do not instigate a conflict due to the costs of doing so. Should the regime fall and a rebel government emerge; the reaction from Israel will depend on the make-up of that government. A rebel government with a strong Islamist character is not in Israel’s interests.
On the diplomatic front, Israel has seen some gains, as well. Relations with Turkey post the Gaza flotilla incident have been on the mend, thanks to recognition by both sides that the Syrian crisis requires a renewal of their alliance.
Russia has been doing its best to prop up Assad’s government.
You may also like to read: US-Russia Tension Imminent As Congress Approves Arms To Syrian Rebels
While both Russia and the United States have tried for a ceasefire before, the two arch rivals didn’t have much luck.
Russia is one of Bashar al Assad's most important international backers and has also stressed the need for a political solution to the crisis.
Not only that, Russia has sharply criticized any possibility of Western military intervention in Syria. Russia is also taking Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s message of how Saudi Arabia would support the Chechen terrorists as a threat ordering a “massive military strike” against Saudi Arabia in the event of an attack on Syria.The Saudi prince had earlier released a message saying that if Russia did not accept the defeat of Syria, Saudi Arabia would support Chechen terrorists to create chaos during the Winter Olympics.
Thousands of people have died, hundreds and thousands more injured and millions have been displaced and affected in one way or another since the start of the uprising in Syria in April 2011. No matter what turn the events take in Syria, whether there is international intervention, Assad stays or goes, it is the people, the human population of the country that has most at stake.
Perhaps it is best said by South African anti-apartheid campaigner and Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu when he says what Syria needs is,"human intervention, not military intervention!"