Could Syria’s uprising lead to a regional conflict? – By Nadim Souss

29 May

With the mounting tensions provoked by the on-going uprising against the Assad regime in Syria, one question arises: are we on the verge of a new regional war?

Syria is by no means an isolated country; it borders countries such as Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Its geographical situation makes it a prime candidate for a full-fledged conflict between the Arabs and the West on one side and Russia and Iran on the other.  According to Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Weapons, “already, weapons have been coming in from Lebanon. You will now see more coming in from Jordan, from Turkey, from Iraq or from Russia. Everyone will start to operate in this environment.”

While the majority  of public opinion in the US is against the country intervening in Syria, the Obama Administration cannot help but think how disastrous it would be for its allies in the region (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait) if Syria became a theatre of war between the East and the West. US military action against Syria could also be a PR disaster for President Obama who, over his 4 years in office has reflected a very liberal foreign policy repertoire. Furthermore, military action in Syria will dramatically increase tensions in the region and raise the danger of an eruption of Islamic fundamentalism in the neighbouring countries and against Israel, who will certainly become one of its main targets.

As President Putin returns to the Kremlin, wanting to keep up his ardent image as a hard liner, he is bound to give full support to the Assad regime, Russia’s strongest  Middle Eastern ally. A key foreign policy objective for Putin is to maintain Russia as a key player in the region. Furthermore, Russia lost 4 billion dollars in weapons contracts when Muammar Qaddafi’s regime was overthrown in October 2011. With the Assad regime buying 8% of the country’s arms exports, Russia cannot but continue supporting the regime at all costs.

Tensions are mounting; with the Obama administration putting pressure on Iran to put an end to its nuclear program and Putin’s alliance with Iran, Syria seems a prime candidate for what some commentators are calling ‘another Afghanistan’.

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