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Islam and Politics ( 25 Apr 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Syrian Geopolitics: the die is not yet cast


By Farooq Sulehria
April 25, 2012

It is too early to say if the Syrian ceasefire brokered by the UN and the Arab League will lead to any letup in violence. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is accusing the Assad regime of violating the ceasefire. The Syrian revolution has entered its second year, and according to Amnesty International over 11,000 people has been killed in this period. The Assad regime has failed to subdue the uprising despite brutal repression. At the same time, the Syrian revolution is showing few signs of achieving victory in the near future.
What explains the Assad regime’s apparent belligerency? One can point out a host of domestic peculiarities. However, what is also peculiar about the Syrian revolution is its breadth of geopolitical involvement. Although we have seen Saudi and Qatari interventions in all the Arab revolutions besides Nate’s aggression in Libya, still no other revolution has drawn so many countries in any conflict engendered by the Arab Spring.
To begin with, Turkey for the first time has been drawn into the Arab Spring. Hence, Istanbul hosted Friends of the Syrian People moot on April 1. Turkey has become involved in Syria both as a neighbor and imperialism’s Trojan horse.
As a neighbor, Turkey is receiving refugees escaping repression. But more importantly, Turkey is also worried about its own huge Kurdish population. The Ba’ath regimes in both Iraq and Syria have been ruthless towards their Kurdish populations. Iraqi Kurds have benefited from the fall of the Ba’ath regime in Iraq. In the post-Saddam Hussein period, Iraqi Kurdistan has become independent for all intents and purposes. Its connection with Baghdad is merely a formality. Syrian Kurdistan is likely to gain from the current developments. Syrian Kurdistan has not yet really joined the uprising even if some demonstrations were reported from Kurdish regions when revolution broke out.
Assad Junior was quick to announce some concessions for Kurds. But Kurds are too experienced to be fooled by such hasty gestures. They haven’t joined the opposition, either. By and large, they have remained aloof. Their leadership is waiting to see which way the chips fall.
Also, Syrian Kurds are put off by the Turkish government’s enthusiasm for the Syrian opposition. This perhaps explains Syrian Kurds’ reluctance to commit them either way. The Turkish government, in turn, is also cautious regarding the Syrian revolt. It initially attempted to reconcile the opposition and the regime. Turkey fears that a chaotic situation in Syria might lead to an independent Kurdistan in Syria and that would have very worrying consequences for the Turkish state and military.
As Trojan horse, Turkey assumes an important geographical link to the Syrian opposition. Though a Libya-style violent intervention is not likely in Syria, the Syrian opposition may benefit from arms supply. This supply can only come through Turkey, since Jordan, being weak, would not take the risk. Iraq backs the Assad regime. Lebanon cannot be a possible conduit in view of Hezbollah. Therefore, the only country strong enough to afford to become a corridor for such deliveries is Turkey.
Besides Ankara, Tehran has been for the first time embroiled in an Arab revolution. True, the uprising in Bahrain was portrayed by the Bahraini monarchy and some of the other Gulf Arab states as an Iranian conspiracy. But this is a grave falsification.
The 2011 Bahraini intifada was not any episodic event plotted from Tehran. It was yet another mobilization in decades-long line of uprisings against sectarian discrimination reinforced by the unevenness of capitalist development. With unemployment levels at 15-30 percent and half the citizens living in poverty while the richest 5,200 Bahrainis having a combined wealth greater than $20 billion, Bahrain remains ripe for an explosion. However, Iran stayed away in particular when Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries intervened militarily to shore up the Bahraini monarchy.
However, in the case of Syria, Iran cannot stay passive, and it hasn’t. Besides Russia, Iran has been dispatching arms to the Assad regime ever since the revolution caught hold of Syria. The fall of the Assad regime will be a setback for Iran in the Middle East. Hence, the GCC countries under Saudi command have been siding with the Syrian opposition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Similarly, China and Russia, for the first time, have taken a firmer stand.
Israel will also gain if the Assad regime falls, even if Syria’s Ba’ath regime has been relatively accommodating regarding Israeli concerns. What about Uncle Sam? After all, every trouble in the Middle East draws Washington’s attention. Will the USA not lend the Saudi monarchy and its Zionist lackeys a helping hand? Most likely not. At least not militarily.
Even in the case of Libya, an overstretched US imperialism left the job to its European satraps. However, the European intervention is a remote possibility too. The Europeans will find it virtually impossible to commit troops and they know a Libya-like air campaign will be a mistake. Syria is better equipped than Libya and has committed regional allies. In short, the die is not yet cast in Syria.

The writer is a freelance contributor.
Source: The News, Pakistan