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March 13, 2012

Syria: The road to disaster

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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The call of the rich Arab states to arm opposition forces is putting Syria on the road to disaster. They are not doing this because they side with a people's revolution, or because they love democracy, but because they hate Iran.

They have sided with the Egyptian dictator Mubarak all along and still do. For over a year post-revolution Egypt has begged them for grants and loans to keep its economy going. But they never delivered.

Recently, the soft spoken Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal went out of his way to say that events in Syria were, "a tragedy that cannot be ignored," describing the regime as "an occupying force."

Al-Faisal went on to say that the crisis in Syria could not be resolved without the transfer of power "either voluntarily or by force," arguing that arming the Syrian opposition to carry out attacks on the regime would be "an excellent idea."

But what the Syrian people urgently need is an honest mediator – who so far has not been delivered by the same rich Arab states - to pressure both the government and the opposition to negotiate a peaceful solution. But sadly the rich Arab states consider the moment a golden opportunity to get rid of a regime they consider stubborn in cutting its ties with Iran.

The Egyptian revolution is different from that of Syria. In the case of Egypt the army sided fully with the people and refused to target protesters. In the case of Syria, most of the army sides with the government. In the case of Egypt 99% of the people were against Mubarak. This is not the case in Syria.

Also, in the case of Egypt the opposition leaders were all inside the country, while in the case of Syria most of the opposition leaders were, and still are, outside the country.  They do not have much grass root support inside and are exploited by outside forces including European, American and rich Arab states.

As expected the rich Arab states found willing partners in their campaign to do a regime change in Syria; the US, Europe and Israel.

But the same rich Arab states sided mostly with Yemen’s dictator Salah, finding a compromise. The Americans and Saudis were behind the political settlement, in effect ending the country’s revolution and leaving its three major problems: the south issue, the north issue, and the issue of a deteriorating economy unresolved.

And recently the leaders of opposition political parties did not attend an official ceremony to congratulate the new president and pay farewell to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Military intervention in Syria will impact the Middle East for generations. Syria is not Libya. Syria is a state adjacent to Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine, and Egypt.

We have seen what the military intervention by NATO and the rich Arab states brought to Libya: over 40,000 (mostly civilian) have been killed, and a civil war is in the making.

According to human rights monitors, since the start of the Syrian uprising one-year ago, around 3,000 (mostly in Homs) have been killed. But this number could reach 30,000 if military intervention is carried out.

The Homs poor district of Baba Amr, where many of the killing has taken place, has an estimated 80,000 out of a total population of one million; some 75% are Sunnis who mostly oppose the regime, 20 per cent are Alawites, mostly loyal to it, and 5% represent a Christian minority.

The city's larger area, which is the country's largest governorate, has a long border with Iraq and Lebanon, making it ideal for smuggling weapons.

According to official Syrian sources, military operations in Homs are designed to counter "armed terrorist groups" that have taken control of parts of the city. However, the opposition has said that the real reason for the regime's actions in the city has been the constant demonstrations that have been taking place there over recent months, and the fact that the district is being “protected” by Syrian army defectors; the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Barely a day now passes without the FSA carrying out military operations against the regime's security forces.

The blood bath in Syria will not stop unless rich Arab states want it to.

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