Middle East & How Syria’s Civil War Differs by Majid Rafizadeh

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Middle East and How Syria’s Civil War Differs
By: Majid Rafizadeh
Source: Harvard International Review, originally posted on February 9th, 2012

Although Iran, Iraq and Lebanon have taken almost the same position in warning about possibility of civil war in case of ouster of Assad, they have different concerns and objectives in regard with this issue. Being bordered with Syria, and having lived through civil wars, Iraq and Lebanon are understandably worried about the spill-over of the instability and Syria’s civil war to their country. However, for the Islamic Republic of Iran, the civil war in Syria would mean that the Islamic Republic of Iran would lose a centralized government and strategically important country in the region. Therefore, it would have a considerable effect on the balance of power between Iran and the rest of Arab countries, particularly with Saudi Arabia.

The Iraqi officials’ concerns are resonated in Iraqi prime minister’s remarks. According to al-Maliki when he told The Associated Press during an interview “The situation in Syria is dangerous.” He added that “Things should be dealt with appropriately so that the spring in Syria does not turn into a winter.” Additionally, he pointed out that he would avoid for calling for Assad’s removal: “The killing or removal of President Bashar in any way will explode into an internal struggle between two groups and this will have an impact on the region.” Lebanon also abstained from suspending Syria’s membership from the Arab League.

The number of Syrian soldiers being defected from the army is growing to a point that it has reached around 25000 soldiers. These defected soldiers are mainly from the low rank Sunni officials who defy the order of the high Alawite officials. Their leader is reported to be Riad al-As’ad, a former Syrian colonel; and they have called so far for no-fly zone.

Additionally UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay pointed out at a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that “The Syrian authorities’ continual ruthless oppression, if not stopped now, can drive the country into a full-fledged civil war.” The United Nations Human Rights council have also passed a resolution that “strongly condemns the continued widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters, human rights defenders and journalists, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, including against children”.

More than 5500 people have been killed that among them are hundreds of children, according to Navi Pillay. Moreover, according to Sergio Paulho Pinheiro, chairman of the independent international commission of inquiry, November was the deadliest month for children, where 56 children were killed.

Many analysts have resembled the possible civil war in Syria to the one in Iraq, but it is crucial to know that full-fledged civil war in Syria would have a different character than the one in Iraq and it would be more destructive in terms of human lives’ losses and regional instability. Because of the complexity of social, religious and ethnic fabric of the Syrian society, the civil war would not take only one dimention. For example, it would not be only a civil war between different religious sects as we saw in Iraq- Sunni opposed to Shia- or in case of Syria Alawite opposed to Sunni. The civil war will take both ethnic and religious dimensions. The religious sects are not only Alawite and the Sunni- there are Christan, Druze and Shia. Tensions between different ethnicities Arab and Non-Arab (Kurds and Druze) would add fuel to the battle. For instance, In Syria, there are Kurds who are Sunni but also there are Kurds who are Alawites. In this scenarios, any ethnic groups or religious groups who don’t participate in the war and don’t take side would be consider traitors and would not be left alone secure. This would have tremendous disastrous impacts on the life of hundreds of thousands of Syrian children, women and innocent young men.

Note: Majid Rafizadeh is an expert on both Syria and Iran and serves as the ambassador for the National American-Iranian Council. As a human rights activist and columnist for Harvard International Review, he frequently writes for the Huffington Post.

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