by Mordechai Kedar
The horrible events that have been occurring in Syria for the past nine months raise a worrying question: Why isn't the world getting involved in what's going on there? Why did NATO interfere in Libya to bring about the fall of the Qadhafi regime but in Syria the slaughter continues without the world lifting a finger? Is the Libyan "black liquid" really more valuable in the eyes of the world than the Syrian "red liquid"?
Today we will try to concentrate on the complex system of relationships between those countries that have a say about Syrian affairs; a "system" that paralyzes every international action to rescue the citizens of Syria, after about 4000 of them have been murdered by the regime, and many thousands more have been arrested and their fate is still unknown.
The whole world clearly knows that Syria is very important to Iran, and indeed Syria is the Iranian Trojan horse inside the Arab world; it is the logistical backbone of Hizballah in Lebanon, so the fall of the Syrian regime will end the Syrian support for Hizballah and bring an end to the "exporting of the revolution to Lebanon". Iran has cautioned the whole world that external interference in Syria will be considered by Iran as an attack upon itself, which will result in acts of reprisals against Israel and Turkey. Turkey is involved up to Erdogan's ears in the events in Syria (see below), but why Israel? What has Israel done to Syria that would justify an Iranian attack? Iran has the answers to these questions.
Turkey is constantly stirring up matters in Syria. Not one day passes without it's leaders - and contrary to Asad, they are legitimate leaders - announcing that he (Asad) must resign and leave office, and the Turks are hosting thousands of Syrian refugees in their country. Recently, there have been scattered reports that Turkey has established a training camp within its territory for the Syrian citizens and soldiers who deserted their posts, in order to turn them into guerilla units under the title of "The Free Syrian Army". Turkey arms and equips them, and these are the ones who are attacking military camps, intelligence headquarters and buses of the Syrian army. The number of Syrian soldiers that these guerilla units have killed and wounded is estimated to be in the hundreds, and as a result, they have caused the Syrian army to take defensive positions in their own camps.
Turkey threatens to take over several kilometers in the North of Syria along its border with Turkey, to serve as a protected buffer zone where Syrian citizens will be able to find shelter from the Syrian army. In response, Iran threatens Turkey that it will attack "NATO positions" in Turkey if Turkey will attack Syria. This warning amounts to no less than a threat of war between Iran and Turkey.
Iran's reaction to the fall of the Asad regime may not be limited only to Turkey and Israel, but may include the Gulf. Why not? If the Iranians see that Europe is also involved in the overthrow of the Syrian regime, they may announce that there's one naval mine - only one - in the Straights of Hormuz. This announcement would be enough - even if it wasn't actually so - to raise the price of oil drastically in the world, and the sputtering economy of Europe will suffer a hard blow. Iran can very easily harm oil installations in the countries of the Gulf without even deploying the army; It would be enough to pay a few Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia to do to the oil and gas pipes in their country what the Bedouin are doing in Sinai, to the pipe that brings gas to Israel and Jordan.
Europe and The United States might react to the Iranian action and the deterioration into war between Iran and NATO may follow quickly. The result of this war would be - among other things - cessation of the export of Iranian oil to China, and a dramatic rise in the price of oil in the world. China has invested many billions in the petrochemical and other industries in Iran, and a NATO war on Iran may bring about regime change in Iran. The new regime might renege on the agreements that the Ayatollahs' regime have made with China, which might cause all of those investments to go down the drain. This is the reason for China's support of Iran and Syria.
Russia supports Syria too, because it too has invested many billions in Syria and Iran, and worries about these investments. But Russia has an additional, much larger fear: the fall of the regime in Syria, and the war that may break out in the Gulf as a result of that, might cause great damage to the Chinese economy, which is already suffering a slowdown as a result of the world-wide economic slowdown. High unemployment in China will cause many millions of unemployed Chinese to join the millions of Chinese who are flooding into Russia today in search of work. If there is anything that the Russian leaders fear, it is to be swallowed up demographically by the Chinese, which has been happening in recent years at a rapid rate, mainly because of the demographic decrease of the Russians.
Russia has military and intelligence bases in Syria, and the only ports in the Mediterranean Sea in which Russian warships anchor on an ongoing basis are the Syrian ports, Latakia, Tartus and Banias. The toppling of the Asad regime by NATO might bring to power a Western-leaning regime, and Russia will lose its special privileges in Syria.
However, it is important to bear in mind that Europe is also invested economically in Iran: thousands of European companies, mainly in Germany, France and Italy, are up to their necks in investments of many billions in Iranian industry, and not just in oil, so a European attack on Syria might have the same effect on these investments as the attack on Iraq did eight years ago: flush them down the drain, and the European economy will suffer a hard blow as a result.
The economic crisis in China that might result from a war in the Gulf will also have an influence on the economy of the United States, because China lent many billions to the USA in recent years in order to support the White House in its efforts to stabilize the American economy. A crisis in China might cause China to demand the US to pay their debt or they may raise the interest on it. A scenario such as this might bring to an end the efforts of the American administration to improve the US economy, which might, in turn, damage the president's chances for reelection.
The great rise in oil prices will worsen the economic situation of third world countries, especially Egypt and the African countries. The worsening economic situation in these countries will increase the stream of emigrants to Europe and to Israel; this will place an extra burden on the European economy, which is suffering to begin with.
The fall of the Syrian regime may influence Israel as well. On one hand, it will result in the partitioning of Syria into a number of countries: Kurdish in the North, 'Alawite in the West, Druze in the South, Bedouin in the East and two more in Damascus and Aleppo, which have never had great love between them. This partition will improve the mood in the area, due to the departure of an illegitimate regime, which has castigated Israel all the years in order to unite all of the groups under Asad's aegis. But the fall of the regime might also create difficult problems: a) weapons belonging to the Syrian army might get into the hands of Hizballah and other terror organizations who have representation in Syria, and b) the worsening struggle between the regime and the citizens in Syria might cause thousands of Syrians to request refuge - perhaps only temporary - in the Golan Heights. It would be important for Israel to grant them refuge, both for humanitarian reasons and also in order to create a good rapport with the Syrian people. But refugees don't always return to their country of origin, especially if the situation has not stabilized, and that might be a dangerous precedent regarding the Palestinian refugees: how would Israel be able to explain the fact that it accepts Syrian refugees of the year 2011 but refuses to accept Palestinian refugees who were - according to the claim - residents, before 1948, of the land that subsequently became the State of Israel?
The fall of the Syrian regime might cause the 'Alawites to take revenge on anyone who helped to overthrow their regime. They may send terror groups to carry out attacks in Turkey, Europe and the United States, to add another concern to the list of worries concerning Europe these days.
Iran, which is worried about what's going on in Syria, is increasing the pressure on Iraq, which has the majority of Shi'ites, to take on the role of Iran's Trojan horse inside the Arab nation, especially after the U.S. army completes its withdrawal in another month. There are signs lately that this is Iran's intention, mainly because of the series of visits in Iraq of Vice President of the U.S., Joe Biden, which is meant to stabilize a pro-American government that will reject Iranian pressures. The U.S. wants to retain bases in Iraq, which will serve as sources of intelligence in case of war with Iran, but the Iraqi government objects. This objection increases the American fear of an Iranian takeover of Iraq, because this would be an additional step in Iran's overall goal to take over the rest of the Gulf countries, with Saudi Arabia heading the list.
One sad conclusion that arises from the aforesaid is that the motives that drive the world today are economic and military interests, not ethics nor human rights. The UN, which was established in the wake of the Second World War, in order to prevent a similar occurrence, does not do anything in order to stop the butchering of thousands of Syrians which might deteriorate into a multi-national crisis. This crisis may quickly develop after the freedom-loving Syrian people overthrow the bloodthirsty dictator, who inherited Syria from his father, who, in his turn, took control of their lives and deaths forty one years ago.
The responsibility for this on-going butchering of Syrians lies with Asad and his blood-thirsty army, police security organizations and the Shabbiha gangs; Iran, Hizballah, Russia and China which support the Syrian regime, while the rest of the world so far only issues condemnations.
The fall of the Syrian regime may create a series of earthquakes with a regional and global scope, and its ripples may arrive to Iran, the Gulf, China, Russia, Europe, the United States and even Israel. World leaders are well aware of the physical law, "Water seeks its own level", and this is the very reason that the world is reluctant to give the Syrian regime what it deserves. This is another price that "les miserables" pay for globalization: a shock in one place is felt well in many other places, and the Syrians are paying the price in blood for the economic interests of many countries. Nevertheless, and despite the dangers, the world without the dark and bloodthirsty regime of Syria will be a better place, and if it will be possible for the regime of the Iranian Ayatollahs to join Assad in his final resting place, the world will surely be better, calmer and far less dangerous.
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Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Mordechai.Kedar@biu.ac.il) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.
Translated from Hebrew by Sally.
Recent articles by Dr. Kedar:
Source: Makor Rishon Hebrew Weekly; Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam; http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=54677
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.