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Bit of a flashpoint right now, with China and Russia refusing to side up with the UN Security Council, the Arab League essentially giving Assad the green light, and everyone wringing their hands trying to decide what to do next. If there was oil there, Assad would probably be dead by now, of course. But when confronted with just a humanitarian crisis, do countries with power have a moral obligation to help?

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Altruism doesn't exist in IP. When the benefits to helping Syria outweigh the cost of seriously intervening, and we (the 'countries with power') feel capable of doing so, we will.

Until then... well, talk is cheap.

(Saying that, theres something else cheap that meets the requirements somewhat of the 'formula' above, under the table low level support on the quiet which we are almost certainly providing opposition with already, in the hope they can make headway on their tod and remember who gave them a leg up on the quiet)

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How much oil do they have?

Zero... hence why Nero fiddles on this one!

Unlike Iraq, Libya, Iran and now the Falklands....

BTW OT but the Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad reminds me of

Beaker off the muppets!

OB-OJ880_syria0_G_20110620081212.jpg

beaker.gif

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I think the problem with Syria is that the West already learnt the lesson of what happens when you topple a murderous strongman who is a sole leader.

Syria is a country divided between Sunnis and Shi'a.. toppling Assad "could" provide Iran an opportunity to further meddle and spread its influence in Syria

I think Bahrain has a similar issue (Iran / Shia wise) and was another reason the west didn't get involved ( though my mate reckons the Saudis wouldn't want a Shiite lead Bahrain as it could encourage uprising there as well )

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Except that Syria's not really a country split between Sunni and Shia. Yes, they do have strong political links with Iran, but that's more out of political expediency. Alawites are not Shii, neither are Druze except in the loosest possible sense. Syria is predominantly Sunni with significant Christian and Alawite minorities.

Iran already has plenty of influence in Syria - a change of regime would most likely decrease its influence.

But I agree the west shouldn't get involved. But someone should. Having lived in Syria, it's heartbreaking to see what is happening now.

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There is a lot of conflicting views in Turkey at the moment. Whilst the AKP dicatorsh...party are condemning the goings on the EU abassador has called the sanctions pointless and warns of a civil war in the region.

Erdoğan sent his foriegn minister to Damascus last week which turned out to be nothing but 'come on now..' telling off.

Turkey is very keen to flex it's muscles in the middle east and Syria could be, IMO, the place to do it. No sabre rattling yet though. The football corruption scandal is getting far more press.

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Off topic considering the turmoil in the area, which again is being caused by people revolting because they are seeing their living standards drastically reduced because of high commodity prices like wheat, oil, rice etc. Prices that are being manipulated yet again by economic forces trading in futures etc.

Syria a long with parts of Iran are beautiful countries and they have many ancient sites which have never been properly excavated or investigated by the rest of the world. Would absolutely love to visit them someday.

More and more archaeologists are coming to the conclusion that ancient civilisation began in the ancient kingdom of Anatolia, in the area where Gobekli Tepe in Southern Turkey has been found..now officially named "the world's first temple" Rather than the fertile crescent around Mesopatamia. Anatolia stretched from the Southern shores of the Black Sea from Armenia right the way through Turkey to parts of Syria and Iran. This is the cradle of civilisation. What an absolute travesty if some idiot decides to start destroying these places, before the West has had a chance to properly investigate them.

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Except that Syria's not really a country split between Sunni and Shia

Sunni Muslims account for 74% of the population ... and Shi'a around 12%

Assad is an Alawate if I remember the news reports correctly (still Shi'a ?)

I probably didn't write my post very clearly but Iranian influence over that 12 % is already very high (Hamas and Hezbolla) without Assad maybe it would be higher still ?

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Except that Syria's not really a country split between Sunni and Shia

Sunni Muslims account for 74% of the population ... and Shi'a around 12%

Assad is an Alawate if I remember the news reports correctly (still Shi'a ?)

I probably didn't write my post very clearly but Iranian influence over that 12 % is already very high (Hamas and Hezbolla) without Assad maybe it would be higher still ?

The Alawite minority are a Shia sect (hence the close relationship with Iran) that rule according to a secular Baa'th Party model very similar to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The Alawites were empowered by the French during their period of rule in Syria to assist them in maintaining control.

If - or rather when - Assad goes the Sunni majority will reassert the natural authority that would be expected due to the size of their demographic. An Iraq style civil war is the most likely outcome, with the inevitable persecution of Shia and Christian minorities and a bun fight between the different Sunni groups subscribing to varying levels of religious extremism.

The outcome could be a broader Sunni/Shia war encompassing Syria and the still unstable Iraq, with the Iranians no doubt sticking their oar in.

Lovely.

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Except that Syria's not really a country split between Sunni and Shia

Sunni Muslims account for 74% of the population ... and Shi'a around 12%

Assad is an Alawate if I remember the news reports correctly (still Shi'a ?)

I probably didn't write my post very clearly but Iranian influence over that 12 % is already very high (Hamas and Hezbolla) without Assad maybe it would be higher still ?

Hamas is a Sunni organisation. Alawites are not really Shia in the way that Iranians are. Iranian influence over Syria would be less without Assad - supporting Hezbollah and building strong relationships with Iran is the result of political expediency rather than religious affiliation. It suits both Iran and Syria to have a strong influence in Lebanon and to support Hezbollah against Israel.

The population split that you mention - I suspect that 12% Shia is a conflation of Druze, Alawite and 12er Shia that pays no heed to the cultural and religious differences between the different sects. The Christian population of Syria is larger than the Shia population. 12er Shias do not necessarily consider Alawites to be Shias or even proper Muslims.

Yes, Asad is Alawite (Alawites have traditionally occupied a large proportion of high-ranking military posts, partly a hangover from the days of the French mandate, when the French wanted to undermine the power base of the urban Sunni population that provided the greatest opposition to the mandate), but at least in terms of propaganda has always positioned himself as a Muslim and a Syrian first.

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Alot of the problems in the Middle East manifesting even between populations within the same country, let alone differing national boundaries...

go way back to ancient rivalries which have now also manifested themselves into religious differences. There is a web of complex rivalries which can be traced back to the most ancient of civilisations. The Assyrians, The Medes & Pesians, Egypt & Babylonians, Greece, Macedonia & Rome all had their fingers in the pie mixed in with more recent melting pots like the Crusades.to add fuel to the fire......it's a real tangled web, which is almost impossible to unpick.

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...Turkey is very keen to flex it's muscles in the middle east and Syria could be, IMO, the place to do it...

..And you could be right..

Bashar Assad could be looking at the beginning of the end

This is a crucial week for Syria — hopefully, the beginning of the end of the murderous regime of Bashar Assad. After 11 months of bloodshed, the first real international push is underway to go beyond economic sanctions and intervene to help the beleaguered Syrians.

There is no plan for Libya-like air attacks or a land invasion. But there is a quasi-military plan afoot. It entails the creation of a humanitarian corridor inside Syria and a safe haven in Turkey for fleeing Syrians. The powerful Turkish armed forces would provide protection inside Syrian territory, if need be.

Before we get to that, meet Hassan Hachimi, a Syrian Canadian. The Toronto area architect is an exile from the Assad regime. He came here in 1996 from Saudi Arabia, where his father, an academic, fled in 1979 to escape the brutalities of Assad’s father, president Hafez Assad.

Hachimi is the Canadian representative of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the anti-Assad coalition operating openly from outside Syria and covertly inside. He has met Foreign Minister John Baird twice and found him to be helpful. The minister arranged for the Canadian embassies in Turkey and Britain to open diplomatic doors for the SNC.

The group is about to reach a milestone — formal recognition by a number of countries as the representative of the Syrian people. The initiative is led by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, three key players in the region, and backed by the United States, France and other allies — “Friends of Syria.”

This would allow open, rather than covert, financial assistance to the group. More crucially, its military wing, the Free Syrian Army — already operating from Turkey — would be supplied arms and ammunition. That army would, as a start, try and open a safe corridor between the Turkish border and Idlib, only 25 kilometres inland. That’s one of the towns being besieged by the Syrian army. The hilly area there is not heavily patrolled. So the assumption is that the dissident army can take it and hold it.

If it does, the corridor would be used for humanitarian aid going in and Syrian refugees coming out to a safe haven in Turkey. If the plan works, it could be extended another 55 kilometres to include Aleppo, the second largest Syrian city, now surrounded by Syrian tanks. The historic mercantile centre has seen only minor protests and little violence but it has long been opposed to the ruling Assad clan and been under strict surveillance since the protests began in March.

All this will do little for the other cities under siege, especially Homs. But the hope is that breaching the Syrian fortress would prompt major defections from the Syrian army. About 40,000 lower-ranked soldiers have already done so, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

This week he is in Washington, which wants Turkey to take the lead on Syria. But Turkey wants to know how far to go. What if Assad bombs by air? Does Turkey use its anti-aircraft batteries or, worse, scramble its fighter jets? If so, that’s war, which nobody seems to want.

Unlike isolated Libya, Syria sits astride a combustible region. It has long used that strategic location to create a regional balance of terror. If attacked, it would try and drag in not just its backers Iran, Iraq and Lebanon (Hezbollah), but also Israel and Turkey. It could also fan a civil war internally.

Davutoglu is to meet not only Hillary Clinton but, significantly, also Defence Secretary Leon Panetta. Part of the discussion will be an old agreement between Syria and Turkey, allowing the latter to go up to five kilometres into Syrian territory if it feels threatened.

Turkey has hinted that it would provide protection for the delivery of humanitarian aid. The assumption is that its military would operate in that five-kilometre zone.

The Turkish-Saudi initiative was prompted by disgust at the Russian and Chinese vetoes in the Security Council against a resolution asking Assad to step aside. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia condemned Russia on Friday. That’s unusual for him. His salvo was a warning to Moscow that it would pay a price for its veto — and also if it were to overreact to the planned humanitarian initiative.

Washington may use the Abdullah statement as one bargaining chip with Moscow to let the humanitarian initiative proceed.

Expect a conference of the Friends of Syria soon to formalize the plan.

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