Via Freedom Press
As the 9-month long popular uprising escalates in Syria, it looks increasingly likely that ordinary Syrians, who have taken to the streets unrelentingly at the cost of their own lives, will not be the ones to determine the outcome of the battle. Rather, it is international geopolitical interests that hold the cards in this game.
According to the latest UN figures, over 5000 people have died in the Syrian unrest, including 300 children. Tens of thousands of people have been detained, and many tortured. The killings continue unabated. Government forces are raiding villages and reportedly killing civilians randomly, in reply to attacks from the Free Syrian Army, an ad hoc army of mostly rank-and-file conscripts who defected from the Syrian Army. They are operating in most of the hotbeds of opposition, such as Damascus, Homs, Idlib, Daraa etc.
Meanwhile, the local opposition group, Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCCS) is moving away from mere demonstrations and street vigils. In a bid to put pressure on the economy, the LCCS and other activists called for a general and indefinite strike on December 11 across many cities. Despite threats of reprisals and arson from government forces, most shops and schools have been kept closed, except those trading essential goods.
However, as indicated earlier, the more strategic pressures on the Assad government are coming from outside, with the EU, the US, Turkey and the Arab League imposing economic sanctions on Syria. However, Russia, China, Iran, the Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine are backing Assad because of their own geostrategic interests. The US at the moment seems to be involved in a two-pronged assault to consolidate its position in the middle-east, aggravating conflict with Iran on the one hand and cornering Syria on the other. Many Muslim and Arabic groups in and around Syria see the Syria-Iran partnership as the last bulwark against an expanding US hegemony.
Another problem that is causing some anxiety is sectarian strife. Opposition says that President Bashar al-Assad of the ruling minority Alawite sect is deliberately fanning divisions with the majority Sunni Syrians in an attempt to undermine the uprising. Many regional elites, including Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, are concerned that these conflicts will spill over into their borders, and are therefore opposing punitive measures against the regime.
Meanwhile, business communities within Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are anxious to see the conflict resolved because Syria is the main trading route between themselves, Turkey and the Gulf region. Transportation costs have risen lately and oil companies, including Shell, are moving out due to the sanctions.
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