Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed an agreement of power transition on Nov. 23, which marked the collapse of the fourth Arab regime in the series of regional anti-government movements since the beginning of 2011. This together with the latest disputes over peace plan monitors between the Arab League and Syria has caused a wide speculation about the collapse of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's regime.
Unsettled [By Jiao Haiyang/China.org.cn]
The situation is indeed getting worse and worse for the incumbent Syrian regime, but it does not mean that Syria has already been on an irreversible course. The outcome of Syria's power struggles will ultimately depend on the interactions among major external powers instead of its domestic crisis itself.
While the so-called "Arab Spring" of 2011 was caused by domestic economic, social and political problems, the outcomes of most of these uprisings were actually not determined by their own but by external powers, especially Western powers.
Egypt's Hosni Mubarak resigned not primarily because of internal demand but the U.S. pressure; Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya was actually overthrown by Western military intervention by maintaining a no-fly zone; and Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen finally had to give up his power without support from the U.S., though he used to be a staunch ally of the U.S. in the fight against Al Qaeda forces. Ben Ali of Tunisia might be the only exception. Many believed that he fled his country too quickly even before the world realized what had happened.
Bahrain offers another side of the story. The Royal regime of the minority Sunni Muslims had been able to survive the anti-government movements, though its streets were no less calm than those in Cairo, Tripoli and Damascus. The reason is simply that the U.S. would not like to lose Bahrain as a safe harbor for its fifth fleet, which has long served as deterrence against Iran. Similarly, the anti-regime forces in other Gulf oil producing countries have remained minimum size without encouragement from the U.S. and the West at large. The U.S. sees them as critical in the stable flow of oil to the world market. They are also adopting pro-U.S. policies.
The political crisis in Syria was sprung out by domestic forces like in other Arab countries, but it maintains its ferocity more because of external instigation. The capture and killing of Gaddafi, the French initiative of setting up a "humanitarian corridor" and the external support of Syrian National Council in Turkey have all attributed more or less to the newly reinvigorated anti-government movements after months of stagnation.
It is still too early to talk post-Assad Syria, though the collapse of Assad's regime is increasingly likely. Syria has long been Russia and former Soviet Union's loyal ally in countering the U.S. and the West both during the Cold War and afterwards. Russia will have no reason to see the collapse of another ally. Russia's dispatching of its carrier to the sea areas nearing Syria is a purposeful response to the U.S.'s demonstration of force against Syria.
Russia, together with China, also realizes clearly that the West has been abusing the no-fly zone resolution, which has caused even greater humanitarian disaster rather than alleviating it. After Libya, Russia and China are less likely to green light similar measures by the West to control fly-zones. This is seen in the recent Russia-China joint veto in the resolution sanctioning Syria. Should the two countries still be so naive to trust in "the humanitarian corridor?"
After their lessons in Iraq, the U.S. and the West will have to consider possible reactions from Russia and China, though they have the habit of launching unilateral military actions.
From here, there are two possible scenarios for Syria. The U.S. and the West have their reasons to topple Bashar Assad's regime. A Syria hostile to Israel but allied with Iran will never be in the interests of the West. Without multilateral approval, the West will probably try to find other means to interfere with Syrian domestic affairs.
It would not be bad if Assad is finally made to concede to the Arab League regarding its initiative to send monitors for its peace plan. This would greatly reduce chances of intervention from the West, but the move is also the least favorable for Assad's authority.
Alternatively, there is an increasing likelihood that the Arab League will pressure Syria to negotiate a power transition like it did with Yemen. That will pave the way for the Arab League to install a regime in the interests of joint Sunni Arab cause. The Arab League's dissatisfaction with Bashar's Syria might be out of real concern of humanitarian issues but also be its pro-Iran policy.
The author is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/jinliangxiang.htm
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