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The Syrian Uprising



Introduction

The political unrest that has been witnessed in Syria since 2011 is anticipated to result in significant changes in the landscape of the Middle East (Al-Saleh & White, 2013). Most of the changes are expected to be negative and with far-reaching consequences not only for Syria but also for the governments of other countries whose rule is likely to challenged in accordance with the outcome of the Syrian uprising. The current Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, is becoming separated following the decision of Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which are considered the mightiest countries in the Middle East region, to harden their position against the current Syrian president due to him using violence against the Syrian citizens who are protesting against the government.

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Protestors have been demanding for political reforms, the re-establishment of civil rights as well as terminating the state of emergency that has been in the country ever since 1963 (Dukhan, 2014). The United States has also decided to impose trade sanctions against Syria in order to accelerate the fall of Assad regime. Specifically, when imposing the sanctions, the US government had the primary objective of putting pressure on the Assad regime to stop using violence against its citizens and start transition towards a democratic system that can safeguard the rights of Syrians. Canada has also joined the list of countries that are exerting pressure on the Assad regime by imposing sanctions against Assad and other Syria leaders (Hinnebusch, 2013).

Main Body

Taking into consideration the fact that the Syrian-US trade is small-scale, it is evident that these sanctions are likely to have subtle effects on Syria; however, they may create an opportunity for similar actions to be adopted by other regional bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations Security Council (Landis, 2012). Amidst the increase in the isolation of Syria, it is highly likely that the country will seek the backing of its non-Western allies such as Russia, China and Iran in opposing the resolutions made by the United Nations Security Council. Despite the fact that most of the Syria’s Arab neighboring countries have opted to remain numb as regards the uprising that is being witnessed in the country, the unending violence being perpetuated by the al-Assad administration is gradually resulting in a shift of positions (Hinnebusch, 2013).

For instance, Turkey has decided to heighten its reform calls whereas Saudi Arabia has decided to cut its diplomatic ties with Syria by withdrawing its ambassador and calling for reforms in Syria also. In the event that Syrian uprising does not end in the near future, it is anticipated that the uprising is likely to spread to neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Israel and Iraq. Iran, which is one of the greatest allies of Syria, has began taking advantage of the rebellions that are being witnessed in the Arab world to support Syria albeit refraining from sending weapons and troops to Syria. The only two likely endings to the Syrian uprising include military, economic or diplomatic interventions initiated by Turkey or the Arab League; and dividing Syria into ethnic enclaves that are after sovereignty whereby Muslim Alawis are allowed to have their own territory (Landis, 2012).

Al-Assad is still defiant despite the increase in pressure exerted by Western and regional countries for his regime to stop using lethal tactics against the protesting citizens. Al-Assad and his troops and militias face a significant challenge from Turkey, which has decided to deal with the situation using a mix of both threats and please (Hinnebusch, 2013). It is expected that al-Assad will not remain in power owing to the fact that his style of repression has been considered to be unsustainable. In addition, al-Assad has made his intention of utilizing the military to restore order in Syria public; after it he will commence working on the reforms that other countries are demanding (Hinnebusch, 2013).

In addition, the Arab League has adopted a somewhat bolder position by providing a hint that they are likely to undermine the al-Assad regime by selecting the Syrian-dominated government that is based in Lebanon. Nevertheless, Syria has continually grappled with resentments from the Arab League. It is imperative to note that Turkey has decided to play an active role as regards the Syrian uprising owing to the fact that it has made a significant investment in establishing good relations with Syria during the recent years because Turkey is planning to strengthen its economic and political position in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As a result, the rebellion in Syria is likely to be a hurdle for Turkey’s security interest owing to the fact that Turkey and Syria are only separated by a border that is 850 kilometers long, which increases the likelihood of the unrest spreading to the border towns (Hinnebusch, 2013).

Syria is capable of destroying the stability in the Gulf Cooperation Council states because of its significant influence, which is attributed to its history and geography as well as the leading role that Syria plays as a refuge for insurgents. Because of Syria’s strategic location, the country is known to offer safety for insurgents in Iraq, besides being a well-known supporter of the Hezbullah, which is a militia group that is considered a terrorist organization. In addition, there are some speculations that the Syrian government has played a significant role in hiding of Arab terrorist leaders in the past. It has also been speculated that the Syrian government has been involved in the assassination of political leaders targeted by terrorist organizations. With the government facing harassment from both sides (from its citizens and other regional and Western governments), there is the possibility that it may opt to shift the attention from itself by instigating riots in other countries (Hinnebusch, 2013).

At the same time, the protests that are mainly coming from those opposing the regime and demanding for the resignation of al-Assad are continuing to increase across Syria (Hinnebusch, 2013). Other factors that have been associated with the uprising relate to the demands for political freedom, the inclusion of other political outfits in the government, and the demands for equality between the various ethnic groups in the country. If the uprising in Syria is not resolved, it is highly probable that the bloodshed could spread to Lebanon, Israel and Iraq. Iran, which is the closest ally of Syria, cannot withstand the crumbling of the al-Assad regime. A number of analysts have stated that al-Assad is not appearing to play tough; instead, his regime has lost absolute control of the governance of Syria. Nevertheless, there is a potential risk that Syria will attempt to become even with the Western countries using Lebanon as the means of achieving this objective; using Hezbollah and by setting up Palestine and Israel against each other, something that the country has done at least twice (Dukhan, 2014).

Syria can also decide to initiate trouble in its neighboring country, Iraq, which is at the moment considered extremely volatile because of the decision by the United States to withdraw its military. Iran is considered the biggest threat in the current uprising in Syria since it can decide to take advantage of the Arab Spring to ensure that there is instability in its opponents such as Saudi Arabia. Iran can also opt to bring about trouble with the al-Houthi people in Yemen. In the recent past, the Iranian government announced that it has send submarines along the Yemen Coast in the Red Sea. It is apparent that Iran has the objective of protecting its military and political influence in the unstable Arab world, and it is also likely to protect Syria, its important ally, from the influence of Western powers (Dukhan, 2014).

The economic impact of the Syrian uprising cannot be underestimated. At the moment, about 387,000 oil barrels are produced in Syria on a daily basis. 50 percent of this quantity is produced by the Syrian Petroleum Company, which is state owned, and the remaining quantity is produced by other 9 joint ventures where the Syrian Petroleum Company still has 50 percent ownerships (Dukhan, 2014). Al-Furat Petroleum Company is the largest joint venture and produces about 90,000 barrels on a daily basis.

Some of Al-Furat’s foreign partners include China National Petroleum Corporation and Shell. Other foreign companies that have interest in the Syrian oil sector include Tatneft (Russia), Total (France) and INA Naftaplin (Croatia) among others. In addition, it has been estimated that about 145,000 oil barrels are exported from Syria on a daily basis with the primary destinations being Germany, Italy and France. The remaining oil undergoes refining to produce gasoline, diesel and fuel oil. Recently, the US imposed trade sanctions on Syria, which is anticipated to precipitate similar sanctions from the European Union and the United Nations Security Council (Dukhan, 2014).

The sanctions imposed by the United States are viewed to be symbolic owing to the fact that they have insignificant impacts on Syria because US does not have significant interests in the country; however, if the European Union was to impose sanctions on buying oil from the country, Syria may explore Asia markets, although they will be lower. Since Syria imports some of the gasoline, the country may look for other supplies if the EU decides to impose sanctions on selling petroleum products to the country. It is imperative to note that a significant portion of Syrian imports are derived from countries that are less likely to initiate sanctions, which include Ukraine, China and Russia. Turkey is the only country that is putting pressure on the government. The largest export market for Syria is Iraq, which has expressed its intention of supporting the al-Assad regime. Amidst this uprising, it can be projected that Syrian exports and imports are likely to decline. In addition, the uprising in Syria plays a significant role in making oil prices to be volatile and stalling deals that foreign investors may make on the Arab world (Hinnebusch, 2013).

Conclusion

In conclusion, similarly to conflicts witnessed in other regions of the world, it is possible to achieve a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis in the near future. The al-Assad regime has already adopted a referendum to update the country’s constitution, which was supported by 90 percent of its citizens. Nevertheless, countries such as Turkey and the United States have considered the referendum to be meaningless and have since imposed fresh sanctions on the country. When Syrians see that al-Assad is genuinely trying to reform the government and stop the oppression, the country may achieve its goal of attracting tourists and foreign investment. Despite subtle changes, Syrian protesters are yet to be satisfied. There is also the possibility that these rebellious groups may be receiving backing from foreign countries that may be after forcing al-Assad to resign and allowing democracy to prevail.

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