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Syria Could Become the New Somalia

Syria Could Become the New Somalia

Of all the anti-regime uprisings that occurred as part of the Arab Spring, the conflict in Syria has been the most protracted — protests began in March of 2011 — and violent. More than 36,000 people have been killed in what Al-Jazeera calls a “deadlocked civil war.” Over 2 million people in Syria are now in need of humanitarian assistance for food, water and medical supplies and the number of refugees to neighboring countries including, Turkey and Lebanon, could swell to 710,000 by the end of this year, says the BBC.

Earlier this week, the United Nations and Arab League special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said that the crisis could “turn the country into a new Somalia” unless something is done soon to alleviate it. Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991; Brahimi told the Turkish newspaper al-Hayat that “the danger is ‘Somalisation’ and not partition — the collapse of the state and the emergence of warlords, militias and fighting groups.”

The news out of Syria is of fighting, killings, shelling and more fighting with regular reports of casualties. Just on Wednesday, Syrian rebels attacked government facilities and strongholds in Damascus, the capital, with mortars, even as shelling and air strikes by government forces were also reported. Attacks are also occurring through the country, in places such as Houla in the central province of Homs where a grisly massacre of scores of people, many young children, occurred in May.

The Syrian conflict has seeped into neighboring countries, with reports of fighting between Kurdish groups and Arab rebel forces in northern Syria. Fears have been growing of the conflict spilling over into Lebanon and Iraq, and of Jihadist groups entering the fighting.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, visiting a refugee camp on the border of Syria and Jordan, said that Britain is starting talks with armed members of the Syrian opposition in an attempt to unite what has been described as fragmented groups together. Up to 500 Syrians, some of whom had walked for 15 days, have been arriving at the camp every day. Cameron has said that Assad should be allowed “safe passage” out of Syria in the interest of a peaceful transition.

Most of the members of the main opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council (SNC), are exiles who have been accused of being “out of touch” with people actually in Syria risking their lives to fight against Assad. As the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus says, ”at the most basic level, Western governments who oppose the Assad regime need a single address for their diplomatic contacts.” The question remains if the U.S. can succeed to reshape the fragmented Syrian opposition.

Cameron has called on the U.S. and other Western and Arab allies including Saudi Arabia to “come together and try to help shape the opposition, outside Syria and inside Syria, and try to help them achieve their goal, which is our goal of a Syria without Assad.” He enjoined newly reelected U.S. President Barack Obama to make the Syria crisis a priority in his second term and step up U.S. involvement.

According to the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Brown, while Obama in his second term is certainly likely to authorize more support for the Syrian rebels, he will stop short of arming them. Members of the Syrian opposition interviewed by the New York Times expressed mixed views about Obama’s reelection. An opposition figure living in exile in Germany called Obama’s reelection “not a good sign” but a rebel commander on the ground in Syria reiterated Brahimi’s statement, saying that if the U.S. does not intervene more, “Syria will become like Somalia.”

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Photo of a Syrian woman and her child in a refugee camp in Jordan by EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

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48 comments

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11:33AM PST on Nov 12, 2012

Damned spell checker extremist groups

11:32AM PST on Nov 12, 2012

Well it would seem to me that Israel would WANT more moderate societies around them. Why would they want an areas that is controlled by some expertise group??

6:32AM PST on Nov 12, 2012

Morocco too, despite a moderate Islamic party being in government.

2:11AM PST on Nov 12, 2012

Jordan is another liberal country. Though the women of Syria seem(ed) to be much more in evidence in daily life.
We are too often confused by news reports, which are necessarily skewed. It's that old adage 'dog bites man is not news, man bites dog IS'

5:55PM PST on Nov 11, 2012

Robert, they are armed and paid by the US and Israel...so are mostly hired anarchists and mercenaries. My guess is that most are NOT even Syrian.

Another dictator that won't kiss the US ass...so we arm all available "rebels" and claim their cause is a noble one...

Personally, I think Israel has been behind nearly all war in the middle east. I believe 25% of their GDP is war industry, while the USA has the credit card. So todays shipment of arms to "rebels" will cost my children and carry "usury" forever.

Gotta love MAKING a war, selling both sides arms and sticking the USA with the debt... WITH interest. Oh yea...then we give them billions in additional aid...and it's on the credit card too.

3:22PM PST on Nov 11, 2012

Robert H

I'm really sorry, but your post was rather confusing!

12:59PM PST on Nov 11, 2012

LOLOLOL John W NOOOOOOOOO I was saying Assad's Government was far too liberal compared to much of the Arab world. I agree with your analysis. I think most of the rebels are foreign agitators who USE the word democracy to appeal to the west. In fact what they want is the far too liberal leader, Assad removed and the Muslim Brother hood installed perhaps. they are killing many of the innocents and blaming Assad for it. I am not sure why our government is backing the rebels But it annoys the crap out of me.

9:32AM PST on Nov 11, 2012

Robert H

The rebels are "liberal"? Are you mad? They are busy even now uprooting and expelling Christians and Alawites from areas they have lived in for centuries, they are enforcing hijab in areas they have taken over and they are financed by some of the most illiberal religious dictatorships in the world. The Syria of the Assads is tolerant of minorities, many women wear Western dress (as many did in Iraq and Afghanistan before the West destroyed those countries), alconol is for sale and there are even gay clubs.

And a word on women. Sian is quite correct. I was invited to a theatre presentation in Damascus by a company run by a woman. The only reason I didn't go is that there's a 23 hour stopover in Beirut transit lounge on the only possible route from Casblanca and I just couldn't face it added to the flight time. Cowardly, yes, compared to what innocent people in Syria are facing because of the externally directed "rebels" and I'm sorry about that.

8:54AM PST on Nov 11, 2012

Does anyone even know the makeup of the rebels??? My guess is that they are a nation in the aravb world that is NOT like its neighbors. They sound entirely to liberal for the region they live in. Does anyone have or know of a study that has been done on this?

9:36PM PST on Nov 10, 2012

sad

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