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Syria a flashpoint for World War III as Shia-Sunni rift widens?
Jun 14, 2013, 14:50 PM IST
Damascus: Syria is on the brink of unleashing a full-scale war that could soon take the shape of larger conflict involving majority of the world powers.
The more-than-two-year-old conflict has claimed over 93,000 lives and made over 1.3 billion people homeless. The conflict has witnessed one of the most brutal instances of mass slaughter and killings in recent history.
The conflict started in the background of the Arab Spring revolution in Northern Africa. The revolution took a violent turn and since then it has become one of the bloodiest crisis in the region.
Protests started against the leadership of President Basher al-Assad by the Sunni-majority people of the nation. The conflict has left the nation divided on two lines. On one side are the staunch supporters of Assad with backing from Iran and other Shia dominated regions of the world. On the other hand are the loose fractions of rebel fighters backed by Sunni militant groups with the backing of Sunni dominated nations of the Middle-East.
Recently, European Union announced the lifting of arms embargo imposed on rebel fighters thereby facilitating the delivery of military aid to them. On Friday, US approved sending arms to the rebel fighters, a decision that would have serious consequences for the crisis.
Analysts believe Syria is increasingly becoming a flashpoint that would soon divide the region on two lines of Shias and Sunnis.
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Internally, Basher al-Assad is supported by army, the intelligence service and the Ba'athists. A large number of wealthy businessmen are also on Assad's side. In addition, the 12 per cent Alawite population also backs the regime.
In the outside world, Iran is the biggest and most vocal supporter of Assad because of ideological, political and geographical reasons.
For Iran, Syria provides a direct access to Hizbollah- its main fighting force that it needs to tackle the Israeli nation. The militant group based in Lebanon is an important deterrence against Israel.
Lebanon is the only outside country that is directly involved in the conflict, both on humanitarian ground as well as on military front. As many as 3,000-5,000 Hezbollah active fighters are fighting inside the Syrian territory. Lebanon is also providing shelter to millions of refugees who have fled Syria after the war broke out.
Turkey is trying its best to stay away from the conflict. An involvement would prove fatal for this liberal and democratic nation of Europe. Though attempts have been made to draw the nation into the conflict, Turkey has managed to defend its border and prevented the crisis from spilling over.
Russia has continuously provided political and moral support to Basher al-Assad. Recently, the Syrian regime was supplied with S-300 ballistic missiles by Russian government. Russia is unlikely to tolerate western interference in the region and already has 13 warships in the region. Russia is backed by China, at least on the political front, because of its interest in regions oil and gas.
The rebel fighters are loose fractions of mercenary fighters from all across the globe. The main and the most ferocious is the Jabhat al-Nusra, which is allied with al-Qaeda.
The group has received financial and military aid from Sunni-dominated countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The neighbouring countries are weary that the conflict would spill-over into their region and destabilise the security of the entire region.
Iran will come in the firing line of Israel, if Assad's regime falls. The country with more than 80 per cent Shia population needs Assad to maintain the balance of power in the region.
Israel has his hands full, a continuing conflict with Palestine, Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and a fragmented Syria would pose a serious threat to the nation.
Iraq with thousands of kilometers of porous border with Syria would be a key player in the future of the conflict. The region witnessed its deadliest month in May when more than 1,000 people perished in the conflict. The Shia-Sunni divide is more evident in Iraq, than ever before. The majority Sunni nation has large population of pro-Shia Kurdish people and is ruled by a Shia government.
As the conflict draws closer to the point of no return, the blur lines of battle are becoming prominent. Will the conflict in Syria take a large shape of conflict between two ideologies?