Syria will not be another Libya

16:30, May 11, 2011      

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As turmoil persists in Syria and the prospects look bleak, Western countries such as the United States have accelerated sanctions against Syria and some media agencies have reported that the United States may launch a military intervention against Syria in a repeat of what happened in Libya. However, I have a different view.

At least there are no such signs now. First, Syria's national conditions differ from those in Libya. Syria has a sound state apparatus and a solid ruling foundation. By contrast, Libya is a country composed of different tribal societies. The national unity of Libya relies heavily on artificial means, so there was always a potential danger of splitting, which offered an opportunity for foreign military intervention.

Syria uses a republican system and the Baath Arab Socialist Party holds the power in the country. This party is highly disciplined and centralized. The current administration of Syria has a strong grip over the country and the ability to resist foreign enemies.

Second, Syria has a unique and important geo-strategic position. As the bridge connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, Syria has been considered the "heart of the world" since ancient times and in modern times. It is also considered "the largest of the small countries worldwide." It would be difficult for Western countries, like the United States, to swallow such a "big" country with such a geo-strategic environment in one bite.

Iran would likely get involved if the United States starts a battle in Syria and chaos in the Middle East will be inevitable once Hezbollah takes a stand against the United States. Therefore, the United States may just speak without any actual action this time.

Third, Syria is a sensitive country in the Middle East. What happens to the country may affect the whole region. It is an essential participant in dealing with regional affairs involving Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon and other countries. If the current Syrian government is overturned, the balance of power in the Middle East will be changed dramatically, producing far-reaching effects on the regional political pattern.

Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the region, be they Syria's enemies or allies, do not want to see the government of Bashar al-Assad overthrown by Western forces. Without the support of Middle Eastern countries, Western forces may find it difficult to succeed if they attack Syria.

Fourth, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is much more popular than Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi is an obstinate and unconventional politician, while Bashar is well mannered and careful in his speeches and has never sworn at foreign leaders. Given Bashar's great popularity, it is likely that many Arab countries will express disapproval of any attacks on Syria by the Western forces led by the United States.

The unrest in Syria is largely caused by the unstable situation in the Arab world. However, the Syrian government has drawn lessons from the downfall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and the Libyan leader Gaddafi who is still fighting, and has taken a series of effective measures to protect itself in the wave of unrest. Generally speaking, Bashar will not easily give in when it comes to his political future. Due to various limiting factors, it is almost impossible for Western forces to turn Syria into another Libya.

The author is the chief Middle East correspondent with People's Daily, translated by People's Daily Online


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