Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Syria and the myth of stability

This weekend's bombing and the long list of possible culprits vividly illustrate the fractious nature of Syrian politics

Chris Phillips, Tuesday September 30 2008

".....The Lebanese daily an-Nahar argues the immediate prompt for the bombing was Syria's tightening of its border with Iraq to prevent Islamist militants from joining the anti-American insurgency. However, the roots go deeper than this. Since the 1980s suppression of the Muslim brotherhood, Syria has had an ambivalent relationship with Islamists. Whilst at home it remained staunchly secular, its foreign policy was anti-western, leading it into alliances with such Islamists as Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, as well as facilitating the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

Now, those chickens are coming home to roost. Syria's recent rapprochement with France, its indirect talks with Israel and its decrease in support for Iraqi insurgents has meant that, for the first time in years, Syria and the Islamists' foreign policy goals are divergent. The previous support afforded them by the government means, however, that many of these militants, having intended to move on to Iraq, now have weapons which can be turned against the Syrian state. Whilst Saturday's attack might simply be a warning to Assad to cool his western ties, there's nothing to suggest it can't be repeated and escalated should he resist the urge to perform a volte-face......."

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