Jun 12 2012
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West looks to curb Syrian spillover
12 June 2012
The divergence between international positions on Syria is only increasing, as was demonstrated by the recent meeting between the presidents of France and Russia.
France’s Francois Hollande pushed for sanctions to help force Bashar Assad from power, while his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin said such pressure would push the country toward civil war.
Russia has ruled out military intervention, while Hollande said that it remains an option, if it has the backing of a United Nations Security Council resolution.
The confrontation between Russia and the West is playing out as Western diplomats discuss the complications of the Syrian issue, and the concerned parties have found little common ground. Russia and China have already blocked two draft resolutions which would have led to action against Assad’s regime, and with Arab League-U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria effectively in shambles, there is now further disagreement on how to move forward.
Sources say that an agreement between the U.S., Turkey, European and Arab countries that would entail Assad’s departure is a real possibility, but only if several conditions important to Russian and Western leadership are met.
According to European sources in Beirut, the first of these conditions is an Arab-Western understanding on the composition of post-Assad leadership, including a figure to lead Syria in a transitional stage. This person, who would have to be acceptable to Moscow, the Syrian opposition and concerned states – especially Iran – would form a national unity Cabinet to supervise parliamentary and presidential elections.
The Russian leadership also wants a written U.S. guarantee that the dispute over the NATO missile defense system will be resolved. Negotiations are now deadlocked, as Russia wants a guarantee that NATO’s system will not be used against its own.
Sources say Russia, the Syrian regime and its opposition must also agree on a power-sharing formula for different sectarian groups in a new Syrian system.
While Russia’s temporary understanding with Iran regarding Syria is largely motivated by Russia’s fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the West’s concerns center on concern of a Syrian spillover into neighboring countries, including Lebanon.
In reports written at the request of their governments, analysts at Western think tanks have voiced fear that the domestic situation in Lebanon will further deteriorate because of the ongoing Syrian struggle. These analysts say that the Syrian regime is using its allies in Lebanon to cause tension in its neighbor, in a bid to distract from the Syrian uprising.
This is especially significant given that Bashar Assad’s regime believes that Lebanon’s Sunnis, especially those who support the Future movement, are scheming with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to organize, arm and train the Syrian opposition.
According to the reports, Saudi Arabia and Qatar do not differentiate between moderate Sunnis and extremist and Salafist Sunnis inside Syria. They believe the ends justify the means and that that the Syrian opposition needs all the support it can get to topple the regime.
The two Gulf states are looking to allies in Lebanon to communicate with the Syrian rebels in order to avoid direct contact and so they can avoid blame if events do not go as they hope.
The analysts fear a clash between the Syrian regime and other Arab states will play out in Lebanon, escalating tensions here, particularly in north Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and Beirut, paralyzing the movement of groups who support the Syrian opposition.
Having reviewed these reports, sources say European countries are discussing how to shield Lebanon from the Syrian crisis.
Options include securing diplomatic support for the Lebanese government, given that most believe its resignation would drag Lebanon into a chaotic power vacuum.© Copyright The Daily Star 2012.
© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.
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