Syria burns on: And the problem extends to other parts of society
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The increasingly longer-standing problem in Syria is now, predictably, expanding to its region and to other aspects of Syrian society apart from the actual rebellion against the Assad regime.
The rest of the world, including the United States, has not yet mastered its own divisions to a degree to permit it to focus effectively on ending the crisis in Syria through negotiations and other pressure. In the case of America it has not yet been able to get past its own and Israel's differences with Iran to enable that country, perhaps Syria's closest ally, to be engaged in a peace process with a fruitful outcome.
Serious trouble outside of Syria hit a new high point last Friday when Syrian anti-aircraft fire brought down a Turkish warplane over the Mediterranean, with the apparent loss of two Turkish airmen. Neither the mission nor the trajectory of the Turkish military aircraft have yet been clearly elucidated, but Turkey has so far chosen, after consultations with its NATO partners, not to escalate the conflict that could have followed from the shooting down of its plane.
The United States is playing an active role in the Syrian conflict in the form of CIA officers involved in the provision of arms to some of the different rebel groups fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The explanation for the Americans' activities that the administration of President Barack Obama has provided so far is that U.S. agents are seeking to assure that the arms go into the right, non-al-Qaida-related Syrian hands. Prospects for the successful accomplishment of that mission remain foggy indeed, given the signature disorganization and divisiveness of the five or so opposition groups in play inside and outside Syria.
Another serious and growing problem is the danger to Syria's more than 2 million Christians, 10 percent of the country's population, constituted by the basically intra-Muslim fighting in the country between its majority Sunni Muslims and minority Alawites. Just as the U.S. invasion and war in Iraq triggered a major flight of that country's Christians into neighboring countries, the same phenomenon is beginning to occur in Syria. Syria's Christians traditionally supported and were protected by the Assad regime, whose own core comes from a religious minority, the Alawites. As the current in Syria begins to turn against the Assad regime, the Christians find themselves in growing danger.
The next round of talks, with a goal of creating a national unity government in Syria, eventually perhaps easing Mr. Assad out the door, are scheduled for Geneva on Saturday. The group to meet will include China, the European Union, France, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Iran is not invited, at the insistence of the United States. U.N. and Arab League Special Envoy, former U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan, favored Iran's inclusion, but was unable to prevail against Washington's opposition.
The international community's learning process presumably proceeds. In the meantime, Syria burns.
First Published June 29, 2012 12:00 am