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Democracy and Syria's Three Scenarios

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Undoubtedly, the Syrian regime and its security apparatus are emboldened and empowered by Moscow and Beijing's two vetoes of a UN Security Council resolution which was not calling for a military intervention or a comprehensive regime change, but for a peaceful transition to a democratic system of governance in Syria. The failure of the UN Security council to pass the resolution, which was embracing an Arab League plan and being endorsed by the majority of demonstrators in Syria, particularly in the city of Homs, led to the escalation of violence across the country. Russia and China's veto contributed to the belief held by the Syrian government that brutal use of force could eventually put an end to a popular uprising. On the other hand, the people of Syria have lost hope in the international community. They have come to believe that they have been abandoned by the international community in their efforts to turn the current autocratic regime in Syria into a democratic system.

In their struggle for democracy and in order to put an end to an era of humiliation, corruption, power abuse and nepotism, at first Syrian people used peaceful means of protests and non-violent resistance. Nevertheless, after the continued use of force by the regime, a number of opposition activists have taken up arms in order to defend themselves and protect their people from the assaults carried out by government's armed forces. Evidently, an armed opposition would further militarize the conflict in Syria. It is widely believed that the two vetoes of the UN Security Council resolution in favor of the Assad's regime has further incited the people to join the Free Syrian Army, the main opposition army group in Syria.

After the two resolutions were blocked in the UN Security Council, a number of scenarios can be envisioned for the future of Syria. There is a slim chance of an internal coup within the Syrian regime similar to what happened in Egypt. Should the state of affairs in Syria deteriorate to the extent that it threatens the survival of the Syrian political establishment, high-ranking Syrian generals may decide to sacrifice President Bashar al-Assad to save the regime from downfall. However, it is the least likely scenario considering the fact that Syria's political structure is very different from Egypt's. Syria has a sect-based political system in which high positions and resources are mostly controlled by the Alawites. If Assad is forced to leave, the whole political establishment has to go through fundamental reforms. In Egypt, the military is widely considered as a symbol of Egyptian nationalism. Thus, it was able to distance itself from Hosni Mubarak. However, in the case of Syria, the military and the government (President Bashar al-Assad) are deeply intertwined.

The second scenario suggests that Russia would keep refusing to join the Arab League, European countries and Turkey to stand against the Syrian regime. This would increase the likelihood of the outbreak of a full-scale civil war in Syria, which would affect the whole region. In this case, the above states would decide to take action outside the framework of the United Nations. They might train and equip armed opposition groups such as the Free Syrian Army. Safe havens might be prepared for the refugees and opposition armed forces across northern and southern borders of Syria and a no-fly zone might be imposed to protect the people.

The third scenario proposes that Russia and China would eventually join the international community after strategic calculations concerning the fact that adamant support for Assad would threaten their economic and geopolitical interests vis-à-vis other Arab states and the West. This scenario, however, is foreseeable should violence in Syria escalate to an unprecedented level and international condemnation of Moscow's support for Damascus resonate far more vigorously.

The last scenario suggests that the current stalemate in resolving the Syrian crisis would continue. In this case, the conflict would become further militarized. The number of defectors from Syrian security forces would increase and this could push the country into a civil war. This would have devastating consequences for the whole region since Syrian authorities have already warned that should Syria slip into a civil war they would instigate as much strife and tension they could to destabilize the whole region and turn the Levant into conflagration. All in all, the fact is that, meanwhile, more people will be killed, including innocent women and children, as long as the conflict is continuing to be unresolved in Syria.

This article was first published in Mardomak.