News / Middle East

Pro-Government Syrians See Larger Sectarian Forces at Play

Members of the Free Syrian Army are seen at a front line in al-Mid area in Aleppo city in northern Syria, October 11, 2012. Members of the Free Syrian Army are seen at a front line in al-Mid area in Aleppo city in northern Syria, October 11, 2012.
x
Members of the Free Syrian Army are seen at a front line in al-Mid area in Aleppo city in northern Syria, October 11, 2012.
Members of the Free Syrian Army are seen at a front line in al-Mid area in Aleppo city in northern Syria, October 11, 2012.
Elizabeth Arrott
As Syria's civil war grinds on, the Syrian government has pointed to outside aid for the rebels as proving there is a conspiracy by the West and Gulf Arab nations to use the conflict as a way to weaken Iran's influence in the region. 

The Syrian conflict has split not only the people of Syria, but the region as well.  To those close to the government, the battle lines are clear.

Businessman and pundit Nabil Toumeh sees a clash of civilizations. “There is a Sunni-Shi'ite religious conflict, more accurately between the Gulf-Saudi-Turkish project on one hand and the Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian-Lebanese. The intersection is here in Damascus,” he said.

Backers of Syria's opposition say they simply want to help Syrians overcome a brutal leadership.  But government supporters and others see a proxy war for competing sectarian interests.

Non-Arab Iran may be the leader of what is called the “Shi'ite Crescent” but according to Syrian ruling party member and political researcher Bessam Abu Abdullah, geography and ethnicity make Syria key.

“Iran without Syria cannot be in the Middle East because it will be isolated in that place.  And I think the Gulf countries, they have a phobia: it's called Iran,” he said.

There is a chauvinism to this world view, which places the Shi'ite model above that of the Sunni-ruled Gulf states.

Abu Abdullah says Saudi Arabia feels particularly threatened. “They are afraid because Iran is giving a model for the people - a model in science, technology, universities, in culture, in sports. Saudis is a zero -  nothing,” he said.

The pro-government researcher gives high marks to Syria as well, as a multi-faith, secular state with greater equality for women.

While promoting their vision of Shi'ite success, both men agree the current Syrian system is flawed.  But they, like the government, insist the problem lies outside. 

“Today, if Turks prevent intervention and Gulf people put off funding and arming, Syrians inside or outside will come back to each other immediately,” said the businessman Toumeh.

The brutality of the conflict makes reconciliation seems remote.  Some voices in the government-allowed opposition argue that blaming outsiders obscures a fundamental flaw of the Syrian leadership.

Maher Fadl Fetih heads a fledgling opposition party in Damascus.

“They believe that the solution cannot be political and have no solution but force.  And this means for every action [they take] there is a reaction,” he said.

Even if no forces outside Syria were involved, it is a cycle of violence that shows little sign of slowing down.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid