UN warns of civil war as Syrian Army deaths climb
Concerns are mounting that Syria's uprising could descend into civil war as clashes between Syrian Army soldiers and protesters intensify.
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In an Op-Ed for The New York Times, Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center and a fellow with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, writes that the US effort to stay at arm's length from Syria's opposition no longer makes sense. The threat of sectarian violence remains, but as the uprising becomes more violent, it will happen in spite of foreign backing for the opposition, not because of it, he says.Skip to next paragraph
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The longer the current situation lasts, the more likely it is that Syria’s delicate ethnic and sectarian fabric will be torn apart. Opposition figures, including those from the Muslim Brotherhood, are fearful of increasing reprisals against the Alawite and Christian elite, which they would be unable to prevent.
The government’s efforts to sow strife, including a spate of assassinations of academics and a campaign of rape targeting women and girls in predominantly Sunni towns, is making nonviolent protest seem untenable to the opposition.
Syria’s combustible ethnic mix was once grounds for American hesitation in supporting the opposition; now, with violence spiraling out of control, it has become a reason for further American involvement.
The US has also stayed away partially in an effort to prevent the opposition from being portrayed as "the West's stooges," but now its distance is seen as a lack of confidence in a post-Assad Syria because the opposition is requesting (privately, for now) foreign assistance, Mr. Shaikh writes.
The European Union agreed Thursday to add the Commercial Bank of Syria, a state-owned bank that holds much of Syria's foreign reserves, to its sanctions list, Reuters reports. Washington made the move in August.
The combination of sanctions and decline in investment and tourism have taken a heavy toll on the Syrian economy, according to a separate Reuters report. Syrian Finance Minister Mohammad al-Jleilati last month said the economy would grow 1 percent this year. However, an International Monetary Fund forecast for the Syrian economy, released last month, predicted a 2 percent contraction, down from a 3-percent growth forecast made earlier this year.