Top 5 Dangers that the Syria Conflict could Destabilize its Neighbors

Aljazeera English (below) asks whether the Syria crisis will spill over onto neighbors and what impact it may have on the region.

Aljazeera English reports:

In fact, the longer the crisis goes on, the more likely it is that it will have consequences for its neighbors…

5. As Syrian refugees flow into Turkey, the possibility of Syrian-Turkish clashes grows.

4. As small arms flow into Syria, bought up by the revolution, they can be sold back onto the market and flow into Jordan, which has in the past seen heavy fighting between the central government and tribal groups in places like Maan over smuggling.

3. Likewise, the Palestinian refugee camps in the region could be flooded with small arms weapons, encouraging the reemergence of a militant faction, with negative implications for all concerned, including Israel.

2. In Iraq, the dominant Shiite parties tend to support al-Assad, whereas the Sunnis mostly support the revolutionaries. Renewed sectarian tensions in Iraq could produce further turmoil.

1. Lebanon’s fragile peace could easily be disturbed. Sunni leader Saad Hariri, supported by Saudi Arabia, supports the uprising. Many observers blame the Syrian Baath Party for assassinating his father, Rafiq al-Hariri, in 2005. At the same time, the party of the Southern Shiites, Hizbullah, supports Bashar al-Assad and is patrolling the border to keep weapons and aid shipments from going to the opposition. Renewed Sunni Shiite fighting could break out over Syria.

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20 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    I suspect you (or Jazeera) leaves out the more subtle fallout danger.

    Josh Landis in his recent Blogginheads inyterview mentions that the Syrian Kurds are showing signs of wanting to join Iraqi Kurdistan.

    link to

    The Kurds in fact walked out of the opposition conference in Turkey.

    In the past I have made reference to the unresolved issue in Iraq of the Battle of Kirkuk that remains to be fought. The city of Mosul may also be dragged into the conflict over the boundary of this autonomous region and its right to conclude contracts with Oil Companies independent of the Iraqi government.

    Allowing anything to go Bang in the Mosul area is fraught with danger given the reports of instability in the Shambarakat Dam on the Tigris.

    The exisitence of Israeli bases in Kurdistan has been reported for many years and has recently been highlighted as a jumping off point for Israeli entry into Iran.

    Secession by the Syrian Kurds would extend the Kurdistan Turkish border and extend the area of concern to the Turkish Army.

    Just as the fallout from the Libyan intervention has had knock on effects in Mali and is destabilising Central Africa so the Syrian situation if it is not contained and pacified will bring the region clattering down around everyone’s ears.

    • While “reports” of Israeli bases in Kurdish Iraq, for gathering intelligence on Iran, have surfaced from time to time, I have never seen them definitively sourced. They are more like rumors. A far more likely host for Israeli activity regarding Iran would be Azerbaijan, which has a (very discreet) security relationship with Israel and lies due north of Iran.

      Regarding the Libyan intervention and the destabilization of Central Africa, there is no causal link. There is a correlation, in that one followed the other, but a correlation is not necessarily a causal relationship. The rooster crows each morning and the sun rises in the East. We can count on that each morning, but surely no one would say that the rooster’s crowing causes the sun to rise.

      • There is no such thing as a civil war that is improved by foreign intervention. Even if the civil war affects other countries, foreign intervention won’t stop those effects–outside intervention will instead compound those outside effects.

        Compared to other recent wars in the Middle East, and especially when compared to the refugee impact on Syria from the Iraq War, the refugee problem from Syria’s civil war has actually been pretty mild. It’s easily within the economic, social, and political capacity of Turkey to withstand.

        Also, there is indeed a causal relationship of the Libyan Civil War and the resumption of the Saharan uprisings.

        Qaddafi had helped to broker a ceasefire in the previous Touareg uprising–perhaps the only decent thing to come out of all his meddling in Sahelian affairs. Touareg exiles and refugees were living in Libya.

        The Touaregs got kicked out of Libya by the victorious rebels. This was just one of several instances of ethnic cleansing that has marred the post-Qaddafi Libya.

        The chain of events is pretty clear.

        The further events are not hard to predict. With the usual consistency of Western analysis the Touaregs, having been condemned for supporting the defeated side in the Libyan Civil War, are already now also condemned for being in league with Al-Qaeda!

        Expect the USA’s “Africom” to show up in Mali with more drones and “special” forces soon. Tom Engelhardt can then add a few more overseas US bases to his next list.

        • Coups d’Etat and rebellions in Mali since independence in 1960:

          A. 1962: First Tuareg Rebellion
          B. 1968: Moussa Troare’s Coup
          C. 1990; Second Tuareg Rebellion
          D. 1991: Amadou Toure’s Coup
          E. 2007: Tuareg Rebellion in Mali and Niger
          F. 2011: Tuareg Rebellion resums in Mali
          G. March 22,2012: Malian soldiers overthrow Toure

          Mali has a long history of Coups and, certainly, Tuareg rebellions, which have ebbed and flowed over the years. To suggest that the Libyan intervention is responsible for the latest coup is to confuse a correlation of the two events with a causal relationship.

          As for the rest of “Central Africa” being destablilized by the intervention, that is even more of a stretch.

      • Correlation and causation. I remember those notions.

        A quick Google search on “Israeli bases in Kurdish Iraq” sure turns up a whole lot of fairly significant “rumors,” here’s a quick sampler:

        link to, and

        link to, and

        link to, and a whole bunch of others.

        And one party to a discussion may want to avail themselves of a stab at impeachment of the other, via a carefully insinuendo’d (link to — down the page, under “Richard J. Daley”) false syllogism (“roosters crow, sun rises, therefore roosters obviously don’t cause the sun to rise”) but there are other aphorisms in the lexicon too: “Where there’s smoke, and a long history of similar conduct, there’s a pretty good chance there’s fire.”

        In old wooden warships, there were severe penalties for taking an “open light,” candle or match or lamp or whatever, into the gunpowder magazines. In this circumstance, thanks to the smug SOBs who play the Great Game and are so nicely and largely immune to the immense and painful consequences, dumping weapons and “advisers” and jackals of various breeds into a politispace that’s built on a structure not unlike sodium azide, link to (“Highly explosive in the presence of shocks,” and toxic and corrosive to boot) for personal (ego or monetary) gain or corporate gain or pseudo-national-interest gain. And who get to be condescending and patronizing and smug about their maybe, maybe, more detailed, if not enlightened, knowledge of what’s up, what’s doing, and what’s been done, and by whom to whom. Say it ain’t so, PLEASE? link to

        And what’s the point, whether it’s Kurdish parts of Iraq or Azerbaijan? Experienced Players are “digging for facts” to support the Narrative, and if the past is any kind of prologue, will make them up out of whole cloth, or yellowcake, if the Real World does not provide them, on the decreed timeline.

        “Patronizing:” that’s the word I’ve been groping for. I’ll cop to “obnoxious,” myself. Along with “Hoping my grandchildren will live in a space and time less tortured, and always on the ragged point of detonation, by the Experienced Players.”

        • “Correlation and causation. I remember those notions.”

          I hope you also can distinguish between the two.

          “And what’s the point, whether it’s Kurdish parts of Iraq or Azerbaijan?”

          To someone who apparently trusts everything he reads on the internet, I can see where he would not see a difference betweeen Kurdish Iraq and Azerbaijan. In fact, I wrote that Azerbaijan would be the more likely venue for Israeli activity regarding Iran. I did not suggest that it would be.

          In fact, there is no evidence (the infallible internet notwithstanding!) to suggest that Israel would use either Kurdish Iraq or Azerbaijan for such activity. I don’t think either Kurdish Iraq (which, after all, is still part of Iraq) or Azerbaijan would allow such activity by the Israelis. Neither would want to set themselves up for Iranian retribution.

        • Well, I guess the unimpeachable outside-the-internet sources just have to confirm the truthiness of those assertions you make. And no, I don’t believe everything I read on the ‘net. Nice assertion, though. And I wonder if you can actually prove the negative you assert here, that bit about “there’s no evidence.”

  2. What´s frightening is not the bread-and-butter-content of the Aljazeera video which tells only the basic facts everyone should know about this conflict by now that concerns us all. It´s the fact that people don´t know, foreign ministers still don´t know and chose to remain ignorant. There goes another war-by-proxy, another Spanish civil war, another Yugoslavia, history repeating itself because people forget. Because they have so many more important threats to fend off? Like, regulated health care and similar atrocities….!

    it probably boils down to people thinking that even a full-blown civil war in Syria won´t seriously affect their private lives anyways…. Another global battlefield where you can safely fight for your ideology as long and as fervently as you want, without any real danger to your own house, family and existence?
    Of course, I wish for my own sake it won´t spread. Only, with all the collaterals you mentioned, I have an uneasy feeling about this. I agree that this is a country where EVERYONE in the near and middle East plus Turkey and Israel has some kind of connection to. Ironically, when Spain and Yugoslavia were concerned, people where much more aware of this fact.

  3. The Syrian civil war is over. The CIA plan, using its Al Jazeera and Western media collaborators, to bring down another one of the anti-imperialist regimes, has failed.

    • Wait a minute. Civil War. I tout you god Assad said that there were only armed gangs. But Bahrain`s Uprising is real, right?

  4. (Reuters) – Syria says a year-long revolt to topple President Bashar al-Assad is now over, but it will keep its forces in cities to “maintain security” until it is safe to withdraw in line with a U.N.-backed peace deal.

    • Was the overthrow of Ben Ali and Mubarak a CIA coup too? Keep delusion yourself. Iran got Iraq. It will never get syria.

  5. Yep sounds like AJ has drank the cool-aid along with some many others and now leading the chat to intervention. Isn’t that special.

  6. There are so many ways this situation could spiral out into the region that it boggles the mind.

    The danger becomes palpable when you note the many opposing external powers/entities who are opportunistically trying to take advantage of the instability. There must be incredible intrigues underway, as they operate on the dozens (some say hundreds) of internal political/religious factions, not to mention a large military that was designed to operate as a series of fiefdoms.

    It is NOT the same as the prelude to the Spanish civil war, but in terms of the complexity and the pain that lies between the Syrians and some sort of peaceful equilibrium, I see many parallels. The best thing, or perhaps the only thing that might preclude such a scene, would be a competent coup by a junta of (relatively) enlightened generals. But getting back to my premise, some of the more powerful external players actually WANT anarchy, indefinately if at all possible.

    There was a discussion a few weeks ago on Fareed Zakarias show, between Elliott Abrams, Rami Khouri, and I think it was the editor of al-Arabeia (sp?). Khori is one of the original good and insightful guys you could hope to find, and I’d like to hear his current thinking. But in its subtlety and guile, Abrams was most enlightening, as he made the case for a particularly cunning variation of the neocon agenda. Wish I was on a real computer and could find the link, but its worth a listen.

  7. Surprised you haven’t added Iran to the list. Although not an immediate neighbor, Iran is a key ally of the allawite regime in Syria. If they lose this struggle it would be a major blow, and could spark a sectarian counter-reaction in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s eastern province.

  8. In AlJezera on Wednesday, Robert Grenier opined that Kofi Annan’s diplomacy is bad because it buys time for Assad and precludes more effective options. The option Grenier wants is to quickly send more arms to Assad’s enemies. He’s right to mention that high-minded peaceniks can be responsible for catastrophies (like the violence that followed in the wake of the British departure from India). But armed freedom fighters have also been the cause of much evil. If you are fighting an unspeakably evil regime, then apparently you can use any means, and you don’t need to think about the impacts on your neighbors, whether they live next door or in a nearby country. Whether you want to stop the killing or liberate the people, you need to be careful that you are not actually making things worse.

  9. Well, it seems like Hillary’s little Coalition of the Friendly are pretty willing to see the consequences of the Syrian civil war extend as widely as possible.

    What else but a mess could result from their intended low-level flow of inadequate arms, supplies and “communication equipment”?

    They want the mess. They are planning a mess. They will make a mess. Just another entry in the ongoing Black Budget Jobs Stimulus Plan.

  10. so, then, how is it in US (or israel’s) interest that the region becomes destabilized and syria becomes a failed state? because that is what will result if we don’t intervene.

    best proposal i’ve seen to date:

    Not Supporting the Opposition “within Syria” Is Supporting Assad

    Some still argue that supporting the opposition will “militarize” the Syrian crisis, diverting the revolution from a more peaceful and supposedly more effective path. But the reality, of course, is that this crisis is already “militarized.” And tangible outside support for the opposition is now a necessary condition for any Syrian’s continued ability to resist the regime’s all-out onslaught. Without such support, the Syrian people have virtually no chance of maintaining their courageous stand — whether peaceful or armed for self-defense — against regime power. For this reason, immediately supporting the opposition is not a diversion from peaceful protest, but rather the only way to preserve an option for civil resistance.

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