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Will the Syrian conflict spark World War III?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Faisal Muqdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister has warned that his government will not remain silent in its response to any U.S.-led attack, even if it leads to World War III.

Prior to his statements, the Syrian media promoted the idea that any attack on Assad’s regime will lead to a world war. Of course, this is nonsense; neither the downfall of Assad’s regime, nor a Western conflict nor the reaction of Assad’s allies at its worst, could spark a war beyond the skies of the region.

Assad was able to drag the Iranians, Hezbollah and the Russians to support its fighters with weapons and fuel. In the opposite camp, financial and military support came from the Gulf and Turkey. Meanwhile, extremist groups saw in the midst of the destruction and the political vacuum, a way to infiltrate and build their hives, with a third project in mind, different from that of the Assad’s regime and the Syrian people.

This is the current state of Syria. Russia and the United States will not fight each other over Syria and the West will only resort to limited operations and will be seeking contain it and ensure that no bullets spill out of the Syrian borders.

Avoiding confrontation

There isn’t any reason for the Middle East and the West to enter a conflict for Assad, neither in defense of him or to attack him.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

World powers tend to avoid armed confrontation and fight through their proxies. They have drawn the rules of confrontation during the Cold War and we haven’t seen fighting between American and Russian soldiers since the end of World War II. Even indirect involvement will only be in conflict areas where their interests are high, just like when George Bush sent 120,000 troops to liberate Kuwait, who had begun to arrive after weeks of Saddam’s occupation of the world’s fourth largest oil exporter.

His son George W. Bush did the same by invading Iraq with 130,000 soldiers. Currently, U.S. forces do not exceed 2,000 in Jordan tasked mainly with operating missiles defense systems and doing limited operations. A similar small numbers is believed to be in Turkey.

Assad resembles Saddam

Despite the fact that Bashar al-Assad is 30 years younger than former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, he resembles him in his ignorance, acting with a similar mentality. Saddam failed to understand the relations between world powers at the expense of the balance of power. He was not aware of a rule based on interests and ended up hanged on the morning of the Eid.

Assad from the beginning should have been aware that it was impossible for his rule to continue when protests started spreading like cancer in his country. Then there came a rise in violence and later important regional players turned against him.

It was possible to arrange for himself a safe exit and he could have salvaged some respect, or even his existence and now he is waiting for a miracle. Does he think the Russians will fight for him… doesn’t he ask himself why? There isn’t any reason for the East and West to enter a fight over Assad, neither in defense nor in Attack.

They gave him time and support but he failed to save his rule and everyone was finally convinced that it was time for him to leave. The West wants to remove him and find another government to keep Damascus’s central role in ruling this large country and prevent al-Qaeda and the likes from being present on the Syrian territory and confront the West and its interests in the world.

The Russians are also pushing for Assad’s removal and for the empowerment of the opposition, but prefer his exit within a political context, with a government that would combine old and new regimes, which would keep their interests and their allies.

The East and the West practically agree on removing Assad but disagree on the details. Washington wants to put pressure on Assad, which includes employing military strikes and pushing for negotiations. On the other hand, Assad is supported by Iran so he is stubborn and arrogantly using the worst weapons, thinking it will cause more chaos and enhance his chance to stay in power, when in fact he will realize that he just provoked the big powers who will hasten his downfall.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on September 6, 2013.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.