Syria's Outcome Has High Stakes for the Entire Mideast

(Washington Post) Jackson Diehl - The central drama in Syria is now a sectarian showdown between Sunnis and Shiites, and between Turkey and Iran. The Persian Gulf states - led by Qatar - have been pushing hardest for Arab League and Security Council action against the Assad regime. The emirates say their goal is Syrian democracy - but their motives are purely sectarian. Their target is not Assad but Iran, the Persian Shiite enemy of the Arab Sunni monarchies. The Arab emirates' best ally against Iran is not the U.S. but the Turkish government, which is openly backing the Free Syrian Army. Erdogan, as a Sunni Islamist, perceives a strategic opportunity for Turkey to replace Iran as the preeminent outside influence in the former eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Inside Syria, Turkey is pushing the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood; in neighboring Iraq, Turkey's support for Sunni parties, and for the autonomous region of Kurdistan, is increasingly conspicuous. Iran is fighting back. It has dispatched weapons and advisers to Syria, and it is pressing Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, to open a corridor across Iraq to facilitate more material support. The Palestinian Hamas movement, ruler of Gaza, is having its own Syrian crisis. The shift of regional power has all but ruptured its supply link to Iran and forced its external leadership to flee Damascus.

2012-02-03 00:00:00

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