As Syria’s bloody conflict spills over borders, are we on the brink of regional warfare?
What started as school children spray painting anti-Assad messages on a wall in Syria's southern city of Daraa has entered its third year of violent conflict. The UN estimates that over 70,000 have been killed in the fighting, with over 1.4 million fleeing to neighboring countries.
The bloody conflict has now spilled far beyond Syria’s borders, threatening regional war.
There are fears that the almost 100 year-old Sykes-Picot Agreement - an Anglo-French plan that created modern day Lebanon and Syria - may be threatened by increasing sectarian fighting.
Jordan's King Abdullah II is urging the UN Security Council to declare the refugee crisis a threat to "the security and stability of our country." The Hashemite Kingdom is seeing between 1-2000 people crossing daily, putting strain on an already struggling economy and limited natural resources.
Jordan could also be drawn in militarily. The US is sending 200 army planners to Amman to assist with the preparations with future operations and the last few days have seen salvos of rockets landing on Jordanian territory. Reports in the Washington Post also suggest that rebels from the Free Syrian Army are being trained in preparation for “buffer zones” just inside Syria. The government deny this.
Lebanon, occupied by Syria from 1976 until 2005, is maintaining a fragile peace in spite of reported rocket attacks on the Bekaa Valley and occasional air raids by the the Syrian air force. The UN Refugee Agency says that Lebanon is currently home to 450,000 refugees causing friction in host communities with security forces imposing a nighttime curfew on Syrians.
Hezbollah - the militant Shia organization - is also sending fighters to support embattled President Assad, with help from their Shia brothers in Iran, threatening to pull Lebanon back in to a state of armed conflict as sectarian divisions become more pronounced.
Iraq, too, is facing a wave of refugees and a new influx of returnees who left the country because of the US-led 2003 invasion. Kurds in Syria are becoming more powerful, which could spell trouble for Baghdad as its own Kurdish community begins to feel more emboldened after years of struggle following the collapse of the Ottoman empire.
The latest development saw the Nusra Front, a Salafi-inspired organization entering into an alliance with al-Qaeda in Iraq, bringing Baghdad in increasing contact with Sunni militants, all whilst officials turned a blind-eye to Iranian aircraft flying over the country sending weapons to Assad.
The Syrian struggle is felt across north Africa too, as refugees flood into Egypt, with men in Cairo looking for ‘cheap’ Syrian brides. In Tunisia, teenagers are among those taking up arms following the the call to Salafis to join the fight.
The conflict has altered the region, and there is every chance that the Syrian civil war will have be a turning point in Arab history.
Here, Al Bawaba guides you through the ways Syria’s bloody conflict is changing the region.
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