Williamstown, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 04/30/2012 -- The first two months of 2012 has seen the internal unrest that erupted in Syria in 2011 steadily worsen, as popular uprisings against several incumbent rulers swept across the North African and Mediterranean region. What initially resembled a peaceful uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has deteriorated into an open, violent insurrection. Determined opposition against Assad's regime has taken route in the country, particularly in and around Syria's third-largest city of Homs.
Assad has followed two distinct approaches. On one hand, he has invited monitors from the Arab League to visit the country and record the internal situation. Allied to this approach has been the occasional offer of concessions to the opposition, regarding political reform. Assad's other approach has been to deploy his armed forces in an increasingly brutal crackdown against the opposition. This has the corresponding effect of deepening the distrust of the opposition as regards offers of concessions. However, while in Libya, Egypt and Syria popular opposition against local leaders sharply gathered momentum in 2011, Assad may for the time being be able to withstand such a wave of popular discontent. Syria's population is a mix of ethnicities and religious persuasions. Minority groups in the country seem to have, so far, remained either on the sidelines, or broadly supportive of Assad fearing the emerging political dominance of a Sunni Muslim theocracy and potential victimisation should his regime fall.
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Diplomatically, for now, Assad can count on support from Russia, China and Iran. Russia and China have used their veto in the UN Security Council to block a resolution calling for Assad's removal. The relationship that Damascus enjoys with Moscow and Tehran may provide it with some short-term support. Russia can use its veto as a diplomatic roadblock at the UN General Assembly to prevent military action being authorised by the international body with a view to ending Assad's repression of the opposition. That said, while a UN Resolution provides an important legal legitimisation of the use of force, it is not a prerequisite, and any military action that would almost certainly involve NATO, significant Alliance members, the US or indeed all three of these actors, could potentially begin without UN approval. Nevertheless, this brings political risks as recent events in Iraq and Kosovo have shown.
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