09/02/2013, 00.00
SYRIA
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Syria's civil war will continue even after Assad's fall

Islam expert Francesco Zannini talks to AsiaNews about the consequences of the imminent US attack on Syria. Without a strategic plan, conflicts between religious and ethnic groups could explode at any time. Turkey, Jordan and Israel support Obama, but fear a war on their borders.

Rome ( AsiaNews) - "The Syrian civil war could continue even after Bashar al-Assad's fall," said Prof Francesco Zannini, from the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) in Rome. Speaking to AsiaNews about the consequences of a possible US-led attack against Syria, he said that regime change in Syria or a weakening of the government of Bashar al-Assad would not stop the chaos of the past two years, which has left more 100,000 people dead and more than a million displaced. For the Islam expert, the ongoing conflict in Syria is much more than just a civil war against a dictator. "Without a commitment by all foreign parties, the country will not have a future of peace."

"The popular uprising will continue to confront the means of repression used by the Assad regime and his Alawi military forces," Zannini explained. "The latter are already trained to crush any internal opposition. This is preventing various ethnic and religious groups from following the same political path."

Until now, all components of Syrian society have been held in check by an authoritarian regime. Muslims (Shias, Sunnis, and Alawis), Christians (from various groups), Kurds and other minorities have lived together in Syria for centuries. However, at present tensions between them may turn violent at any moment.

Foreign terrorists groups, such as al-Jabat Nusra Front and other armed militias, in some cases linked to al- Qaeda, are feeding the flames of the civil war.

"The danger is not only al-Qaeda, whose presence is documented but not murky," Zannini explained. "Various Muslim extremist groups are also fighting each other in Syria. They contribute more than terrorist movements to the country's instability because none can prevail over the other."

Western nations are reluctant to act for fear of strengthening terrorists. "The international community is divided, but these differences also exist between many governments in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf nations are pushing for a new strategic dispensation for the region and support the United States. Officially, Turkey, Jordan, and Israel are also in favour of the US line but fear the consequences of a military attack that could cross their borders."

"These factors are part of the Syrian microcosm, which must be taken into account to understand the future structure of a country dominated for decades by the Alawi regime, which kept together many religious and ethnic minorities," Zannini said. "This is why minorities have not taken sides against a bloody dictatorship, considered by many to be the lesser evil." (S.C.)

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