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UPDATED: August 12, 2014 NO. 38 SEPTEMBER 19, 2013
A Turning Point?
Russia's new proposal on the Syrian crisis raises hope amid the uncertainty
By Yu Lintao

Potential risk remains

In Li's view, the risk of a Syrian war remains as the removal of the current Assad administration is a fixed policy of the United States.

Li said the current Syrian Government as well as its allies Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah are seen as the major threats of the United States and its ally Israel in the region following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi.

In some sense, Li declared the momentarily shelving of the military strike on Syria is also due to Washington's inability to find suitable political forces to replace the Assad administration.

With its unique geographic position and rich energy resources, Syria plays a significant role in geo-politics. It is also seen as the "beating heart" of Arab nationalism. After the regime change of Iraq and Libya, the current Syrian administration has become the last kindling of Arab nationalism in the Arab world, which observers claimed is one of the major reasons why the United States is determined to remove the Assad administration even by use of force.

Tian Wenlin, an associate researcher of CICIR, said the Arab world has been plagued by disputes and wars in the last hundred years. One major reason for this is that the Arab countries have not united together, which leads to foreign interference in regional affairs.

"If the Assad administration were removed, the last kindling of Arab nationalism for unity would disappear. It is very bad for the rejuvenation of the Arab world," said Tian.

Though the Obama administration said their potential attack would be in the form of a limited strike, observers believe the situation may become so explosive that the entire region could be dragged into the vortex of war.

Yu claimed that even the limited strike would bring the Assad administration a deadly blow as the opposition would take the opportunity to smash the current Syrian authority. Syria would then be mired in new chaos, with the regional pattern changed and regional forces affected.

"Iran would be further isolated if it loses its Syrian ally and suffer more threats from the United States," said Yu.

Li even claimed that the major impetus of Washington's removal of the Damascus authority is to weaken the influence of Tehran, an enemy of Washington, in the region or even overthrow the current Iranian Government.

The Shia alliance composed of Iran, Syria, Iraqi Shia and Hezbollah in Lebanon has formed an anti-U.S. and anti-Israel alliance in the region.

Efforts for peace

Since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, Russia and China have insisted on the peaceful settlement of the crisis through political dialogue and have made their own efforts jointly and respectively to that end.

At the very critical moment of a possible U.S. military strike, the Russian proposal alleviated the crisis once again.

Yu said it is well known that Syria is a major ally of Russia in the region. Russia has its own interests in Syria.

Russia and Syria have kept a traditional ally relationship since the Cold War, forming close military and economic relations. Tartus Port on the Mediterranean coast of Syria has long been used as a naval base of Russia and the only Mediterranean fueling spot of Russia. The base is of strategic significance for Russia to prevent the eastern expansion of NATO and respond to conflicts in the Middle East.

"Russia also worries that the further deterioration of the Syrian crisis may affect the stability of the North Caucasus of Russia," said Yu. "Though Russia might not directly involve in a possible Syrian war, it would not allow the West to use force on Syria easily."

China welcomed Russia's new proposal swiftly and urged the United States to proceed with extreme caution and return to the United Nations to discuss the Syrian crisis.

And days before, during the G20 Summit in Russia, Chinese President Xi Jinping also told Obama that a military strike could not solve the problem and that a political solution was the correct way out.

"The non-interference of internal affairs principle and peaceful settlement of Syrian crisis are the firm stance of China," said Yu. "China doesn't want to see Syria mired in a new war which would hurt the Syrian people most."

Yu added that China is more and more likely to make its own voice heard in international arena to claim and defend its own interests—even though it has few stakes in the Syrian issue.

Email us at: yulintao@bjreview.com

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