Syria could break apart, engulf Israel in violence

Wednesday, August 08, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

Jordan's King Abduallah on Tuesday warned that the escalating civil war in Syria could result in a break-up along sectarian lines, a result that Iran and others say would engulf Israel in fresh cross-border violence.

While calling it a "worst case scenario," Abdullah nevertheless urged the West to take seriously the possibility that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad may entrench himself in an Alawite enclave in Western Syria, safe among his ethnic minority.

Abdullah told CBS's This Morning program that should Assad go that route it would lead to "the break-up of greater Syria" and a land-grab by the various ethnic and religious sects that make up Syria's population of 22 million.

Such a scenario is far from being far-fetched. Today Syria is ruled by an Alawite minority that has allowed Syria's other minorities (including Christians, Shiite Muslims and Kurds) a considerable degree of freedom. Should the rebels, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, win the war, Syria's minorities fear their days may be numbered.

And the fall of a unified Syria would be a nightmare for Israel. The situation would likely resemble that in Lebanon, where heavily-armed militias like Hizballah are free to antagonize the "Zionist enemy" with little concern for state and international politics. Only with Syria, we are talking about a much larger population than Lebanon, and one that has direct access to weapons of mass destruction.

That may have been what Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani was referring to when he told reporters on Sunday that "the fire that has been ignited in Syria will take the fearful [Israelis] with it."

Iran and Hizballah are said to already have considerable assets on the ground in Syria, and would be certain to establish their own local base of power should Assad fall or retreat to the Alawite ancestral stronghold.

Other players on the ground, in addition to the Free Syria Army, include the now-familiar Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda.

The Muslim Brotherhood is reportedly establishing its own rebel force that is both battling Assad and trying to take the lead from the FSA as it strives to create another Islamist regime like that recently secured in Egypt.

The benefits of a chaos-ruled Syrian territory to Al Qaeda should be obvious, and the movement's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, recently released a video statement urging Muslim forces from neighboring countries to get involved in Syria's civil war.

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