Sunday, September 1, 2013

Syria's Crisis is the Focus

Since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that increased instability in the Middle East, various rebel groups in Syria have been fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime. This violence has resulted in over 100,000 deaths and millions of Syrians fleeing to refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

On August 21, 2013, it was reported that chemical weapon attacks took place in Ghouta, a suburb northeast of Damascus, Syria.  While United Nations investigators have had limited access to the area, death toll estimates range from 322 to 1,729, with U.S. intelligence reporting 1,429.  Doctors without Borders reported about 3,600 patients at local hospitals had “neurotoxic symptoms” from the attack.

Responses from political leaders include:
  • U.S. President Barack Obama – he is considering a “limited, narrow act... we're not considering any open ended commitment. We're not considering any boots on the ground approach",
  • French President Fran├žois Hollande -”France is ready”,
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron - "I understand the deep skepticism that my colleagues in parliament and many members of the public have about British involvement in Syria. I hope this doesn't become the moment where we turn our back on the world's problems",
  • a representative for German Chancellor Angela Merkel - "there has been no request to us for a military commitment, and a German military commitment has never been considered by the government” and
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin - “"we have to remember what has happened in the last decades, how many times the United States has been the initiator of armed conflict in different regions of the world … did this resolve even one problem?"
Note: During an October 2011 interview with the U.K’s Sunday Telegraph, Syrian President Assad said “Syria is different in every respect from Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen. The history is different. The politics is different…Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake … any problem in Syria will burn the whole region. If the plan is to divide Syria, that is to divide the whole region."

While military intervention into Syria is controversial, questions to consider include:
  • how will a U.S. military strike change the Syrian President’s tactics?
  • could violence expand into other countries?
  • how would a destabilized Syria change Middle East dynamics?
As political leaders, the media and investors focus on Syria, global market will likely be choppy until clarity improves.

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