In an interview with Canada TV, Ibrahim Sharqieh discusses the escalating conflict in Syria and how the global community should respond.
Dan Matheson: Joining us now from the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center is Ibrahim Sharqieh. He is deputy director of the center. Sir, what do you see happening in Syria? Is this threatening to explode?
Ibrahim Sharqieh: This is expected actually. The people here have been waiting for this to happen for quite a long time, since all the uprisings have started in the region. Syria was a strong candidate for this and we now see it actually happening in Syria and it’s getting more intense.
Matheson: When Assad starts slaughtering his own people, is this sign of weakness?
Sharqieh: He is trying to show that this is a sign of strength but this may not work because the people are increasingly going to the streets. It started in the southern city of Daraa and now we see the protests in so many other cities. We see some demonstrations in Damascus, which is a very strong sign that the protests are increasing. But the regime is still persistent and thinks strength and being tough on the protestors are the ways to go out. We haven’t seen any changes in its strategies.
Matheson: Sir, what is your stance on what the international community should do about this? With the general uprising throughout the Arab world, you can’t get involved everywhere but at the same time you don’t want to sit and watch innocent people get slaughtered.
Sharqieh: You’re absolutely right. The toughest question the international community is facing, to add to this and to make it even more complex, is that you have different characteristics for each country: Syria is different from Libya, Libya is different from Yemen and Syria, Yemen is different from Egypt, Egypt is different from Tunisia. So Syria is different from all of them. Syria is a strong country, a strong regime. It can’t be treated the way the international community has treated Libya or the way it has treated Egypt at the same time. One strong characteristic about Syria is that the regime has the ability to cause damage not only in Syria but in surrounding countries, such as Lebanon and Gaza and Iraq. That’s one major reason for the confusion with the international community. This is completely different from Libya, since we have seen that regime limited to its own country, even to its own capital. Syria is different and that’s a very tough question for the international community and so far we haven’t seen serious decisions made on that level.
[The protests constitute] one of the most serious crises Iran has faced in the past 25 years... We now see that Iranians are willing to take profound risks to challenge the regime directly in a way we have not seen in years.