Violent clashes between supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters are showing no signs of abating, and Middle East expert Daniel Newman, a professor at Durham University in Britain, says for at least the next few months, that’s what the world can expect. He spoke with VOA’s Meredith Buel about the Syrian conflict, and said the violence will likely continue to rage unless the combatants can find some way to reach a power-sharing agreement.
On the prospect for an end to the fighting
“[There will be] more bloodshed in the months to come because I think we passed the point of no return a long time ago. And so what we will see is more bloodshed, more displaced people…. I think that the fighting will continue for several months, unless of course, the rebels, the revolutionaries manage to turn things around. But the way things are going, I think that’s highly unlikely. As we have seen, they captured various key areas of Damascus and Aleppo and were subsequently pushed out by the Syrian military, which of course still has sufficient resources in order to withstand what is a very poorly equipped military force.”
On Assad stepping down
“I think he is the figurehead of a very powerful Alawite clique. And to put it in very simple terms, the Alawite clique cannot afford to give in, and that’s what makes this conflict such an intractable question. They know that if they surrender, they will be heading toward certain death. You have to imagine we are talking of a regime that has been in power for several decades and has wreaked a lot of misery – a lot of havoc on its population – so giving in means slaughter…. If you listen to the slogans that people are shouting all over the country and have been shouting for the past months, they are about finally settling some scores with the Alawites.”
On a no-fly zone or military intervention
“…I think the enforcement of a no-fly zone will inevitably entail some kind of military action…. And this would inevitably result in retaliation from Iran. This would also draw the Iranian factions in Lebanon, Hezbollah first and foremost, into the conflict. We would have a conflagration in Lebanon, and then of course we would have Sunni mainstays in the Arabian Gulf – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – drawn into that conflict. And then of course the West would get involved – the United States and Great Britain.… On the other hand, we have Russia, and the new superpower on the scene – China – which continues to engage in very negative commentary on anything that the U.S. or Britain proposes along the lines of a no-fly zone or any kind of military pressure.”
Listen to Meredith Buel’s entire interview with Daniel Newman (18:36):
David Byrd is a journalist, writer, video editor and photographer. He is also the host of VOA's American Cafe, a weekly show covering life and culture in the United States.