April 28th, 2011
09:55 AM ET

What Syria's neighbors are thinking

Editor's Note: Andrew Tabler is a Next Generation fellow in the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute, where he focuses on U.S.-Syria relations.

by Andrew Tabler, Special to CNN

Instability in Syria has substantial consequences for Iran, Israel, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Lebanon among others. Here's how those countries are looking at Syria:

Iran – Tehran is very worried. Syria gives its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, "strategic depth" by serving as a key supplier of weapons. Chaos in Syria will make the regime of Bashar al-Assad regime more dependent on Iran. But in the end, Tehran is worried a Sunni-led government inimical to its interests will arise in Damascus – something that would stress and then likely break the “resistance axis” of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

Israel – Israel is worried that the protests sweeping Syria will lead to chaos and possibly civil war in Syria. The Assad regime has kept the border with Israel quiet for over 40 years. But Israel also sees opportunity in the protests to pressure and break the "resistance axis".

The United States – The regime’s reaction to the protests have shifted Washington’s previous policy of “principled engagement” to a more confrontational approach driven by events on the ground. Last Friday’s protests and death tolls were a watershed event – not only were the 103 killed the highest number killed so far in Syria, it’s the highest single day death toll in the entire “Arab Spring” outside Libya. The United States is preparing for all eventualities.

Saudi Arabia – This is an interesting case. Syria supported Saudi Arabia’s intervention into Bahrain to support its Saudi-backed Sunni government against its Shia majority. This angered Syria’s ally, Iran. But at the same time, Al Arabiyya Television, which is backed by Saudi Arabia, has covered the Syrian protests critically from the beginning, something that has led to a backlash against Riyadh in the Syrian media.

Lebanon – The Lebanese government yesterday helped block action at the UN Security Council against Damascus. But many in Lebanon see development in Syria as an opportunity to change that country’s heavy handed policies with Lebanon. There are also many who are worried, however, that instability in Syria could spill over the border, setting off Lebanon’s delicate sectarian system.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Andrew Tabler.

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Topics: Middle East • Security • Strategy • Syria

soundoff (108 Responses)
  1. Syria


    May 22, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  2. jasmin

    Obama needs to worry about his people; most of people are loosing their jobs. there are so many homless people no. most people don’t have healthcare, most people in debt. talking about freedom??? what freedom do you have, if you meet a Muslim person and ask them how they get treated at work or school. or even if your Hispanic they still treat you different. Obama just made up the bin laden death so he can show people that he did something for this country but in reality, he didnt do anything. in couple years this county will be worse than a 3rd world county if we are gonna elect stupid ass presidents... US chose to go to Iraq and destroy it for their oil. They destroyed Iraq and many other countries, and now they are looking to destroy Syria, and god knows what next!!! USA worry about your people. Where I live over 200 teachers are getting laid off because of the budget.. is that fair??? You wanna use this money to send people to war, or get involved with other countries. Just mind in your own business and worry about your people!!! Let them worry about themselves. I HATE TO HEAR OBAMAP SPEAK, he just sound so stupid and ignorant.. Dr. Assad is a great president, he is done a lot for his people. Stop ruining another country USA!!!

    May 23, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • sam

      why don't u go and live with ur stupid presedent. u don't deserve to live here like a human been...you and all people who support the Syrian regime are murderes.

      May 23, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Tom

      I'd rather be unimployed but free. The muslims in the USA have more rights and freedom than in Syria and that's a fact. If you beleive that this country is so arrogant and Dr. Assad is so good why don't go back and live there and see if you can find a job or express your opinion freely as you're doing here now.....
      In Syria the grocery stores are empty and the produce is rotten, because the regime exports the best merchandise to generate income and leaves the trash to be consumed by the general public that's another fact for you. That's why the people in Darraa got fed up with the government diverting their water and starving them and that's how it all started in Syria.
      We didn't invade Iraq for oil, most of the oil contracts went to China, so you don't know what you're talking about. Iraq didn't even pay us any cost to liberate them and to top it off we forgave their debts to us and the IMF.
      Assad is going down it's a question of time, because this time technology and knowledge is on the peoples side and that's a stronger weapon than his snipers and tanks.

      May 25, 2011 at 3:25 am |
      • Ali

        You are right Tom, as a syrian and as a muslim, I had way more freedome in the US than in Syria. For the first time in my whole life I am not afraid to say my opinion, I am not afraid of being detained tortured or killed without reason. People in the US can not imagine subhuman conditions of the majority in Syria because americans are good humans. If democracy in Syria prevails, the west will have a great ally in Syria against all extremist. Trouble is: if the US and the west continue their current policy of just empty words/sanctions, the people of Syria will remember this hypocracy for generations.

        June 2, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • jessica

      f*ck yah! and its funny cuz all these people hate obama and hate Hillery BUT ITS LIKE THE GOV. DOES WHATEVER THE F*CK IT WANTS! I HATE UR F*CKING FAKE DEMOCRACY AMERICA! I HOPE before bush was pres. everything was good BUT NOW WERE LOSING MONEY AS WE SPEAK ! we need a new gov! AND CNN I HOPE U STOP AIRING U PIECE OF FALSE SH*T

      June 8, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  3. Mark

    Al Assad will stay in power. Syria will come out of this tougher and United more than ever. just wait and see. then why the US is enterfering in Syria..... isn`t better for the US to take care of its own problems, like, creating jobs, bringing the troops back, and protecting its bordeds?????? but it has to stick its nose where it doesn`t belong.

    May 24, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Mc

      Best job creation on Earth is war, you should have figured that out by now.

      May 25, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Ali

      I suspect you are paid by the so-called Syrian government to defend their position. I suggest they invest some money in teaching English to go along with western name!

      June 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • mycolorsdontrun

      Mark you dont know anything about the english language or the history of the world, if you did you would know when we dont get involved is when s#$% gets worse, look what happened in WW2 before we got involved, btw your welcome.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  4. Tom

    Syria needs a new regime, it is full of corruption and brutality. They sponsor terrorism and they ruined Lebanon. This Bashar guy was supposed to be a doctor educated in Britain and he promised lots of reform and freedom but nothing materialized, he assassinated Al Hariri and many political figures in Lebanon and caused lots of instability in the region...
    I say the U.S. should do the following:
    1-Drill in Alaska, gulf of Mexico and everywhere to minimize our dependence on middle eastern oil then....
    2-Pull out completely from that whole region, including Afghanistan and Iraq.
    3-Give all of them plenty of non-advanced weapons, then sit back and watch the Sunnis and Shiite grind each other’s till the end..... and if they mess with Israel, then Israel knows how defend itself and turn that whole region into a dead desert in seconds.
    That would be my solution for a region that only believes in violence, is violence itself.

    May 25, 2011 at 2:59 am |


      May 29, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
      • mycolorsdontrun

        Tranny or trini whatever you call yourself, get some education. Tom obviously has some and some common sense. We live in america we dont have watch our backs, we have to watch you and your backward ass governments to make sure you dont f&%$ it up for the rest of us, your making your country look even more ignorant.

        June 5, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  5. thetruth

    Israel is secretly thinking "more land for us to steal"

    May 26, 2011 at 1:59 am |
  6. JT

    If i was Israel, I would supply cheap made weapons to Syrian Protestors, long term civil war is a win win for Israel would weaken Syria and Iran long term

    May 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  7. ismael

    If Sunnis were such vicious fanatics, how did Christians, Alawattis, and other minorities survived Sunny controlled Syria for one thousand years??

    May 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  8. ismael

    Alawits are the sons and daughters of mountain wild Pigs in Syria, Alawits are born when a Christian get F. by a Jew in a Muslim land!!

    May 27, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  9. ismael

    Alawits are and have been Syria's eternal enemies, they have tried to assassinate Salladin, they have sided with the French occupier during the Colonial times, Hafiz Assad gave the Golan Heights to Israel on Silver platter that is why his Bastard son Bashar is the president of Syria today!! Pay back is on the way Alawits, Pay back is on the way!!

    May 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • jessica

      will u stfu u moron crushin the alawits will make israeli basterds and american idiots think they gotta shove their d*cks in syria THEN ULL BE SORRY u think americans and Israel wants to help u? THE UGLY FAT BASTERDS MAKE US LOOK BAD AS IS I mean COME ON U DAMN JEW think with ur brain NOT UR ASS

      June 8, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  10. Syrian

    The Syrian government will murder all its 19 million non Alwait citizens if it could. Frankly, it doesn't give a rat's ass about rights of its citizens. If murdering and torturing kids hasn't gotten the message across to you, then nothing will. And, by the way there hasn't been a government in the middleast, or even the entire world that has shown so much animosity towards Islam and Muslims, Christianity and Christians, Judaism and Jews, Atheism and atheists . Bashar Alassad and his thugs are nothing worst than any brutal gang the universe has known. Do you still not get the message?

    June 1, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  11. TowelHeadsAreMorons

    That's what their neighbors are thinking.

    June 3, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  12. Matt

    Better you than me...

    June 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  13. Peikovian

    The Turks lost WW1, and their former province of Syria, reduced in size and divided into additional states - Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Gaza - have rarely seen good government by Muslims. Jordan's Hashemite monarchy has been stable; Syria's Assad pseudo-monarchy has been brutally in place the last 40 years; the rest of these states have seen anarchy. No wonder that Lebanese Christians and Israeli Jews each wanted independent states with defensible borders. Lebanon was compromised by its Muslim population, the PLO, Syrian interference and Hezbollah. Israel has resisted, but animus against the Jews for being Jews may yet force Muslim chaos upon them.

    June 8, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  14. NonZionist

    What is happening in Syria? Who is behind this uprising? Are the rebels Muslim or secular? Sunni or Shiite? Do they want Syria to become less repressive or more repressive? What is the likely outcome?

    June 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  15. jessica


    June 8, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  16. Joshua

    Why would a blogger use the title "NonZionist"? Embarrassed about what he really is?

    June 12, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  17. Tobias

    To the author of this article,
    You have described what Syria's "neighbours" are thinking as the situation unfolds. However, you've omitted one neighbour in particular, Turkey! Though not an Arab state and is highly Westernized, it still is a neighbour isn't it? Many of the undemocratic middle eastern states look to Turkey in the way it straddles both secularism/democracy and faith. So mention of the Turkish perspective as a neighbour should have been included.

    June 13, 2011 at 4:37 am |
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