Fletcher in the News

Civil War in Syria may Engender Broad Sectarian Conflict in the Gulf: Prof. Nasr

The Seattle Times

Syria splits along sectarian lines, shaking Mideast

Resting in a safe house south of the shell-battered city of Homs, Syrian rebel Abu Abdo at first framed the conflict convulsing his country as a war between the Sunni Muslim majority and the authoritarian regime of President Bashar Assad.

Then the leather-jacketed member of the local Free Syrian Army added, "The majority of the Shiites and Alawites are with the government."

Abdo's comments underscored how sectarian divisions are hardening a year after the outbreak of the uprising against Assad, whose scorched-earth crackdown on what began as peaceful protests for democratic reform has ignited a Sunni-dominated insurgency that's drawing in Sunni jihadis from beyond Syria's borders. ...

... Some experts worry Iran could step up its support for Assad as the Saudis and other Sunni Arab regimes intensify their backing for the rebels. That could include aiding Bahrain's Shiite opposition — which has resisted Iranian help so far — and instigating the restive Shiite majority in Saudi Arabia's oil-producing Eastern Province.

"This portends very bad things for the region," said Vali Nasr, a former State Department adviser who teaches at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

"If this gets worse and becomes a full-scale civil war ... this will spill over. Other countries are vulnerable ... and could end up having a bigger, broader conflict in the Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran."

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