Are the Saudis and the Qataris, strong supporters of the Syrian rebellion, worried by the turn of events in Syria and in neighboring countries? They should be.
Of the many broken promises that Syrian President Bashar Assad has made over the years there is one promise that he is very likely to keep: that the fires raging throughout Syria today would, in due course, spread to the rest of the region.
So far he has kept to his word. From Syria the fighting has spread to neighboring Lebanon, a country that has always harbored a microcosm of the rest of the Middle East’s turbulent politics and with ample amounts of guns for hire ready to offer their services and sometimes their lives in exchange of a handful of dollars or a reserved place in paradise.
For months on end sporadic exchanges of gunfire erupted every few days between the Lebanese equivalent of the Hatfields and the McCoys in the northern port city of Tripoli. And for months on end, everyone in Lebanon would brush it off with a wave of the hand, adding, “this is Tripoli.”
But gunfire, much like fire, will spread if not contained. And so it has come to pass that the fires from the northern port city of Tripoli soon ignited similar fires in the southern port city of Sidon.
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Angered by the support that the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah offered Syria in putting down a Sunni-led rebellion against the Alawite dominated regime in Damascus, a local sheikh in Sidon began to urge his fellow Sunnis to rush to the side of their fellow coreligionists in Syria.
Perhaps a little too eager the cleric, who is believed to have enjoyed the support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, soon got into an open dispute with the Lebanese Army and in an exchange of gunfire killed 17 Lebanese soldiers.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. The forecasts are not bright. For the moment the Lebanese army appears to have the upper hand in this round of clashes. The radical cleric, Ahmad al-Asir, has fled Sidon with a number of his followers and is currently sought by the Lebanese authorities. Some say he may have fled to Syria, or may be hiding in a Palestinian refugee camp close to where the gun battle with the Lebanese army took place.
After Lebanon the fires started to spread to Turkey, a country facing a slew of problems with its own minorities, such as the Kurds and the Alevis. Not to be confused with Syria’s Alawite, despite the similarity in the name and in geographic location.
Over this past weekend Shiite and Sunnis clashed in Egypt, where a mob attacked and killed a group of Shiites, then dragged their bodies through the village within close proximity of the Pyramids as the police looked on.
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Jordan, another country bordering Syria is looking nervously over its borders and remaining vigilant. If the conflict in Syria remains unchecked how long do you think it will take for the flames of that conflict to reach the financiers of the war in Syria; namely Saudi Arabia and Qatar?
It will not take much to incapacitate the flow of oil or natural gas in the Gulf, even if only for a few days, but remember what Saddam Hussein did to Kuwait’s oil when he realized he had lost the war?
This is not to say that Mr. Assad will be able to carry out a repeat performance of what his Iraqi counterpart did in 1991, but how much longer can the fires keep burning in Syria before they reach the Gulf?
Then watch the price of oil rise through the roof.
By. Claude Salhani