Cheat Sheet: Syria crisis: Where key countries stand (BBC)

The US and its allies are said to be considering military action against sites in Syria. But what do countries in the region and beyond think about any possible action?

A boy shouts slogans during a demonstration against Israeli air strikes in Syria in Yemen

The possibility of Western strikes on Syria has divided opinion in the region

The US and its allies are said to be considering military action against sites in Syria. But what do countries in the region and beyond think about any possible action?


The Turkish government has been one of the most strident critics of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since early on in the uprising. On Monday Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkey’s Milliyet newspaper that the country was ready to join an international coalition for action against Syria even in the absence of agreement at the UN Security Council.

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf

The monarchies of the Gulf are said to have been key in funding and supplying the rebel forces fighting against forces loyal to President Assad. Saudi Arabia has been a rival of the Syrian government for years and has been particularly active in pushing for action against Mr Assad, with former Saudi ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar bin Sultan reportedly trying in recent weeks to garner international support for further support for the rebels.


Despite initially avoiding becoming involved in the conflict, Israel has carried outthree strikes on targets in Syria this year, reportedly to prevent weapons shipments reaching the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. Shelling and gunfire from Syria has also hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, drawing return Israeli fire.

In recent days, Israeli officials have condemned the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces and hinted at support for military action. “Our finger must always be on the pulse. Ours is a responsible finger and if necessary, it will also be on the trigger,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

However, Israeli officials will be aware that any Western action against Syria risks a repeat of events in the first Gulf War in 1991, when Iraq attacked Tel Aviv with Scud missiles in attempt to draw Israel into the conflict and prompt the withdrawal of Arab countries from the war. Reports say sales of gas masks in Israel have gone up in response to speculation over military action.

A burning car is seen at the entrance of a mosque which was attacked by a car bomb, in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon

Lebanon is seeing increasing violence linked to the conflict in Syria


The Lebanese Foreign Minister Adana Mansour told Lebanese radio on Monday that he did not support the idea of strikes on Syria, saying: “I don’t think this action would serve peace, stability and security in the region.”

Two bomb attacks which killed almost 60 people in Lebanon this month were linked to tensions over the Syrian conflict. The Lebanese Shia militant movement Hezbollah has openly taken part in combat in Syria on the side of the government, and there have been reports of some in the Sunni community fighting on the side of the rebels. In addition, the country is already playing host to the largest number of Syrian refugees of any country.


Iran has been Syria’s main backer in the region since well before the current conflict and has been highly critical of any prospect of intervention.

On Tuesday, Iran warned a top UN official visiting Tehran of “serious consequences” of any military action.

Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi also repeated claims that it was in fact rebels who used chemical weapons, AFP reports.


Following a cautious reaction to the initial reports of a chemical weapons attack, American rhetoric has hardened in recent days. Secretary of State John Kerry said the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was “undeniable” and a “moral obscenity”.

Washington has recently bolstered its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, prompting speculation that preparation for an attack is underway. Analysts believe the most likely US action would be sea-launched cruise missiles targeting Syrian military installations.

 boy, affected by what activists say is nerve gas, is treated at a hospital in the Duma

US President Barack Obama had previously said the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line”


The UK is drawing up contingency plans for military action, Prime Minster David Cameron’s office has said. Any action would be “proportionate”, lawful and follow agreement with international allies, a spokesman for Mr Cameron said.

On Monday Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that diplomatic pressure on Syria had failed and that the UK, “the United States, [and] many other countries including France, are clear that we can’t allow the idea in the 21st Century that chemical weapons can be used with impunity”.


The day after the reports of the attack near Damascus, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called for “a reaction of force” if the use of chemical weapons was proven. He has also suggested that the UN Security Council could be bypassed “in certain circumstances”.

France has been amongst the most hawkish Western countries with regard to Syria, being the first Western power to recognise the main opposition coalition as the Syrian people’s legitimate representative. In May France, along with the UK, successfully lobbied for the EU’s arms embargo to be lifted so as to allow further supplies to the rebels.


Russia is one of Mr Assad’s most important international backers and has stressed the need for a political solution to be found to the crisis.

It has sharply criticised any possibility of Western strikes on Syria, saying action taken outside the security council threatened “catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and Northern Africa”.


China has joined Russia in blocking resolutions critical of Syria at the UN Security Council. It has also criticised the prospect of strikes against Syria.

The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, said Western powers were rushing to conclusions about who might have used chemical weapons in Syria before UN inspectors had completed their investigation.


Cheat Sheet: Syria and the Chemical Attacks

Damascus by SPOT Satellite

Damascus by SPOT Satellite (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did Russia Just Throw Assad Under the Bus?

English: SOCHI. With President of Syria Bashar...

English: SOCHI. With President of Syria Bashar al-Assad. Русский: СОЧИ, БОЧАРОВ РУЧЕЙ. С Президентом Сирии Башаром Асадом. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Western press accounts jumped on suggestions today that Russia may be backing away from the beleaguered regime of Bashar al-Assad. According to reported remarks of Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia’s point-person for Middle East diplomacy, “As far as the victory of the opposition is concerned, it cannot be ruled out, and, to our regret, one should face the facts. The tendency is right in that direction, the regime and the authorities are increasingly losing control over an increasing territory.

Israel Hayom | The ABCs of the Iron Dome

The Iron Dome System

The Iron Dome System (Photo credit: The Israel Project)

Core team of Iron Dome developers, comprised entirely of Technion graduates, was given a tight 30-month window to develop the system • Member: “This is the only missile in the world that includes parts from Toys R Us.”

Israel Hayom | The ABCs of the Iron Dome.

Will Iran Close the Strait of Hormuz? | RAND

Iran’s repeated threats to close the Strait of Hormuz are a pivotal part of a military strategy based on psychological and asymmetric warfare. Blocking the strategic waterway, through which 90 percent of Persian Gulf oil flows to the outside world, would have sweeping implications for regional security and global oil markets. It may be the Islamic Republic’s most potent weapon. Tehran has also hinted it would retaliate against U.S. forces, notably the Fifth Fleet based in the Persian Gulf, if it is attacked.

Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has developed sufficient military capabilities to back up its threats. The Revolutionary Guards Navy may be able to inflict damage on U.S. forces. It operates hundreds of small and relatively fast attack boats, some armed with sophisticated anti-ship cruise missiles. Its fleet could attempt to swarm larger U.S. ships and try to penetrate their defenses, even if they could not destroy the more powerful American vessels. Iran could also fire missiles at U.S. warships from its 1000 mile-long Gulf coastline. An even more controversial Iranian move would be scattering mines either near the Strait or in the Persian Gulf, which could slow or stop shipping as the U.S. Navy tried to clear the waterways.

Will Iran Close the Strait of Hormuz? | RAND.

Israel and the WMD-free zone: Has Israel closed the door? | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

English: Flag of the International Atomic Ener...

English: Flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an organization of the United Nations Deutsch: Flagge der Internationalen Atomenergieorganisation (IAEO), eine Organisation der Vereinten Nationen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Article Highlights

With the 2012 Middle East WMD-Free Zone Conference still on the agenda in Helsinki, speculation remains whether Israel will attend.

Shaul Chorev, head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, delivered a strongly worded speech to the IAEA general conference in Vienna earlier this month, laying out what Israel is likely to accept and not accept as far as the conference is concerned.

The time might be ripe to start thinking about a more far-reaching and radical approach that would involve rethinking the entire framework for considering WMD arms control in the Middle East.

Israel and the WMD-free zone: Has Israel closed the door? | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Syria’s Secular and Islamist Rebels: Who Are the Saudis and the Qataris Arming? | World |

Vast swathes of northern Syria, especially in the province of Idlib, have slipped out of the hands of President Bashar Assad, if not quite out of his reach. The area is now a de facto liberated zone, though the daily attacks by Damascus’s air force and the shelling from the handful of checkpoints and bases regime forces have fallen back to are a reminder that the rebel hold on theterritory remains fluid and fragile.

What is remarkable is that this substantial strip of ‘free” Syria has been patched together in the last 18 months by military defectors, students, tradesmen, farmers and pharmacists who have not only withstood the Syrian army’s withering fire, but in some instances repelled them using a hodgepodge of limited, light weaponry. The feat is even more amazing when one considers the disarray among the outside powers supplying arms to the loosely allied band of rebels.
Syria’s Secular and Islamist Rebels: Who Are the Saudis and the Qataris Arming? | World |