Syrian Civil War: Superpowers Take Sides - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Syrian Civil War: Superpowers Take Sides

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MISSOULA - Professors Mehrdad Kia, Samir Bitar and visiting scholar Sisu Pan laid out what foreign powers stand to gain or lose if the Assad regime topples and rebels take over, or if Assad remains in power.

The panel says for countries like the United States, France, Britain and Saudi Arabia, the Assad regime in Syria represents one of the formidable opponents in the Middle East.

It has a strong army and is closely allied with Iran.

"Our closest allies who are cheering and shouting for us to go, in a confrontation with Syria, like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, are the least democratic states in the Middle East," said Kia, Director of the Central and Southwestern Asian Studies Program.

U.S. officials are pushing the military strike against Syrian chemical weapon arsenals because they say it would deter other countries from using weapons denounced by the international community. See Iran and their nuclear arsenal.

Recently, British parliament voted against sending military force to Syria.

"The messiness of the civil war is such, any form of British force would back fire," Kia said.

Supporting and arming the Assad regime and Syrian army are countries like Russia and Iran.

For Russia, Syria is their strongest Middle Eastern ally and houses the last Russian military base outside a former Soviet country.

"Syria basically represents the last foothold for Russia in the region. Its the last place that Russia has maintained any relations throughout the cold war," said Batar, Professor of Arabic Language and Culture.

"We can all rest assure that Russia will oppose. That's the reason the United States wants to act unilaterally and not go to the United Nations, because if they go to the United Nations they will face a veto."

But not all superpowers share the same allies. Pan says China holds good relationships with Iran and Russia, but also with the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

"China at the moment is still neutral. China keeps a good relationship with the Syrian government not too close but not so hostile. But China has a good relationship with all the countries involved in the Syria conflict," Pan said.

Bitar says many in the Arab world see the growing international involvement as a repeat of history.

"To most of the people living there, they view this as 'oh here come the westerners again to redraw the map and tell us where to live,'" Bitar said.

"The Arabs, for many, many years now as a result of colonization, they have a feeling that they live under governments that are not a progression of their own history but rather that of the colonial powers. What's taking place there in the region is something that should have taken place 100 years ago. "

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