1. What is the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims?
  2. Syria
  3. President Assad Family
  4. Syrian Unrest
  5. Who supports Assad and why?
  6. Who is against Assad and why?
  7. Reaction of the world
  8. Kofi Annan peace plan for Syria
  9. Houla massacre
  10. UN General Assembly
  11. India’s problem

At the heart of most Political unrests in Middle east, lies the Shia – Sunni conflict. So first question

What is the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims?

  • Both Shia and Sunni agree on the fundamentals of Islam and share the same Holy Book (The Quran), but Differences originate from the question of who would succeed the Prophet Muhammad as leader of the Muslim community after his death.
Sunni Shia
They chose Abu Bakr, a close Companion of the Prophet Muhammad, as the Caliph (politico-social leader) of Muslim community. They wanted Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali to be appointed as Caliph (politico-social leader) of Muslim community.


syria map

  • Damascus =Syria’s capital
  • Aleppo =Syria’s largest city.

President Assad Family

  • Bashar al-Assad’s father ruled Syria for nearly 30 years and died in 2000.
  • From 2000 to this date, Bashar Al Assad is the President of Syria.
  • al-Assad family is Alawite, a small branch of Shia Muslims.
  • But nearly 75% of Syria’s population is Sunni Muslims.
  • Bashar has filled key positions in his government with either his family members or the Alawite Minority Muslims.
  • Combined with rampant corruption, inflation, unemployment, Syria was sitting on a volcano about to erupt.

Syrian Unrest

  • In January 2011, revolution in Tunisia marked the start of the so-called Arab Spring.
  • In March 2011, violence broke out in Daraa, Syria, after a group of children and teenagers were arrested for writing political graffiti. Dozens of people were killed when security forces cracked down on protesters.
  • Demonstrators soon called for al-Assad to leave office, following in the footsteps of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
  • Al-Assad promised to make changes, and he lifted the country’s state-of-emergency law, which for 48 years gave the regime the power to detain anyone without charge and hold them indefinitely.
  • But just four days after the emergency law was lifted in April 2011, the Syrian regime sent thousands of troops into Daraa for a wide-scale crackdown
  • Since then, the violence has only increased, spreading throughout the country and becoming a full-fledged civil war between the regime and an armed resistance. More than 10,000 citizen had been killed by Assad’s Military crackdown.


Who supports Assad and why?

Who Why they support Assad?
Iran Because ruled by Shia
Hezbollah Because it is a Shia Militant group cum Political party based in Lebanon.
Russia Has a naval port and large diaspora. [we already discussed that in detail, earlier Click ME]
  • Has massive investments in Syria, in energy sector [oil,gas etc.].
  • Assad has given major defense contracts to China. [missile Development etc]
  • Chinese Government doesn’t want Chinese protestors to replay the same events at home, demanding freedom of speech and democracy.
  • It doesn’t want America to dominate over this region.

Who is against Assad and why?

Who? Why against Assad?
Junta of Syria Common sense.
Saudi Arabia because ruled by Sunnis.
Bahrain Same as above.
  • Syria has been actively supporting Hamas and Hezbollah while sharing a border with Israel.
  • If America could somehow install a friendly regime (new President), then it’d help it gain absolute hegemony (domination) over the Middle East and further isolate Iran.

Reaction of the world

  • United States and many of its Western allies have imposed economic sanctions against Syria, condemning al-Assad and demanding that he leave power.
  • But they have not persuaded the U.N. Security Council [UNSC] to do the same.
  • China and Russia — two of Syria’s commercial partners — have vetoed several proposed resolutions on Syria in the UNSC.
  • OIC has suspended Syria’s membership.
  • Saudi and Bahrain are providing weapons to the Syrian rebels.

Kofi Annan peace plan for Syria

  • Also known as six-point peace plan for Syria
  • February 2012, Kofi Annan was appointed as the joint U.N.-Arab League special envoy to Syria to settle down the Syrian crisis.
  • March 2012, he submitted  6-point peace plan to UN
  • According to this plan, Assad would ceasefire and withdraw the troops and crackdown. Then Government and rebels would do talks, negotiation, allow more Sunnis in parliament. Foreign Reporters would be allowed to do news-coverage etc.etc.etc. but it didn’t materialize because

Houla massacre

  • it is a region in Syria, where 100+ civilians were killed in May 2012.
  • Syrian government alleged that Al-Qaeda terrorist groups were responsible for the killings
  • while Houla residents and opposition groups allege Syrian military’s hand behind the incident.

Why Kofi Annan’s Mission failed?

  • After this Houla massacre, the Rebels started attacking Government establishments again, and thus providing convenient excuse to President Assad to continue mass-murdering innocent civilians, again.
  • Kofi got frustrated and resigned from the envoy job after working for around 6 months. [From February to August 2012] and he gave following reasons why he couldn’t solve Syrian crisis
  • 1. Syrian government’s intransigence [stubbornness]
  • 2. the growing militancy of Syrian rebels [as long as they use violence, Assad gets convinient excuse to use military]
  • 3. Divided Security Council [UNSC] that failed to forcefully back his effort. Since Kofi took on the job, Russia and China have twice used their veto power to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against President Bashar Assad’s regime.
  • U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he accepted Kofi’s resignation with deep regret, adding that the he’ll search for successor to Kofi, who will stay on until Aug. 31. 2012

UN General Assembly

  • Has 193 members.
  • In August 2012, it passed the resolution that denounced Syria’s crackdown on its people and demanded that the country lockdown its chemical and biological weapons.
  • India abstained from this voting.

India’s problem

  • India needs Saudi Arab for energy security and for keeping pressure on Pakistan over Kashmir and terror issues.
  • At the same time, India can’t ignore the strategic significance of Iran for its regional policy towards Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. [recall the Chahbahar port article.]
  • Overall, India has signaled its broad support for the Arab League and its positions on Syria.
  • But India is reluctant to back any externally induced regime change in Syria.

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