Foreign intervention in Syria will cause the whole region to burn. That is the warning from Bashar al-Assad, the country's president, after more than seven months of uprising.
In his first interview with a Western media outlet since Syria's seven-month uprising began, al-Assad has warned of an "earthquake" across the Middle East, if the West intervenes in his country, adding that such action could cause "another Afghanistan".
Al-Assad’s comments came after Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, made a new call for the repression to end, following one of the bloodiest days of the Syrian uprising when thousands of people took to the streets in two Syrian cities after Friday prayers, calling for the imposition of a Libya-style no-fly zone over the country. Activists say that at least 40 people were killed.
Al-Assad insists his country is different in every respect from Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya and, according to him, any Western intervention in Syria would see the whole region burn.
What does he mean? Is this a threat or a statement of fact? And what does the future hold for Syria and the region?
No direct international intervention has been proposed since the Syrian uprising began in March. And many analysts say that the support for the protesters has been balanced against fears of instability in a country at the heart of so many conflicts in the world's most volatile region.
The first response came from the US in May when the Obama administration imposed economic sanctions on al-Assad and his top aides. That was followed by similar steps by the European Union in August, announcing travel bans, asset freezes and, more recently, an oil embargo.
Syria has also faced condemnation from the United Nations and Turkey. But do punitive sanctions, condemnations and even reconciliation initiatives really work?
Inside Story, with presenter Mike Hanna, discusses with guests: Rim Turkmani, a public relations officer for a new Syrian party called "the Current for Building up the Syrian State"; James Moore Junior, a former US assistant secretary of commerce for trade development; and Kamel Wazne, a political analyst and professor of international relations.
|"Pressure should be applied on this regime to stop the security operation because it's leading now towards a civil war ... and civil war will lead to unrest in the region and also inflame the whole area."
Rim Turkmani, public relations officer for the Current for Building up the Syrian State