"Syria on brink of large-scale civil war"

With government troops continuing their assault on the opposition in Syria, Oxford professor Mark Almond says the escalation of violence may result in a large-scale civil war in the country.

­Almost 60 people were reportedly killed across the country on Sunday, in what has been just the latest of many violent responses to the unrest which began in March. Human rights activists say that overall, more than 1,500 people have died.

Just before the latest wave of violence, in a statement that seemed at odds with the unfolding unrest, the country's foreign minister promised a free and fair general election at the end of the year.

According to Almond, one should not see the Syrian crisis as “peaceful demonstrators against the dictatorship” because both sides have weapons and have shown a readiness to fight for power.  

“The real danger is that we could see a very large-scale civil war in Syria,” he said. “Because some of the minorities, like the Christians, for instance, fear that if Assad falls, they’ll suffer the fate of the Christians of Iraq. And at the same time, they are seen by some of the opponents of Assad as collaborators with his regime. So there’s been interethnic, inter-communal violence. And it’s a very, very dangerous situation, but it could also explode outwardly, joining in Israel, joining in Turkey and Iran.”

The expert also warned the international community against launching a military operation in Syria.  

“I think people who talk about international intervention should do it very carefully,”
Almond said. “It’s a bad situation. But will our interference make it better or worse? I fear it’ll make things worse.”

Almond believes the best thing the international community can do at the moment is persuade Assad to keep his promises to hold fair elections and to legalize legitimate political parties.