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The Syria uprising has escalated into an all but official civil war as the violence has claimed an estimated 10,000 to 14,000 people in fighting between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
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Syria's unrest began 16 months ago as dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa fell in the Arab Spring. It was widely thought at the time that the Arab Spring would stop at Damascus. Syria enjoys strong support from Russia and Iran, and the West was unlikely to intervene militarily in the conflict. But the Assad regime responded to the initial wave of non-violent protests with a crackdown so brutal that it forced an armed uprising.
The West has not intervened directly in the conflict, and efforts by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan to mediate peace talks between the government and the rebels have failed miserably. China and Russia are using their veto power in the UN Security Council to block stronger international action against the regime. Syria is Russia's strongest ally in the Middle East and provides Russia with its only naval base in the Mediterranean. China, a leading offender when it comes to brutalizing its own people, reflexively thwarts sanctions against its fellow brutal regimes.
Russia and China's support for the Assad regime may backfire on them. Many now believe it's only a matter of time before Assad is overthrown. If that happens, the new Syrian government would likely not be favorably disposed toward the countries that served as Assad's enablers while his forces slaughtered thousands of their countrymen, most of them innocent civilians.
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