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Syrians feel caught in an external power struggle, less willing to confront their own

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They hear Qatar and other Gulf countries express concern for the rights of Syrian protesters – who are overwhelmingly (though not exclusively) from the Sunni majority – but are much less concerned with the rights of protesters in the Gulf – particularly those who are Shiite, and specifically in Bahrain.

Syrians are also cognizant of the reality that both the US and the Gulf countries are keen to seize the opportunity to weaken Iran by eliminating a regime in Syria that is seen as a lynchpin in the (so-called) Shiite Crescent, which in addition to Syria includes Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq.

They have listened to Russia and China fervently support the sovereignty of the Syrian regime in what they construe as a battle against terror. And they know that Russia just sold the Assad regime an order of warplanes to the tune of $550 million and that Chinese goods have flooded Syrian markets. Of course, they understand that Russia wants a foothold in the Middle East and that China has reason to kill off any kind of Security Council precedent that might come back to haunt it or embolden its own repressed peoples.

And most recently, they have heard the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, armed Sunni tribes in Iraq, and Al Qaeda calling on Muslims – read Sunnis – to assist Syrians in jihad against a godless and repressive regime. Syrians recognize that those invoking jihad or Sunni identity are much less interested in defeating an abusive regime than they are in destroying Syria’s multi-religious and multi-ethnic mosaic.

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