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Sanctions, suspension unlikely to mean change in Syria

By November 29, 2011

Syria (MNN) — Amid a myriad of accusations against Syria has come a new label. The U.N. recently dubbed President Bashar al-Assad's behavior toward protesters as "crimes against humanity."

The BBC reports that the title was given for investigations claiming Assad had ordered the torture, sexual assault, and murder of citizens, including children.

The reports have come out just days after the Arab League suspended Syria and decided to move forward with sanctions. Assad has been called upon by a number of nations to stop his harsh tactics, or even to relinquish power.

Assad is undeniably under pressure, but it's hard to say if the pressure is making any difference at all.

"I think it's causing Bashar Assad to just put the pedal down and even go harder and faster to try to get this thing over, and get back his full control," observes Tom Doyle, the Middle East/Central Asia Director for E3Partners.

"I think with the Arab League suspending their membership, that's pretty significant. It's only happened two other times: recently with Libya with all the killing going on there, and then after Egypt made a peace treaty with Israel, their membership in the Arab League was suspended," notes Doyle. "This sends a signal. I don't think, in the end, it will do anything."

If in fact the pressure does get to Assad, however, Doyle fears the worst. Assad out of power leaves the door open for far worse fates.

"Believers now are very, very nervous about the changeover if it would come, just because it might be a worse group than Bashar Assad," explains Doyle. "There are some hard-line radical Muslim groups that are fighting him. If they get control, it will even be worse than it is right now."

Zooming out even further, if Assad does leave, Syria is not the only nation that will be affected. Hezbollah has promised a coup in Lebanon.

An anonymous source "close to Hezbollah" told news network al-Arabia that since Hezbollah and Assad are allies, Hezbollah will respond negatively in Beirut if Assad falls. The Jerusalem Post reports, "The source said that Hezbollah would seek to fortify itself in the nation's capital in order to defend itself against the threat posed by Israel, which may feel emboldened enough following the fall of Assad to launch an offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon."

Hezbollah is expected to have the support of the Free Patriotic Movement behind them as they take even more control than they have now in Lebanon.

At that point, as differences shine brighter than ever between surrounding nations, says Doyle, "About the only unifying factor that could bring them together is a war with Israel. And I think if you look at Zechariah 12, it says that there is a regional war coming sometime."

The potential consequences of Assad's fall could be devastating. Thus, believers feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. If the dictator leaves, the nation could be taken over by radicals and even lead to war. If he stays, more could be killed. Assad is thought to be responsible for at least 3,500 deaths since protests began in the spring.

"Recently, talking with believers, they've felt less pressure [under Assad]. Because I think the government sees they're not a threat to the government," says Doyle, "many of the believers are thinking the best solution at this point is probably for Assad to stay, believe it or not."

As terrible as things have been for many under the current regime, the church has been thriving. Doyle says as Muslims watch Muslims turn on each other, they are coming to Christians for answers. Entire families are coming to Christ.

It's a catch 22 in Syria whether Assad stays or goes. Pray for strength for believers whatever happens, and for the church to continue to move forward.

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