Experts warn that extremist elements might seek to take advantage of confusion as those responsible for the deadly chemical attack near Damascus are held accountable.
By Menekse Tokyay for Southeast European Times in Istanbul -- 30/08/13
A woman reacts during a rally in Istanbul protesting civilian deaths in Syria and Egypt. [AFP]
Groups and individuals with extremist views likely will use chaos arising from unrest in Syria to their advantage, experts said.
Dr. Nihat Ali Ozcan, an expert on insurgencies, terrorism and Middle East at the Ankara-based think-tank TEPAV, told SETimes that one characteristic of civil wars is they encourage radical wings and create an appealing environment for them.
"At the end of the day, the key determinant would be the ones who would use the violence at extreme," Ozcan said. "And the alleged gas attack in Syria has strengthened the hands of some radical wings to fuel their extremist orientation."
Extremist elements within the Syrian civil war have a wide network going beyond the national borders and are receiving powerful backing from some foreign countries, Ozcan also said.
Chaos created by the civil war is exploited by these elements, Ozcan added.
"In the short term, the solution is passed by a gathering between [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] and opposition wing leaders around a table," Ozcan said.
Sadık Yalcin, a university student in Istanbul, said that the extremist elements in Syria would be waiting for an opportunity, such as the chemical attack, to boost their bases and increase their violence in a chaotic environment.
"There is a Turkish idiom saying that the wolf does not need any justification to eat the lambs. So, the extremist elements, which have been strengthening their attacks and increasing the polarisation since two years under this chaos, would continue to create an extremist network by using their foreign contacts," Yalcin told SETimes. "And this will again make the peace in the short term much more impossible."
It also is likely that groups with extremist views could exploit the Syria issue in other countries, Slobodan Jankovic, research fellow at the Belgrade Institute for International Politics and Economy who specializes in Near East issues, told SETimes.
"The situation in Syria … could have security impacts on countries in the region where foreign military bases still exist, such as Kosovo and Bosnia, since there are still American, French, Turkish troops," he said. "The peace in Syria could be reached by constructive intervention of foreign countries, for example, by opening negotiations for lifting the sanctions to the government in Damascus or by creating conditions for amnesty…"
Saedetin Mujezinovic, a city council member in Novi Pazar, the largest city in Sandzak, a predominantly Muslim region in Serbia, told SETimes that images from Syria were sad.
"We hope that international community will, finally, react and find some solution to stop Assad in killing his own people and, afterwards, to help Syrian people in building democratic institutions and system, which will allow them to choose their leaders in accordance with democratic principles as well as to enjoy their basic human right," Mujezinovic told SETimes.
Former Bulgaria Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, who is also the founder and president of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, said "several decades of terror of the Assad clan on his own people" have influenced world opinion.
"Assad was given numerous opportunities, including the strong backing he got from Russia and China at the Security Council, but he failed to transform all those opportunities and support into a change of behavior and of his regime," he told SETimes.
"The number of dictators and dictatorships around the world has declined, but that does not mean that our tolerance for them should grow. On the contrary, the world should become less and less tolerant of terrorist and dictatorial regimes over time," Passy said.
Assad should face charges as a war criminal in connection with the apparent chemical weapons attack, Syrian National Coalition spokesman Kahlid Saleh said. Assad's regime has denied responsibility for the attack.
"Our primary concern is to stop the bloodshed in the country," Saleh told reporters during a press conference in Istanbul.
Correspondents Zeynep Cerman in Istanbul, Ivana Jovanovic in Belgrade and Svetla Dimitrova in Sofia contributed to this report.
What is the best way to reduce the impact of extremist elements? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.