Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, possibly fearing Western intervention, warned that any hostile attack from a foreign country will ignite the Middle East in flames.
Assad's allegation comes as a bit of a surprise. NATO and the United States have both rejected the idea of a large scale military intervention.
NATO has no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a news conference in Tripoli. I can completely rule that out.
Further complicating the situation, last week, the United States and Syria recalled their respective diplomats from each other's countries.
Assad is playing up to the fears of the West at the moment, said David Hartwell, Senior Middle East and North Africa Analyst at IHS Jane's in London, according to The Associated Press. He is well aware of the Western reticence to get involved in Syria because they are scared of the consequences. He is feeding the fears that any kind of intervention will be costly.
With the military and his intense units of security forces, Assad has maintained an iron grip over Syria. The U.N. says that nearly 3,000 people have been killed in the seven month-old uprising. However, now that Gadhafi has been killed and Libya is on the verge of a new government, there is increased international attention on Syria. Although military intervention is unlikely, the international community could bring further sanctions against Syria, according to The AP.
Many citizens who have benefited economically from the Assad regime have stayed out of the fight. The middle and upper class have yet to enter the fray. Ethnic and religious minorities also have not joined the protesters. Some believe they would be targeted by the Sunni majority if Assad's forces crumble.
However, worsening the economy would bring further troubles to Syria. As the international community calls on Syria to end its government crackdown, economic detoriation could encourage larger numbers of Syrians to take up the fight against the authoritarian government.
Week after week, protesters arrive on the streets amid fears of being killed by security forces. However, they also face pro-government supporters. According to The AP, thousands of Assad supporters marched in the streets carrying the flag in Damascus and Latakia.
While antigovernment supporters have not called for citizens to take up arms, some analysts believe that the situation could deteriorate into a fully fledged civil war that can affect the already shaky balance of the entire Middle East and North African regions.
The entire region is at risk of a massive storm, said Sheik Hamad ibn Jassim ibn Al-Thani, Qatar's foreign minister, according to the L.A. Times.
The Arab League has called upon Assad to resist firing on Syrian citizens. They have submitted their own plan that will supposedly end the violence in country. However, some protesters claim they cannot have serious negotiations until Assad leaves office.
Assad claims that many protesters are armed groups of terrorists, bent on bombing and assassinating police forces and government officials. The Syrian government maintains that more than 1,000 police officers, military fighters and other security forces have been killed during the uprising.
Were they killed through peaceful protests? asked Assad on a Russian television interview, according to the L.A. Times. Were they killed by the shouting during the protests? Or were they killed by weapons? So, we are dealing with armed people. Now the matter is clear.