A nasty despot, an army mercilessly mowing down its own people, an opposition that won't cave. That description may sound familiar from Muammar Gaddafi's Libya, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime is the latest brought to its knees by the Arab Spring revolutions. And that has left supporters around the world with fingers crossed and breath bated in anticipation of what will happen next.
If you haven't been following the news, the country's ruling family, which has suppressed its citizens—often brutally—for the past 40 years, hasn't had the most pleasant reaction to the protests that have raged there since January. A statement released last week by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, put a conservative estimate of the Syrian death toll at 4,000, as the army continues to clear city streets with tanks and guns. Pillay warned of "full-fledged civil war" unless foreign governments intervene. The Arab League has put economic sanctions on the country. Turkey has frozen its assets.
Unlike in Libya, where the opposition maintained a stronghold in the East, anchored by the city of Benghazi, Syria's opposition is more dispersed throughout the country. But perhaps the main difference between Syria and Libya is that liquid at the center of all Middle Eastern conflicts: oil. As Fareed Zakaria points out, Libya's an oil country. Syria isn't and is more likely to run out of cash, now cut off by sanctions. The downside of this? Without oil, there may be less of a reason for Western governments to get involved, like they did in Libya.
Let's hope the global community can prioritize Syrian lives as the conflict continues to rage.