If anyone would like to know what World War III looks like they have to look no further than Syria. If one has doubt that the war in Syria does qualify to be called a world war, then they should scrutinise a couple of definitions for the term “world war”. According to the online free dictionary, “a war that involves most of the principal nations of the world”, and the Macmillan dictionary defines it as “a war involving many large nations in all different parts of the world.”

Clearly then, much of the world is united against the Syrian people and desperately wants to see their rebellion against President Assad crushed no matter what the price maybe. Some countries openly support Assad’s brutality, whilst others through their deliberate inaction end up providing support to his tyrannical rule. In both cases, the outcome is the same - Assad’s war machine continues to wreak havoc on Syria’s civilian population.

Amongst the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Russia and China openly support and embrace Assad’s regime. Russia’s resurrected Geneva plan is a charade, as it seeks to keep Assad’s bloody hands wet by continuing with daily massacres that have become the hallmark of his rule.

Britain, France and America through their blatant indecisiveness and deception are in the same league as Russia and China. They have all been instrumental in bolstering Assad’s precarious regime by ensuring that all political initiatives advocated hitherto such as the intervention of the Arab League, the Annan Plan and the Brahimi Peace Plan provide Assad - the tyrant of Sham - with ample time to execute his evil atrocities. The rest of Europe is not too far behind in this crime perpetrated against the people of Syria. Europe’s persistent divisions on how best to arm selective factions of the opposition with light weapons - as if this would degrade the military ability of Assad’s regime in any way - reaffirms tacit support to Assad to continue with his evil bedlam of destruction and bloodshed.

Equally guilty are Syria’s neighbours when it comes to propping up Assad. Iraq, Lebanon and Iran not only publicly support Assad, but also actively participate with Assad’s supporters and military units to the slaughter Syrians.

Other countries such as Jordan and Turkey, despite the hefty rhetoric, have done next to nothing to stop Assad’s war machine in its tracks. The same applies to countries further afield such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the wider Muslim world. All are big when it comes to uttering words of condemnation, but have not lifted a single finger to stop the atrocities against the Syrian people.

So what is it about Syria that has united East and West, Muslim and non-Muslim countries and capitalist nations to take such a stand? Why is it that the world is prepared to turn a blind eye to 100,000 deaths and a displaced population of 1.5 million refugees?

The answer to both questions is that the world is afraid of the return of political Islam manifesting in the form of a state, i.e. the re-emergence of the Caliphate. In an article, entitled “Islamist Rebels Create Dilemma on Syria Policy”, published in the New York Times, the situation facing those who seek to maintain the existing world order is neatly summed up: “The Islamist character of the opposition reflects the main constituency of the rebellion, which has been led since its start by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, mostly in conservative, marginalised areas. The descent into brutal civil war has hardened sectarian differences, and the failure of more mainstream rebel groups to secure regular arms supplies has allowed Islamists to fill the void and win supporters. The religious agenda of the combatants sets them apart from many civilian activists, protesters and aid workers, who had hoped the uprising would create a civil, democratic Syria.” 

Thus, the political landscape in Syria has forever changed and this poses a huge challenge to the major powers. Because of this reason alone, they have put their differences aside and have teamed up with Muslim countries (both Sunni and Shia) to give Assad more time to crush the rebellion.

Almost 90 years ago, World War I was fought to destroy the Ottoman Caliphate and plunder its resources. The West thought they had dealt a devastating blow to the Muslim world, and the heart of political Islam, the Caliphate was no more. Today, much to their dismay World War III is being fought to prevent the emergence of the Caliphate in Syria - the heart of the Islamic world. This is troublesome for both the West and their allies behind World War III.

In the past, Muslims of the region overcame their differences and defeated formidable adversaries like the Crusaders and Mongols and reinvigorated the Caliphate. Today, it is no longer a question of if, but when the Caliphate returns, what will be the fate of those countries that are part of World War III?

The writer is a political commentator, who specialises in Muslim Affairs.