"With the Shi'ite Islamic Republic of Iran behind Assad, and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Muslim states backing the rebels, Syria could become the arena in which the regional Sunni-Shi'ite cold war becomes an open-ended civil war with the potential to destabilize its neighbors - Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. "We most definitely have a proxy war in Syria," says Ayham Kamel of the Eurasia Group political risk consultancy. "At this point of the conflict it is difficult not to say that the international dimension of the Syrian conflict precedes the domestic one." "Syria is an open field now. The day after Assad falls you (will) have all of these different groups with different agendas, with different allegiances, with different states supporting them yet unable to form a coherent leadership." What started on March 15, 2011 as an internal uprising against the Assads' repressive 40-year rule, emulating the revolts that toppled leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, has now been transformed into an arena for foreign meddling."