Syria’s Long-​Term Future: Post-​War Poten­tial Sce­nar­ios

Wars are easy to start but hard to end, and the hard­est is to pre­dict the out­come. Is the Syr­ian cri­sis in any way com­pa­ra­ble to the Euro­pean eco­nomic cri­sis or the global warm­ing dilemma?

By: Adib Abdulmajid
Wars are easy to start but hard to end, and the hard­est is to pre­dict the out­come. Undoubt­edly, the sit­u­a­tion in Syria has obvi­ously tran­scended a mere upris­ing and turned into a mas­sive war between a total­i­tar­ian bru­tal régime will­ing to burn the entire coun­try in order to stay on the throne, and a num­ber of armed fac­tions fight­ing against the régime for var­i­ous objec­tives. More­over, the regional and inter­na­tional inter­ven­tion, directly or indi­rectly, con­tributes to the com­plex­ity of the issue with­out any inten­tions to reduce the vio­lence and end the human­i­tar­ian crisis.
Accord­ing to Moi­ses Naim, author of The End of Power, the cri­sis in Syria is one of the most com­pli­cated issues at the moment. “What do the Euro­pean eco­nomic cri­sis, the war in Syria and global warm­ing all have in com­mon? Nobody seems to have the power to stop them,” he points out. The var­i­ous inter­na­tional polit­i­cal pow­ers, the lim­ited author­ity in the hand of each decision-​maker, and the dif­fi­culty of reach­ing com­pro­mises between them are fac­tors that con­tribute to the com­plex­ity of the cur­rent cri­sis in Syria.
To com­pare the Syr­ian cri­sis to the global warm­ing dilemma can be deemed an exag­ger­a­tion, but what is absolute is that a post-​war Syria can never be sim­i­lar to Syria pre-​2011.
As the col­lapse of the Assad régime approaches, the scenery seems open to unlim­ited expec­ta­tions. The opti­mists argue that a dis­or­der is an inevitable des­tiny in a post-​Assad Syria, but it would take mere few years before sta­bil­ity is regained and democ­racy is estab­lished. How­ever, a com­mon believe implies that the insta­bil­ity the ongo­ing war causes in the neigh­bour­ing coun­tries may be massive.
With its frag­ile social struc­ture, Lebanon is enor­mously influ­enced by the devel­op­ments in Syria. The reac­tion of pro-​Assad Lebanese cit­i­zens – includ­ing Hezbol­lah group – after the col­lapse of the Syr­ian régime is a source of extreme regional wor­ries, espe­cially with the large mil­i­tary arse­nal the group pos­sesses. More­over, the Iran­ian reac­tion toward a change of régime in Syria maybe ‘ter­ri­ble’, since Assad was always the clos­est ally to Iran in the Arab world, and its ‘expan­sion­ist agenda’ in the region was pretty much depen­dent on Dam­as­cus, which was con­stantly used as a bridge to sup­ply weapons through to its Lebanese ally, the Hezbol­lah mili­tia, in order to keep the hot front tor­rid with Israel –its pri­mary ‘vocal’ enemy.
One of the poten­tial sce­nar­ios in Syria is the estab­lish­ment of an ‘Alaw­ite state’ by the cur­rent régime in the west­ern part of the coun­try. The Alaw­ites (Assad’s sect) is esti­mated with 12% of the Syr­ian pop­u­la­tion, mainly based in areas along the Mediter­ranean coast of Syria, with Latakia and Tar­tous as the region’s prin­ci­pal cities. It is believed that, instead of flee­ing the coun­try, the top Alaw­ite fig­ures in the cur­rent régime would most likely resort to the Alaw­ite areas when the rebels’ con­trol on Dam­as­cus becomes impend­ing, to declare an alleged Alaw­ite state there –since the sect will likely face threats by the Sunni major­ity in Syria and this régime is con­sid­ered a pro­tec­tor for the Alaw­ite minor­ity. Another sup­porter of this sce­nario is a régime’s mil­i­tary arse­nal based in the Alaw­ite region –mainly in Tartous.
Over sev­en­teen months, the pro-Assad’s forces have con­tin­u­ously fought against the oppo­si­tion forces of the Free Syr­ian Army in the cities of Homs and Hama in order to impose its grip on that area and demar­cate an abstract bor­der to the Alaw­ite region. A bloody crack­down –con­sid­ered as eth­nic cleans­ing –was launched by the régime’s army against the Sunni res­i­dents of these cities in order to force them to leave the area. The impor­tance of Homs and Hama is that they will guar­an­tee the poten­tial ‘Alaw­ite state’ bor­der ports with Turkey and Lebanon, and the lat­ter is deemed cru­cial since it will enable a direct con­tact between the poten­tial ‘state’ and the Hezbol­lah group –Assad’s ally in Lebanon.
An Alaw­ite state would be in favour of Iran, which is expected to back such a project on the same level as it does cur­rently by sup­port­ing the Assad régime through sup­ply­ing at least one ship­ment of weapons every week to con­tinue the ongo­ing deci­sive war against the oppo­si­tion. Appar­ently, Iran can­not accept the col­lapse of its ally in Syria, and an alter­na­tive solu­tion, such as an ‘Alaw­ite state’ in Syria, will absolutely be backed.
More­over, the estab­lish­ment of such a state will most likely be sup­ported by Rus­sia, Assad’s inter­na­tional ally, since it will pre­serve the Russ­ian last mil­i­tary base in the Mediter­ranean –at the coast of Tartous. 
On the other hand, Syria’s chem­i­cal arse­nal stirs anx­i­ety both region­ally and inter­na­tion­ally. Thee hor­ri­ble sce­nar­ios can be pointed out in this regard. The first sce­nario involves the use of these chem­i­cal weapons by the Assad régime against the Syr­ian peo­ple –which was reported being already done in the sub­urb of Aleppo last month, and an inter­na­tional inspec­tion com­mit­tee is about to arrive in Syria in order to inves­ti­gate. Another pos­si­bil­ity is that Assad resorts to these weapons and use them against the neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, espe­cially after the repeated threats of the régime that its down­fall will mean a col­lec­tive dis­or­der in the entire region. The third sce­nario regard­ing this chem­i­cal arse­nal is to fall in the “wrong hands” or the hands of rad­i­cal jihadist groups, such as al-​Nusra Front in Syria, whose fight­ers are inex­pe­ri­enced in deal­ing with this kind of weapons; the fact that can lead to dis­as­trous consequences. 
With the grow­ing vio­lence and insta­bil­ity across the coun­try, a major­ity of the Syr­ian Kurds demand fed­er­al­ism (polit­i­cal decen­tral­iza­tion) as the best solu­tion for post-​Assad Syria. Undoubt­edly, the hos­til­ity that the cur­rent war can leave among the dif­fer­ent fac­tions of the Syr­ian com­mu­nity may be one of the major chal­lenges in future, and the Kurds don’t want to be a part of the poten­tial chaos and secu­rity vac­uum in the coun­try. There­fore, the Kur­dish demand of a fed­eral entity in the north­ern and north-​eastern part of Syria seems a unique solu­tion for a nation that has suf­fered unfor­get­table per­se­cu­tion under Assad’s chau­vin­is­tic régime, and the Kur­dish peo­ple are appar­ently not will­ing to face a new oppres­sion era. How­ever, such a demand is con­stantly refused by the Syr­ian Arab oppo­si­tion, and the estab­lish­ment of a Kur­dish fed­eral entity in Syria will be backed by no one, except by the Kur­dis­tan Regional Gov­ern­ment in Iraq. 
Recently, remark­able wor­ries are expressed by many regional and inter­na­tional pow­ers regard­ing a poten­tial rise of Islamists to claim power in post-​Assad Syria. Since the start of this rev­o­lu­tion, the régime tried hard to con­vince its sup­port­ers and the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity that this move­ment is led by a group of ter­ror­ists, and today we wit­ness the grow­ing power of the Islamist al-​Nusra Front. Over 6 months, the upris­ing was mainly a peace­ful move­ment, and the bloody crack­down of Assad’s forces was the only rea­son that forced peo­ple to bear arms and defend them­selves, until the estab­lish­ment of the opposition’s Free Syr­ian Army. The reluc­tant atti­tude of the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity towards the issue of arm­ing the oppo­si­tion was a main rea­son for the rise of al-​Nusra Front –which con­stantly receives weapons and sup­port from its Islamist allies across the Arab world; the fact which led many fight­ers of the FSA who lacked a source of weapon to join al-​Nusra fight­ers –with a com­mon enemy –and con­tinue the war against the régime. Con­se­quently, the num­ber of al-​Nusra fight­ers is in a con­stant growth, and the hes­i­ta­tion of inter­na­tional decision-​makers con­tributes to this phenomenon.
Although the Islamist groups in Syria gained a remark­able pro­pa­ganda by the Arab and inter­na­tional media, their pop­u­lar ground seems quite lim­ited, and the rad­i­cal Islamist ide­ol­ogy is con­sid­er­ably opposed and con­demned by the major­ity of the Syr­ian com­mu­nity. Thus, no real hori­zons are loom­ing for groups like al-​Nusra Front in Syria’s future, and they will most likely be defeated after the down­fall of Assad’s régime, espe­cially after the clashes between their fight­ers and the res­i­dents in few freed Syr­ian areas, like in Raqqa city last month, when al-​Nusra tried to impose its grip on the city and it was faced by a broad pop­u­lar out­rage forced them to withdraw.
The alleged ‘polit­i­cal solu­tion’ for the cur­rent cri­sis seems unre­al­is­tic at the moment. On the one hand, the oppo­si­tion demanded to resort to the dia­logue since the early days of the ‘upris­ing’, but faced by a bru­tal crack­down from the régime. On the other hand, the régime is now try­ing to con­vince the oppo­si­tion that it is will­ing to find a polit­i­cal com­pro­mise, but the lat­ter is not will­ing to give up the large areas he con­trols by now, con­sid­er­ing the régime’s days are numbered.
In nut­shell, the cri­sis in Syria cre­ated a remark­able sense of sus­pense to many observes regard­ing how it may end up and its pos­si­ble con­se­quences for the long-​term future of Syria and the region. Some poten­tial sce­nar­ios seem plau­si­ble, oth­ers are hard to imag­ine. The absolute fact is that the longer this cri­sis takes the more com­pli­cated and ambigu­ous the scenery becomes.
Source: ARA News

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