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 regime willing to burn the entire country in order to stay on the throne, and a number of armed factions fighting against the regime 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 regime 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 regime is a source of extreme regional worries, especially with the large military arsenal the group possesses. Moreover, the Iranian reaction toward a change of regime 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 regime 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 regime 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 regime is considered a protector for the Alawite minority. Another supporter of this scenario is a regime’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 regime’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 regime 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 regime 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 regime 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 regime, 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 regime 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 regime. 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 regime, 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 regime. On the other hand, the regime 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 regime’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.