Rami G Khouri writes: The talk about Syria by knowledgeable friends and colleagues whose views I respect has turned increasingly pessimistic in recent weeks, with expectations ranging across a span of many bad outcomes. These range from Syria becoming a Levantine Somalia, where power is in the hands of hundreds of local warlords and tribal chieftains, to a totally fractured state defined by a combination of raging civil war and sectarianism that pulls in interested neighbors and perhaps ignites new regional wars.
Speculation about the future of Syria is a growth industry these days, for good reason: What happens in Syria will have an impact on the region, given its central role in the political geography, ideologies and security of the Levant and areas further afield. The events in recent years in Iraq and Libya remind us that developments in one state in the region can have repercussions in neighboring countries, sometimes immediately and sometimes a few years down the road.
The longer Syria’s domestic war goes on, the more fragmented the country becomes, alongside three other dangerous trends: Sectarianism increasingly becomes the option of choice for Syrian citizens who seek security but cannot get it from the state; revenge killings will become a more likely occurrence after Bashar Assad’s downfall; and militant Salafists may increasingly take root in local communities across the country as they prove to be well organized and funded adversaries of the Assad regime.
Next month we will mark two years since the outbreak of protests against the regime, as the domestic battle continues to rage. Syrians have paid a very heavy price for their desire to remove the Assad regime and replace it with a more democratic and accountable system of governance, but there are no signs that either side is tiring of this fight. Despite the destruction of the economy and urban infrastructure, Syrians seem determined to keep fighting until one side defeats the other. The chances of a negotiation or dialogue to end the fighting and usher in a peaceful transition of power seem slim, given the wide gap between Assad and the opposition groups. [Continue reading…]