|An eyesore and a headache to come – soon|
Syria is disintegrating. No news in that statement.
Like a clay vase cracking, we hear the cracks, but cannot see them, yet. Not all of them anyways. But just like Yemen, soon the body will collapse. Unlike Yemen there will be those that will pick up the pieces and try to hold the Syrian vase together.
These are international and regional forces that are already been drawn into a mess no one is able to control or contain.
The above map is an assessment how Syria will look in the future, probably in the year 2016.
The main participants will be Iran and Turkey. Iran is heavily invested in Syria, and Turkey cannot afford an unstable border.
The Iranians have allies in and around Syria:
The currently ruling Alawites, with a center of power in the Nusariah mountains in the northwest near the Mediterranean.
Hezbollah - the terror organization that rules southern Lebanon.
And the Shia governed Iraq, on Syria’s long eastern border.
They are all useful as proxies that will hold onto Iranian interests in that country and in the region. And may even be able to expand Iranian influence within Syria.
Turkey may have eyes towards regional hegemony or leadership, but in broken clay Syria it will settle for her immediate security concerns. Concerns limited to the northern part of the country. In civilian communities it will be the protector and backer of political forces friendly to Ankara. Closer to the border and near the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, it will deploy its military. This is for the obvious reasons of preventing attacks and infiltrations from the Kurdish PKK, Al – Qaeada, and other Islamist terror groups.
This division will be the outcome of a brief but brutal Shia vs. Sunni war within Syria. A conflict that may have already begun and over time will resemble a similar conflict that took place in Iraq after the American invasion.
In this division Turkey is already the de facto leader of the Sunni Arab dominated Syrian opposition. This is because this opposition has no unified leadership. And it needs Turkey to represents their interest in front of the outside world and settle their internal disputes.
But Turkey will not be able to rule its portion of Syria along. It will need the Arab League support as a seal of approval. And the Arab League will need presence on the ground to show that there is content, Arab content, to its statements and resolutions. Therefore they will be in charge on the majority of the Sunni Arab section of Syria. Most of it is the area between Damascus and Aleppo. The official control will be that of the Syrian state. But it will be a fragile control, a mostly nominal one. And the representatives of the Arab League will be constantly trying to strengthen it in order to keep it out of reach of Islamist terror organizations and criminal elements. These organizations are already there. Taking their share of Syria. The areas they’ll hold on to will most likely be the buffer zones between everybody else.
It is true that there is no one that is more ill suited to do this than the Arab League. But there is no one else. NATO is out of the question. Russia and China will never agree to it. Neither will the Arab world that sees NATO as ally of Israel. And NATO itself had enough in Afghanistan and Libya. The UN is less unlikely, but at the same time not very likely. Syria under the UN supervision is no longer a Syria that confronts Israel. Keeping the image, and position, of Syria as a major Arab opponent of Israel, on Israel’s border, will be the main reason for the Arab league to step in.
Russia is invested in Syria far longer than Iran. When Syria is in chaos they will need presence on the ground to secure their investment. There is also Russia’s agelong interest in keeping the waterways of the Black Sea open. Which always required presences in the Mediterranean. Both concerns will require at minimum, presence along the Syrian coastline. Not all of it, just in a portion that secures a port for a battleship or two. The West will have to agree because it’s either that or pirates.
The United State has its own concerns. Protecting the oil rich Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, and safeguarding the stability of the Kingdom of Jordan. Both are long time allies of the United States of America. Both are under threat from Sunni extremists and Iranian expansionism. The open question is how and how far will the United States go to protect them. Kurdistan is a part of Iraq and the United States had left Iraq. But did America abandon the Kurds in the process?
And how much will they leave for the Saudis when it comes to protecting Jordan from fundamentalists’ infiltrations from southern Syria?
Lebanon is already caught in a vise between Sunni extremists and Iranian expansionism. Traditionally it is a French zone of interest. The braek up of Syria will offer France new possibilities to protect those interests, as well as new threats. If France gets the co-operation of the EU its involvement can be more effective. Both France and the EU are not great fans of large-scale interventions. This means a mostly civilian presence in a small portion of Syria near the part of Lebanon that is not under Iranian influence. The need to provide security for that presence will increase its military aspect. But the success of the EU involvement will be determined by what will happen in Lebanon.
China will also be involved. Wherever Russia will be so will China. This will be a continuation of the co-operation they have today over the Syrian crisis.
The big unknowns are in the southwestern part of Syria. It contains the Israeli border, the Druze enclave of the Hauran (Horan) Mountains, and the bulk of the Syrian army, stationed in the Golan Heights. Israel will be in a tough dilemma. On one hand Israel does not want to be drawn into a sectarian conflict that will be worse than what she had experienced in Lebanon in the 1980’s. On the other hand allowing the Syrian border to be under Iranian control is unacceptable. Israel already has a border with Iran. (Through Hezbollah Iran already controls Lebanon’s border with Israel). To prevent that Israel may go to war. This will be a war to prevent a war under worse conditions. It is obvious that the United States and the EU do not want to see this border become volatile. And not just out of concern for the security of Israel. It is possible that Russia and China share similar interests in maintaining regional stability, though not necessarily at the same level of urgency. Since Iran needs their protection over the nuclear issue, they may pressure Iran out of that area. Since the UN is already there, (see UNDOF), its role may expand until a more agreeable and effective arrangement is reached.
There is virtually no information about the Druze minority in Syria. Even though the turmoil begun on their doorstep, in Daraa. Like most of the non-Sunni Arab minorities, they are a part of the regime’s ring of support. How that support manifests in the current crisis is unknown. As do the views and mindset of the people that make up the Druze of Mt. Hauran. Not to mention those of other minorities. This makes prediction impossible. But as the situation remains unsolvable, Syria’s minorities may opt to migrate, abandon Syria completely. The Druze may have an extra encouragement to do due to Syria’s growing water crisis.
The most dangerous unknown is the Syrian army in the Golan Heights, which is the bulk of its armed forces. Where its loyalty lies in this internal conflict? What is the situation of its current weaponry and ammunition? Again, no information is available to make predictions. It is possible that the soldiers and commanders hate the regime. But their commitment to the struggle against Israel overrides their emotions.
By 2016 those questions and others will be answered. Till then the approximate map will have to settle for question marks.
The final note is a note of hope. Damascus and Aleppo are Syria’s only hope for a better future in the long run, beyond 2016, beyond 2020. These two ancient cities were always centers of international trade. If they’ll be given effective protection and administration, they can reclaim that function. If abandoned, and allowed to became Mogadishus, Syria will be replaced by smaller political entities, mirroring the 2016 situation. In this scenario Syria will be a swamp of endless localized conflicts, and a safe heaven for terrorist and criminals. A destabilizing territory, regionally and internationally.
p.s. This map can be the reality in 2014.