Who Should Rule Syria?

(Spectator-UK) Jonathan Spyer - Any real possibility of rebel victory in Syria ended with the entry of Russian forces last autumn, but the government's forces are also far from a decisive breakthrough. A victory for the Assad regime would be a disaster for the West. Assad, an enthusiastic user of chemical weapons against his own people, is aligned with the most powerful anti-Western coalition in the Middle East - an alliance dominated by the Islamic Republic of Iran. If Assad won, the Iranian alliance would consolidate its domination of the entire land area between the Iraq-Iran border and the Mediterranean Sea - a major step towards regional hegemony for Iran. At the same time, the Syrian rebellion today is dominated by Sunni Islamist forces. In the now extremely unlikely event of the Islamist rebels defeating the Assad regime and reuniting Syria under their rule, the country would become a Sunni Islamist dictatorship. It is important to understand that "Syria" as a unitary state no longer exists. As a rebel commander told me in June: "Syria today is divided into four projects, none of which is strong enough to defeat all the others. These are the Assad regime, the rebellion, the Kurds and the Islamic State." So the beginning of a coherent Syria policy requires understanding that the country has fragmented into enclaves, and is not going to be reunited in the near future. The writer is Director of the Rubin Center (formerly the GLORIA Center), IDC Herzliya, Israel, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

2016-08-19 00:00:00

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