Syria, a day before tomorrow

Three scenarios appear plausible for Syria's future: agreed transition; segregation; or disintegration. It is imperative that friends of Syria help Syrians create a scenario they can live with

What now for Syria?
Nir Boms
On 3 August 2012 09:16

Amongst the list of fractured groups, the Turkey based Syrian National Council (SNC) appears to stand out as more organized (and better financed) than most. The SNC has become more significant as a result of a major push from Turkey, the Gulf States and the “Friends of Syria” group.

However, its alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood and lack of credibility inside Syria appears problematic to many of Syria’s allies in the West.

The scenario of segregation has been broached a number of times in recent months and could occur concurrently with attempts to create a political transition. Last week, the entire official administration of Koban was taken over by armed Kurds. Similar developments were reported in two other important Kurdish towns-- Qamishli and Afrin.

About three million Syrian Kurds live in Northeast Syria and along its Turkish border. Well organized and motivated, the Kurds have already expressed their wish for independence, or at least an extended autonomy, similar to the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq. Kurdish flags are already seen on Kurdish streets and local armed Kurdish groups are gearing up, just in case.

The same can be said about the Alawites, Assad’s clan and around 12 percent of Syria’s population. The Alawites have ruled Syria for four decades and the fall of Assad could very much spell their own demise. Unless a transitional arrangement secures their future, they are also likely to segregate.

Under this scenario they will use their access to weapons and the military and find a temporary refuge in the Alawite Mountains where the old Alawite state, under the French mandate, once was.

A failure to reach some form of transition has the potential to further derail Syria into a third scenario of chaos, lack of central control and a de-facto failed state.

To avoid taking that road, the current challenge of the opposition and their supporters is to find a way to agree on a transition that will reconcile the different Syrian agendas between its minorities, its political groups and its new and old friends and patrons.

In 2002 and while  speaking of Iraq, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld referred to the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. Many of the latter are facing Syria.

In order to decrease the degree of uncertainty it is critical to implement a policy of inclusion for the embattled opposition to find common ground, or at least, a common platform. Unity has never been an easy task in the region but it seems that some degree of it is desperately needed in Syria.

One voice, such as that of the SNC or former regime defectors will certainly not be enough and bears the potential of triggering further segregation and disintegration. It is imperative that the real friends of Syria will not only listen to the voices of Syria, but will help Syrians create a transition they can live with.

Nir Boms is co-founder of and a Research Fellow at the Dayan Center for Middle East Studies

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