Monday, April 15, 2013

Stalemate in the Syrian Civil War

Despite the growing expectation that the increasing strength and support of the insurgents opposing Assad would lead to his downfall, it may be that the current stalemate between the opposing forces will be maintained for the foreseeable future:

Stalemate in the Syrian Civil War

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah

  • On the second anniversary of the Syrian civil war, those who hurriedly announced the demise of the Assad regime realize that the existing power structures are strong enough to endure a war of attrition with the rebels even with the loss of large portions of sovereign Syrian territory.
  • Some analysts claim that the Syrian civil war began in 1980 when a group of Muslim Brothers stormed the military academy in Aleppo and, after separating the Alawite and Sunni cadets, cold-bloodedly killed the Alawites with knives and assault rifles. The regime retaliated in 1982 by brutally killing more than 20,000 Muslim Brothers in Homs and Hama.

  • The coalition of minorities around Assad has not disintegrated and the pillars of the regime remain in place. Assad has proved that he has the resolve to conduct effective campaigns against the rebels in a very hostile international environment, while continuing to rule and provide for the daily life of the population under his control. Two million Alawites also understand the implications of a Sunni Islamist regime in Syria, even one of the Egyptian model.

  • Information on events in Syria has come from mostly biased sources. The Syrian NGO known as the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has become a privileged source of information on Syria. Yet, in fact, it is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

  • The United States and Europe face an impossible dilemma: on the one hand, they would like Assad to fall; on the other, they do not want an Islamist regime that is worse than the ones that succeeded Mubarak in Egypt and Ben-Ali in Tunisia.

  • The same dilemma confronts Israel. On the one hand, Jerusalem would like to see an end to the Iranian-led "axis of evil." On the other, the prospect of a militant Islamic regime, linked to al-Qaeda and possessing the Syrian military arsenal, is a nightmare Jerusalem cannot live with.
Neriah concludes:
Two years after the revolt in Syria began, the lines of confrontation between the loyalist forces and the rebels seem to have stabilized and an agonizing status quo is taking shape on the ground, just as occurred in the Lebanese civil war of the 1970s. If this description proves accurate, then the situation in Syria will not be resolved in the near future. It may take a good deal longer, though the timeframe is difficult to estimate. If, however, the regime falls, it could lead to a restructuring of the Middle Eastern political map.
Read the whole thing.

Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

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