Having killed about 20,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands so far, President Assad is feared to be preparing for Syria's largest massacre yet in Aleppo and its environs. The fact that government forces have resorted to the use of deadly weapons in Aleppo, having avoided using them in other cities where there has been conflict, is proof that the Assad regime finds itself in a tight corner and is willing to risk the massacre of its own people. There are fears that Assad's forces may even use cluster and vacuum bombs. The sheer magnitude of the disaster that would ensue if Assad were to use the hundreds of chemical warheads at his disposal has caused Turkey to deploy troops trained against such weapons.
Of course, concerns are not restricted to the fact that every day the Assad regime survives, the number of innocent people slaughtered increases, or the fear that it will engage in brutal massacres. The fear is that the Assad regime, which is certainly evil and cunning to the highest degree, is capable of evil deeds even after the fall of the regime.
Every action Assad performs to buy himself time will strengthen the will and determination of the opposition, and pave the way for the recruiting of new supporters; but indeed, here is where the problem lies. The dissenting groups, who are diverse in composition, have united against a common enemy, but the opposition will face its real test after the fall of Assad. The seeds of discontent and disorder sown by Assad's evil mind around Syria, particularly in the northern region, will become landmines that may go off at any time in the post-Assad period.
Let me elaborate on these concerns of mine. The dissident groups are itching to obtain all sorts of military and political assistance, and will accept them indiscriminately; but there is no guarantee that nations offering such support won't prove partial in post-Assad Syria, wishing to exert influence or impose their own ideological position in a power struggle that has already begun and will only heat up after Assad's fall. While there are coordinating bodies such as the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), we cannot be sure of the integrity of these structures. In the final analysis, the common struggle against the common enemy, Assad, is helping to smooth ideological differences, and put off consideration of the expectations various groups may have about the future. But what will happen after Assad?
We must derive lessons for the post-Assad era from what happened during the 10 years in which Afghanistan was occupied by the Soviet army, beginning in 1979, and the period following the occupation, despite differences. The mujahid groups in Afghanistan staged a strong resistance, exhibiting glorious cases of individual heroism and unprecedented examples of self-sacrifice for the common goal of warding off the Soviets. However, following the end of the Soviet invasion, these groups found themselves in a state of complete chaos and misery. Certainly their story has many lessons to offer post-Assad Syria. Afghan mujahids maintained their resistance against the Soviet invasion with the help of various nations, but soon turned into instruments of these nations in a power struggle in Afghanistan. No one can guarantee that the same thing will not occur in Syria. I hope I am wrong.
However, the first signs that Syria faces similar risks to those faced by Afghanistan have already emerged. The Baath mind, an evil, strategic mind with 50 years' in sophisticated evil deeds, has already sown the first seeds of dissension for the post-Assad period, and it had done this most successfully in the northern provinces of Syria, which share a common border of 910 kilometers with Turkey. Although he was simultaneously staging never-before-seen massacres in the rest of Syria to prevent the insurgents from capturing even a single inch of land from government forces, Assad voluntarily relinquished control of the cities and towns in northern Syria, where 2.2 million Kurds live in scattered groups, to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Although it is just one of at least 14 different Kurdish organizations in the region, the PYD has the potential to suppress all other groups due to its powerful armed forces, backed by the PKK and Assad. The fact that about
2,000 PKK militants were sent from Kandil to the region to support the PYD should not be underestimated.
The chain of events that started with the PYD's taking the control of Derik, Tirbe Sipiye, Qamishli, Amude, al-Hasakah, Sere Kanye, Til Ebyed, Kobane, Ezaz, Aleppo and Efrin may be the first indication of post-Assad Afghanistanization processes in Syria. This region may be under the control of the PYD for the time being, but neither Turkey, for which it poses a big security risk, nor Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, who entertains different hopes for the region, will allow this to go on forever. We can safely argue that every power having interests in or concerns about the region will step in to prevent the PYD/PKK from establishing a republic in the region.
Barzani has already announced that thousands of young Kurds have been trained and armed in West Kurdistan and that they may be sent to the region. We can assume that within the scope of Barzani's vision for the region, these armed Kurds will fight against the PYD for the present time, and possibly engage in a violent war against the SNC in the future. Kurdistan Coalition member Mahmud Osman has signaled threats to Syria's integrity post-Assad, telling Kurds “to refrain from narrow-scoped partisanship in administering the freed areas in Syria, but to act with a Kurdistan-oriented approach.”
As has long been mooted, Assad may establish a small Nusayri state in Latakia and Tartus as a last resort in his efforts to keep the Baath regime alive. By voluntarily ceding the country's northern region to the pro-regime PKK/PYD, we can conclude Assad has taken a major step toward implementing this scenario. And Assad would certainly love to have a buffer zone created by the PKK/PYD between its small Nusayri state and Turkey. Therefore, a fragmented Syria would act in his favor.
This risk of fragmentation sown by Assad alone is insufficient for us to conclude that Syria will face tremendous dangers in the post-Assad era. We must be willing to invest hours of analysis and thought into the security and political risks to Turkey posed by PKK/PYD control over a region sharing a common border with Turkey, or the PKK/PYD's taking sides in a power struggle in Syria. In calculating these risks, the possible roles of İran, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Russia, Iraq, northern Iraq and Israel in determining the fate of the region must also be taken into account.
The collapse of the Assad regime, or its withdrawal to a small Nusayri state following a series of ethnic cleansing operations, may take weeks or months. But it is best for all of us, including the heroic Syrian mujahids, to keep in mind the pessimistic notion that far greater trouble may be waiting for us in the post-Assad era, and to take this possibility into consideration in any calculations. We should not let the bloodshed continue in Syria post-Assad as a result of conflict between the Salafi groups, armed by Saudis, tolerated by all groups for the time being, the al-Qaida terrorist organization, with unknown sources of backing, and other armed groups with different supporters and political visions.