What will be left of Syria?

February 22, 2013, Friday/ 16:16:00/ SUAT KINIKLIOĞLU

If the civil war in Syria continues for another year, there will be no Syria left. Whoever wins the civil war will have a failed state at hand. This is what some political-economic analysts think about the state of affairs in Syria. In other words, if the conflict continues for another year -- which looks increasingly likely -- we will have a regional disaster on our hands.

The dire situation in Syria is gradually starting to resemble the process of disintegration of the Syrian state with the potential of Alawistan, Sunnistan and Kurdistan emerging out of the rubble. Assad is preparing for Plan B, which foresees a gradual withdrawal into the northwestern part of the country.

There are two objectives of the regime:

1. To play for a protracted conflict that will tire the international community and divide the opposition -- this one is already working.

2. To secure an Alawite region within Syria if worse comes to worst.

Bashar al-Assad has no intention of leaving Syria. He is intent on fighting until the end. Enjoying the full support of Russia and Iran combined with the embarrassing inaction of the US, he has every reason to believe that he can survive this war. The United States is said to be “studying the opposition”. After two years of fighting, 70,000 killed, 2.5 million displaced and hundreds of thousands of Syrians living in refugee camps, the US is still “studying the opposition.” In contrast, the US seems to have no difficulty in constantly articulating the role of the more rogue elements of the Syrian opposition. This is more than peculiar.

As events progress on the ground and Syria is being torn apart day by day, we see the transformation of Syria into a regional cancer that will stay with us for many years to come. The instability from the disintegration of Syria will have an impact on Iraq as well as on all other countries in the region, most importantly on Turkey and Israel. Israel is already quite nervous about the spillover effects of the Syrian imbroglio. Turkey is also grappling with the sobering fact that it has been left alone to deal with Syria. Never mind the Patriot missiles stationed along the border. They merely carry symbolic value and are seen as a minimum measure to project NATO solidarity.

President of the National Coalition for Opposition Forces and the Syrian Revolution Mouaz al-Khatib's statement that he is ready to talk to the regime about a transition has been welcomed by Tehran and Moscow. Khatib's meetings in Munich proved successful. Ankara was unhappy about the lack of coordination shown by Khatib but later came on board. Unlike many other Syrian opposition figures, Khatib enjoys support on the ground. He is respected and seen as a genuine man. It is still unclear whether he will travel to Moscow next week and meet with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. If the meeting indeed takes place, it would be a first step towards what would be extremely difficult negotiations.

Khatib's offer provided the hope of a normal future as many Syrians feel they are mere pawns caught between two clashing giants. The quick acceptance of Khatib's offer by the US, Britain and the EU hints at undercurrents that justify their failure to deliver on military support for the revolt and the protection of civilians. The Syrian Arab Republic is now a very fragile political entity with an extremely uncertain future. If Syria disintegrates, we may have a very complicated situation on our southern borders. Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq will feel the direct heat of this disintegration. The civil war in Syria is no longer about who will win, but whether there will be anything left to fight for.