by Mordechai Kedar
The sights and sounds emanating from Syria indicate that the sides, both the regime and its opponents, have reached a stage in which they feel desperate and will not waive their demands, regardless of the price to be paid. From the public’s perspective, the threshold of demands rises as more time passes and casualties grow: if, when the protests began, they called for repeal of the emergency law, they now see the regime as the enemy of the people and insist upon its downfall. Knocking down statues of Assad – father and son –and tearing down their portraits has become routine, and the masses do this with obvious enthusiasm.The turbulent bloodbath is becoming more complex: the one hundred murdered today are the one hundred funerals of tomorrow, each a protest in which more will be killed, and similarly thereafter, with emotions becoming increasingly heated as regime violence intensifies.
Fear is dissipating on both sides: the people are no longer afraid to mass in the streets and – in contrast – the authorities are no longer reluctant to concentrate massive fire at the crowds. The breaches in the ranks of the regime are becoming more widespread: The Mufti of Syria resigned three weeks ago; members of Parliament quit during a live broadcast on Al-Jazeera
last week; the editor of a major newspaper was sacked after sharply criticizing the government; senior officers are shedding their uniforms in a sign of protest; soldiers are deserting the army and taking their personal weapons with them; prominent public personalities are openly expressing disapproval of the conduct of the security forces, which received a green
light to open fire at demonstrators.
As the circle of Bashar’s supporters becomes smaller, their siege mentality and cruelty will increase. They no longer fight for the regime but to keep their heads from rolling. The blood of the protesters will be washed away by that of the regime’s fighters, if they are caught in uniform. The loyalists are prepared to fight to the last Syrian.
The city of Hama is the symbol of the 1982 uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was crushed with much cruelty and the murder of thousands. The dispatch of troops to Dar’a at the beginning of last week points to the possibility that it will serve as the symbol of the 2011
uprising. The question is how many more thousands have to be killed in Syria before the world begins to take action as in Libya.
To the government of Israel I would propose parachuting medicines into Syrian cities using unmanned drones. This would be an excellent investment for the future.
Possible Scenarios for Syria’s Future
A. Preservation of the Syrian State Under New Leadership
It is possible that at some point a responsible adult high in the ranks of the Syrian army or the head of an intelligence agency will understand that it is worth throwing the public a bone in order to salvage as much as possible. With the assistance of several armed bodyguards, he will arrest
Bashar Assad along with his brother Maher and other relatives, primarily from the Makhlouf family, that of the president’s mother. He will conduct a hasty trial and treat them as the public expects them to be treated, in order to attain calm. He will announce constitutional changes and economic reforms and schedule elections for several months later. This scenario is
somewhat similar to the current situation in Egypt.
If this responsible adult is an ’Alawi, it is safe to assume that the public will not accept him and will continue its protests. If he is a Sunni, there is a greater chance that some people will wait and see how things develop, especially if he will not be identified with economic corruption and the
bloodshed that took place during the crackdown on the protests. The important point in this scenario is that the government machinery survives and continues to function and administer the state; in the coming years, this machinery will undergo change and those who were part of the previous regime will gradually be replaced.
If the pace of reforms does not satisfy the masses, they will return to the streets, oppose the authorities and prevent the ruler from establishing himself while he pushes the public and its wishes to the sidelines. The masses sense their power and will not cede their accomplishments,
particularly after sacrificing so many on the altar of freedom.
B. Regime Split
The government will split if and when conflicts erupt within the security forces – the army and the intelligence – with some switching their loyalty from the regime to the street, similar to what transpired in Libya and Yemen. If things develop as they did in Libya, an all out, no-holds-barred
war will commence between those in the army who support the rebels and those who support the regime. If developments follow the Yemenite pattern, the army will be paralyzed by its divided loyalties. A potential Syrian parallel could divide the state into two parts reflecting the geographic
division of the forces which develop, with a possible war between the two sides similar to that in Libya. This scenario will create an unstable situation since each side will continue to be ruled by a military elite and Syria’s fundamental problems will remain unsolved and will, indeed, worsen.
The regime will be supported by Iran and the western world will back the rebels.
C. The Collapse of the State
If the ’Alawis lose the battle for the Syrian street and their control of the government, the worst will transpire for them; frenzied Sunni masses will descend on ’Alawi neighborhoods in Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo, armed with knives, ready to detach ’Alawi heads from their necks. All
Muslims in Syria know that ’Alawis are infidels and idol-worshippers and, as such, are condemned to death. The ’Alawis will flee to the Ansayriyyah Mountains, their ancestral homeland in western Syria, and, entrenched there, will defend their lives.
The Kurds in the North will declare independence as did their brethren in Iraq; the Druze in Jabal al-Druze in the South will restore the autonomy stolen from them by France in 1925; the Bedouins in the East will establish a state with Dir a-Zur as its capital; the Aleppans will exploit the opportunity to throw off the yoke of the hated Damascenes. Thus, six states will rise from the ruins of Syria, each much more homogeneous than the former united Syria and, therefore, more legitimate in the eyes of most of its inhabitants. This is similar to what transpired in Yugoslavia.
These six states will not require an outside enemy in the form of Israel, whose permanent role had been to unite the people under the president's banner; there is, therefore, a greater possibility than ever before that peace will reign between the state that is founded on the other side of the Golan (the State of Damascus?) and Israel. As these states are unlikely to
maintain warm relations with Iran, the world can bless this development, which will break the axis of evil and further isolate Iran. Hezbollah in Lebanon will also feel less secure without the permanent Syrian backing it has enjoyed to date.
Heating Up the Border with Israel
Until the 1970s, whenever the Syrian regime faced internal problems, it heated up the border with Israel in order to create the opportunity to tell the enraged masses: “The Zionist Huns are poised to destroy us and, you, therefore, must put aside all conflicts and unite under the aegis of the savior, the president”. This practice has been neglected for thirty-seven years and it is hard to believe that it will be resumed because the public no longer “buys” the story.
As long as the regime has military and police forces at its disposal, it will not attempt to drag Israel into battle because Israel is liable to strike hard, in particular disabling its helicopters and preventing it from operating against the masses. Nevertheless, in the event of a total collapse of the governmental apparatus, someone in the Syrian regime might think along the lines of “Let me die with the Israelis” and launch nasty weapons in Israel's direction. In such a case, it will be difficult for Israel to respond effectively for there will be no one to deter and punish. Israel must be prepared for such a scenario, and especially keep its eyes and ears open in light of the weapons of mass destruction in Syrian hands.
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