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Scenarios For Syria: With Or Without Assad, Chaos Most Likely Outcome

Most observers consider it unlikely that Bashar al-Assad  can hang on to power in Syria. But even if he does fall, what happens next?
Most observers consider it unlikely that Bashar al-Assad can hang on to power in Syria. But even if he does fall, what happens next?
By Golnaz Esfandiari
As the conflict in Syria rages on, possible future outcomes would appear to depend on whether President Bashar al-Assad holds on to power or falls, and if he does go, whether some sort of order prevails or Syria descends into chaos.

ASSAD FALLS, CHAOS REIGNS

Civil War

Assad's regime falls, and Syria's multiethnic and multisectarian society bares its teeth. Increased sectarian violence leads to full-blown civil war.

"In Syria we have sectarian differences where an Alawite regime based on an Alawite minority is perhaps going to lose power to a Sunni majority that controls about 70 percent of the population," says Wayne White, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and former deputy director of the U.S. State Department's office of Intelligence for Near East and South Asia.

"Also there is a Christian minority of 10 percent, which has been at least passively supportive of the regime. So we're probably going to see differences among extremist and moderate rebels. We're going to see differences from region to region and ethnic and sectarian score-settling."

Amid the chaos of civil war, Syria splinters into separate enclaves with ambitions to become autonomous republics within Syria, or even separate states.

Alawite Ministate

Upon being ousted from Damascus, Assad's regime dominated by the Alawite minority retreats to its heartland in western Syria. From its mountainous stronghold, the new ministate is in a position to consolidate power and battle its enemies.

Fabrice Balanche, director of the French research center Gremmo and an expert on Syria, says there is a good chance such a state could receive outside support.

"Russia and Iran can support an Alawite state on the coast, like [Russia's support for] Abkhazia in Georgia," Balanche says. "For Russia, so it can keep its [naval] base in Tartus. For Iran, it's not bad because it can keep [influence] in the Mediterranean Sea, and it can keep a small state to help Hizballah in Lebanon."

Kurds Break Away

The country's Kurds, building on the power they were ceded by Assad as the insurgency grew, make their bid for independence.

The sight of the Kurdish flag causes alarm in Ankara, which fears that its archenemy, the Kurdistan Workers Party, will gain a new staging ground to attack Turkey and incite Turkey's own Kurdish population.

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Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu traveled to Iraq's Kurdish region in early August to discuss the prospect of Syrian Kurdish autonomy with Iraqi Kurdish leader Masud Barzani. Now Davutoglu looks to build on assurances he received from Barzani that efforts to exploit the power vacuum in Syria would be considered a common threat.

In neighboring countries, the chaos in Syria raises tensions between Sunnis and Shi'a. Deadly clashes that broke out early on in northern Lebanon between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime spread.

In Iran, the fall of Assad costs Tehran its main strategic ally in the region. To make up for the loss, Iran does its best to regain a foothold in Syria by capitalizing on contacts it cultivated within the Syrian opposition while Assad was still in power.

At the broader level, the situation in Syria heightens the rivalry among Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

Humanitarian Cost

Eighteen months of insurgency have left 17,000 dead in Syria, and those numbers continue to climb as the fighting spreads. Waves of Syrians decide to join the tens of thousands of refugees who have already taken refuge in Lebanon, Jordan, and other neighboring countries.

Likelihood: Most observes agree -- the fall of Assad falls is not a matter of if, but when.

ASSAD FALLS, ORDER RESTORED

Coalition Government


The Free Syrian Army ousts Assad, and embarks on an orderly transition under a coalition that includes various opposition groups. Much of the groundwork has already been laid due to the efforts of the Syrian National Council, an opposition umbrella group that worked from Turkey during the insurgency. As a result, a transitional unity government is able to quickly implement its ready-made constitution and election law.

Regional Impact

Those who supported Assad's regime in the international arena have lost face with his ouster in the eyes of the Syrian opposition, and some now face repercussions at home.

"If the Assad regime falls, after the fall of the Mubaraks, the Qaddafis, and the Ben Alis, I think this would be an important impetus for the people inside Iran to rise again, once again against [Iranian President Mahmud] Ahmadinejad and the regime of the ayatollahs," says Ed Husein, a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.

"And I think they're very wary, much like the Russians are, of the kind of precedent this sets that when you have mass uprisings backed by the West, to some extent in varying degrees, what happens is that the uprisings win. And if they can hold it down and at least set one precedent in the region that it didn't work, it plays to their advantage both domestically and regionally."

The fall of Bashar al-Assad (right ) would be a "disaster" for Iran and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.The fall of Bashar al-Assad (right ) would be a "disaster" for Iran and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
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The fall of Bashar al-Assad (right ) would be a "disaster" for Iran and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
The fall of Bashar al-Assad (right ) would be a "disaster" for Iran and President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
No Assad in Damascus would also be a "horrible scenario" for Iran in terms of its broader regional influence, particularly its support for Lebanon's Hizballah, says the Middle East Institute's Wayne White.

"It means that Iran will be very hard-pressed to supply Hizballah with weapons and ammunition and other materials because all of that, practically all of that, came through Damascus International Airport," he notes, "and a new regime angry with the Allawite previous rulers for their support of the Shi'a in Lebanon and angry at Iran, will surely cut that off."

In turn, Hizballah is also "a significant loser," says Bruce W. Jentleson, professor of public policy and political science at Duke University.

"They're losing their principal supporter in Syria," he adds. "I think they have also lost some face among the Lebanese people to the extent that the violence has come over to the borders in Lebanon, a country that has had much too much violence of its own over the past few decades.

Russia, too, pays heavily. "So if the Assad regime falls, Russia's investment, Russia's equities in Syria are finished," White says. "She will lose her naval base at Larakia and she will lose her arms contracts there. She will lose her large embassy there. For the Russians it will be a catastrophe."

Likelihood: The fragmented state of the Syrian opposition and the lack of coherent leadership mean the odds are stacked against a coalition pulling off an orderly transition. And given the level of violence and atrocities that have taken place in Syria, most analysts are not optimistic of reconciliation and dialogue.

ASSAD STAYS

Assad shakes off the rebellion and high-level defections within his camp and emerges victorious. With the support of the Syrian Army, and unabated repression against rebel areas, he has worn down the resistance. Assad's control of the country's stockpile of chemical weapons staves off any thought of outside intervention and makes to dangerous to topple from within. A major crackdown against members of the Free Syrian Army ensues, and members of the opposition are forced to leave the country or go underground.

Nevertheless, Assad is not in an envious position. Attacks by radical Islamists active in Syria rise. Assad's regime stands isolated, and faces tremendous challenges due to sanctions, a poor economy, and international pressure.

Regional Impact

Russia remains one of Assad's main allies, takes the diplomatic high road, and continues to support Syria internationally.

Iran boosts assistance to its only Arab ally and builds on the precedent set that not all regional uprisings backed by the West are successful.

Likelihood: Most observers consider the prospect of Assad remaining in power to be highly unlikely. But it isn't entirely out of the question.

Gremmo director Balanche says there are at least two possible scenarios under which he could retain power. "He could stay in power if the Free Syrian Army is, for example divided, if there is fighting within the Free Syrian Army and some members accept negotiations with Assad, for example," he says.

The other would be for internal actors to end their support for the Free Syrian Army. "If you have deal between Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar that Saudi and Qatar accept to not support the Free Syrian Army, then why not?" Balanche says.

WILD CARDS

Islamist Threat


Radical insurgents who have taken up arms across Syria have gained strength as a result of the insurgency.

"Al-Qaeda in Syria is on the increase and, with or without the Assad regime in place, Al-Qaeda is set to play an important role in months to come," notes Husein of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Rogue Chemical Weapons

Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons falls into unpredictable hands, leaving the entire world on high alert.

"With Islamic militants loose in the country, some of which are openly declaring allegiance to Al-Qaeda, they could, some of them, get into extremist hands in the international arena, which is very dangerous. And also, a regime which was falling might pass them, in its death agony, pass some of them to Hizballah," says the Middle East Institute's Wayne White.

"And the most lethal part of the arsenal is comprised of missiles with chemical-tipped warheads and artillery shells, and so if Hizballah gets a hold of that the Israelis are going to be absolutely terrified."
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
August 18, 2012 14:13
whatever happens

at least now we should no longer be taken for a ride

hearing about poor children and poor women fighting against Assad



Now that it is clear to everyone that this is a war for power

that the insurgents are funded and armed by foreign powers

only remains us

to see how it turns out


But no one try to present this war as a war for freedom!

but no one vnga to present this war as a war for freedom!
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
August 23, 2012 20:37
What Freedom?
Darkness sleep into the World.
German-British Archeology's genome
Forged pseudo-Academic's for race wars.

1954 pact resurrect empires employed doom,
Law of God and UN Charter ordered be forgotten.
Ethnic brotherhoods united in nations, throat-cutten.
Artificial revolving door - ideology of an imperial slitter.
"New Halifat or else" employing USA bombastic boom.

Russia might protect base renting, USA might see it too,
As Stretching NATO line from Kashmir through Timbuktu.
However, to destroy ethnic brotherhood of national culture,
With minorities that joined different times, the imperio brew,
Is it Hillary's affinity to Russia-Germany, smiling with Merkel?

Russian attacked law of God long ago as "Stalinist nations",
Attempting repopulate CIS countries with ethnic Russians.
The same East Europe, dividing with German and Austrian,
New Empires, bashing UN charter - "nalepil Stalin" nations!
Russia started with first God's Human Civilization -Georgia.

(Look at www.WorldFreedomAndTruth.info, pictures)

(will continue)

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
August 18, 2012 18:30
The most likely scenario for Syria is the victory of the legitimate Syrian govt of Bashar al-Assad (with the help of Russia, China and Iran) against the US-Saudi-backed terrorists. I wish the people of Syria success in their struggle against the US imperialism and against the Saudi model of "democracy"!

by: Steve from: US
August 18, 2012 19:24
If the West stopped fueling these insurgencies and wars, thousands of people would still be alive today.

by: Jack from: US
August 18, 2012 21:39
US government and its NATO minions and Saudi Arabia bear full responsibility for death and destruction they inflicted on Syrian people by supporting Sunni thugs and Al Qaeda. US government is the major sponsor of terrorism
In Response

by: James from: Nebraska, USA
August 19, 2012 12:21
I must have missed something. Last I heard, there are no NATO troops in Syria, nor anywhere near it except Turkey (a NATO nation with thousands of Syrian refugees). The only foreign troops on Syrian soil are the Russians at their base, and they are staying there. As for funding the resistance, at least in public the USA and the rest of NATO are not doing that. But at least Asma (Bashir's wife) can no longer spend hundreds of thousands of her people's dollars on luxury items from Paris.
In Response

by: Dog Bar from: Earth
August 20, 2012 00:15
long time ago a man call Lloyd George, Once said,
'There will be war within a generation',
He was talking about the end of world war one.
Syria like Iraq, Jordan, Lebenon, Gazza & West Bank
Palestine/Isreal.
Where all part of Turkey none then as the Ottoman Empire.
The British, French and American fueding with the Turks over land grabs.
The silly Turks did not chose to stay nutural losing the war along side the Germans. Then having to ceed land and sign treaties.
British, French and Americans rubbed there hands with glee,
Konker and Divide another word of ethic cleansing and regime change. They Divided The Ottoman Empire up leaving only Turkey to the Ottomans. America got key naval & military base cross the regon like Kuwait Saudi Arabia. The French got Syria, Lebenon, The Britsh got Palestine, Jordan and Iraq.
The Britsh with American finace help create Isreal in 1947.
Dividing up Palestine in two a two state Gazza & the West Bank. Twenty years later Isreal has nuclear technology.

If only they had not divided up the Ottoman Empire the world
would be for sure a hell of a safer place now.
The British, French and the Americans are to blame without
a dought why not admistration instead of land grabs and
punitive punishments like crippling financial melt down like
what happen in Germany .

by: William from: Aragon
August 19, 2012 01:39
"...possible future outcomes would appear to depend on whether President Bashar al-Assad holds on to power or falls." A penetrating insight, thanks RFERL.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
August 20, 2012 05:20
By the way, while Hillary Clinton is talking about the "last days" of Bashar and the RFE/RL is "discussing" future scenarios for Syria, the President of the country Bashar al-Assad appeared yesterday in the mosque of Damascus to celebrate the end of Ramadan, which indicates of the fact that he is in a good health and by and large controls the situation. Here you have a picture of him published by today's Spanish media: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2012/08/19/actualidad/1345370294_334971.html
In Response

by: Rick
August 20, 2012 15:02
the real problem nowadays
is to be able to understand something on this situation


I am a bit disgusted by our media
that are capable of saying everything and its opposite
reporting uncritically any insurgent bulletin


able of broadcasting imaginary video from the front
with any type of comment that is proposed them


Sometimes it seems to live in a world populated by emulators of RFE / RL
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
August 21, 2012 05:00
Of course, you are right, Rick, but if one follows attentively the media discourse on the situation, you can very easily see that the only thing the Western media is doing is trying to say somthing that would match the official position of the US govt in the hope of receiving from the latter some more money and thus postponing the closure of their "outlet" for a few more months :-)).
In Response

by: rick
August 21, 2012 13:06
maybe money is the first vector
but i see an other, much more worse
and it is the

"intellectual laziness"

much more comfortable
less demanding and
potentially less compromising

to be conformed to the mass of sheeps

If we don't fight the empire of the "single thought"

how can we denounce the lack of freedom?

In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
August 24, 2012 00:26
It is like Russia.
If I had once say that West shouldn't do it,
Russia jumped on it.
Show them a finger and Russia eat-up the whole fingerer.
Tell the World that Syrian must negotiate for free elections
and fear representation of all Syrian communities, while
Assad still hold back unleashing anarchy of killings, and you already say victoriously:
- "Ura Great Russia and Assad!"

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
August 24, 2012 03:44
I see here assembled a "world-class analytics"-))))).They talk about everything, but not about the main reason..
-----------------------------------------
Many countries today are full of people and the number of unemployed, the poor, lumpens and dissatisfied -many times higher than number of people with incomes..People want to eat, good apartments, cars, wealth.Enough spark to run them to rob, rape, murder
The task of those with money have the police and the army, and pay them well to keep under control the crowds of losers...
When they do not have enough money for the police and the army, the problems begin..
All who are now with the weapon -explodes and kills, dreams about the same thing-"if we win, I'll be rich and able to buy a nice house, cars and a lot of women..."I do not know, maybe Mr.Whitmore. thinks а little about other things but most people think about money and wealth or about decent and normal life, if you will call it that-syrians including
---------------------------------

In Response

by: rick from: milan
August 25, 2012 22:34
correct
Are many years that I have the same idea ,
this is a society built from the rich
for preserve and increase their wealth

We are not very different from those little towns in the "far West"
that we see in many movies
in which the banker
or the big farmer
pay a corrupt sheriff
or rather a gang of henchmen.

The problem nowadays is that behind this suffering
behind this desire to change the situation

there isn't any ideology

able to theorize and channel the energies for a revolution.


Theoretically the Communist ideology for this kind of fight would be perfect

but at our days it is improponible


If there was an alternative ideology

Greece will done already a revolution

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