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January 21, 2014

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I agree.


Doug M.

Expanding a little: I foresee either a very imperfect regime victory, or (more likely) a negotiated mutual peace of exhaustion, possibly involving a Bosnia-like cantonization of the country. (Not that Bosnia is anyone's idea of a success, but it's better than ongoing mass slaughter.)

But I don't see either of those being achieved in this calendar year.


Doug M.

I think this estimate is wrong.

First of all, the opposition is as dependent on outside support as the regime, and said outside support has to be considered more unreliable than the regime's base of external support:

Turkey cannot maintain their policy forever, and no matter how Davutoglu might be interested in dominating the near abroad, the rough and unsympathetic logic is that continued chaos in Syria is not beneficial to the Turkish state in the short run, and the state may not be able to outlast the detrimental impact to see the outcome it has invested so much in.

Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC is far more able to continue--however, the necessary movement of Iran out of pariah status (the world needs Iran's demand, in other words) will compel a realignment of diplomacy towards rebuilding ties to Pakistan and maintaining an Anti-Iranian solidarity among the smaller states of the peninsula. Qatar and Oman are countries that I suspect have always maintained a serious communications with Iran, and in a more open geopolitical environment, will be more liable to attempt to play Iran and KSA against each other for their own benefit. It's cheap, relatively speaking, to support the Syrian rebels, but attention may well wander.

As for the Syrian rebels, there is still no real state where they rule. There is no real economic activity going on, except what flows in from the regime and from what oil they can sell to neighbors. The rebellion is thus very fragile and dependent on importing large amounts of assets. Everything that can be looted, is looted.

Finally, I simply do not think the regime is going to have a soft victory mindset here. What's left of it is hard core. Moreover, there are still crucial assets that the regime must retake, such as the oil wells in the east, and full control of Aleppo and its hinterlands, all the way to the Turkish border. Simply as a matter of governing practicality (and becoming more useful to its backers as debtor and as an agency for geopolitical needs), like subsidies or tariffs, and the like. Insuring that Hezbollah has/doesn't have a secure state as a neighbor will also be on the minds of the regional players focused on the chessboards.

For these reasons, I find it very doubtful that the intensity of conflict can simply diminish. There are lots of incentives for finishing blows, and relatively low sense that proxy support for conflict can be sustainable without truly concrete benefits. The Iranians and Russians have a sense of that. The US, Israel, KSA don't have a sense of gaining a final concrete end. As it is, it seems that mostly everyone is simply focused on maintaining a sense of chaos--and I think that will work about as well as it did for South Vietnam. You play to win, and Syria is not anywhere near as isolated as Afghanistan, or as cheap to merely influence.

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