Thursday, August 8, 2013

3 Syrias

Suriya al Kubra!

Quick - what is way more better than one Syria?


3 Syrias of course!
More than two years into Syria's civil war, the once highly-centralized authoritarian state has effectively split into three distinct parts, each boasting its own flags, security agencies and judicial system.

In each area, religious, ideological and turf power struggles are under way and battle lines tend to ebb and flow, making it impossible to predict exactly what Syria could look like once the combatants lay down their arms. But the longer the bloody conflict drags on, analysts says, the more difficult it will be to piece together a coherent Syrian state from the wreckage.

The geographic dividing lines that have emerged over the past two years and effectively cleft the nation in three remain fluid, but the general outlines can be traced on a map.

The regime holds a firm grip on a corridor running from the southern border with Jordan, through the capital Damascus and up to the Mediterranean coast, where a large portion of the population belongs to President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect. The rebels, who are primarily drawn from Syria's Sunni majority, control a chunk of territory that spans parts of Idlib and Aleppo provinces in the north and stretches along the Euphrates river to the porous Iraqi border in the east. Tucked into the far northeastern corner, meanwhile, Syria's Kurdish minority enjoys semi-autonomy.

Those contours provide the big picture view. The view from the ground, however, is slightly muddied.

In the north, fighter brigades have set up judicial councils known as Shariah courts that dispense their own version of justice based on Islamic law, including in some cases, executions of captured regime soldiers and supporters.

In the northeast, Kurdish flags now flutter proudly over buildings after the country's largest minority carved out a once unthinkable degree of independence. Kurds, who make up more than 10 percent of Syria's 22 million people, were long oppressed under Baathist rule. Now, they have created their own police forces, even their own license plates, and have been exuberantly going public with their language and culture. Schoolchildren are now taught Kurdish, something banned for years under the Assad family's rule.

Despite the geographic split into three regions, none of the sides can speak of confidently retaining the terrain they control.

The conflict has laid waste to the country's cities, shattered its economy and killed more than 100,000 people since March 2011. The bloodshed also has fanned sectarian hatreds, and many fear that the divisions now entrenched in a country where Alawites, Sunnis, Shiites, Druse and Christians coexisted for centuries will make it hard in the future for people to reconnect as citizens of a single nation.

Syria's partition into mini-states is an ominous scenario for a country that sits along the Middle East's most turbulent fault lines. Any attempt to create an official breakaway state could trigger a wave of sectarian killings and have dangerous repercussions in a region where many religious, ethnic and tribal communities have separatist aspirations.

Pic - "When these factors are integrated into a single assessment, it seems that the regime is secure and likely to remain so, even if some rebel groups are further supplied with weapons and munitions. The effect of such supply is likely to increase casualties rather than alter the outcome of the war."