Predictions for Syria in 2015 by Joshua Landis

FSA rebels cleaning their AK47s in Aleppo, Syria during the civil war (19 October 2012).

FSA rebels cleaning their AK47s in Aleppo, Syria during the civil war

Here is a year end wrap up and predictions for 2015 for Syria and no solution in sight. It is very sobering article from a US Syrian expert.

Oil is more important than bombs in that area, and the rich will figure out their odds to maintain their wealth and the poor in Syria and refugee camps will have a worse year than 2014.

Article has some interesting points about US foreign and military policy in this region.

Syria will become increasingly fragmented in 2015. The Somalia-izaton of the country is inevitable so long as the international community degrades all centers of power in Syria and the opposition fails to unite.

Who owns what?

The four strongest authorities in Syria are the Assad government, ISIS, Nusra, and the Kurds. They rule close to 95% of Syrian territory. The Assad government rules 45% of the land and perhaps 65% of the population, give or take. ISIS rules 35%, but controls less than 3 million people. Kurds may control about 8% or 9% of Syria and Nusra another 5%. This leaves the hundreds of additional militias controlling the remaining 5%, but in some areas “No F.S.A. faction can operate without Nusra’s approval.” Jihadis prevailed in 2014.

All authorities will become weaker, with the possible exception of the Kurds. The United States is at war with all important Arab factions. It is actively bombing ISIS and Nusra, while sanctioning Assad. Although, Washington has funding a “train and equip” project to the tune of half a billion dollars, it appears to have neither urgency nor teeth. Coalition forces are divided on objectives. This means that all centers of authority in Syria are being degraded, while none are being built up. It means no one can win. The Assad regime, ISIS, and Nusra are all likely to see their power diminish over the coming year. The FSA militias have become practically irrelevant and must take orders from the radicals. The educated and worldly activists who played such a vital role in launching the revolution have been pushed aside are today without influence. One can interpret this either as: a) Liberals and democrats in Syria were such a small elite that they were quickly swept aside by a the forces of tide of sectarians, fascists, and Islamists; or B) Assad intentionally destroyed the liberals and moderates so that he would face only extremists, leaving the world to face an either-or choice: Assad or al-Qaida.

Jihadis and extremists prevailed

Although 2014 began with US backed militias teaming up with the Islamic Front and Nusra to drive ISIS “out of Syria,” they failed. They succeeded in expelling ISIS from Idlib province and villages north of Aleppo, but Nusra quickly routed the pro-US rebels and asserted itself over the Idlib region. It has also spread its power in Deraa and planted its flag on the Golan. Nusra refrains from swallowing up FSA militias in part because their purported independence is useful. As one USA vetted fighter in Northern Syria explained, “Nusra lets groups vetted by the United States keep the appearance of independence, so that they will continue to receive American supplies.” Once received, the radicals have the authority to commandeer the advanced arms. This is why the US is abandoning the vetted FSA militias and beginning its policy of “train and equip,” an effort to build a Syrian Army completely controlled by the US. Washington explains that the new force will be used to fight ISIS, then weaken Assad with the goal of forcing him to first accept a political solution and then leave the country. This is unrealistic, but what else can the US do?

Syria is locked into perpetual war

The great powers are determined to support their Syrian proxies enough so they cannot lose, but not enough to win. This means prolonged struggle. Most regional civil wars have come to an end only with foreign intervention. Lebanon and Iraq had foreign powers disarm militias and radicals in order to facilitate state-building and political compromise. No foreign power is likely to intervene in Syria to disarm radicals or nurse moderates back into the political center.

Has the US changed its position on Syria?

Officially, the US continues to see Bashar al-Assad as a “dead man walking” and to insist that he “step aside.” Secretary of State Kerry began the year at the Geneva peace talks announcing that Bashar al-Assad had lost all legitimacy. He added that no one could conceive of his playing a role in the future of Syria. This week General Allen, Obama’s special envoy said, “as far as the U.S. is concerned, there is no Bashar al-Assad, he is gone.” The United States finds talking to Assad too ideologically costly & distasteful. But it equally finds the notion of unifying & arming the opposition too costly & improbable. Thus, Washington seems determined to stick to a narrow policy of counter-terrorism – killing ISIS and Nusra when opportunity presents and keeping them on their heals. Washington sees the Syria problem as unfixable.

Read more at Syria Comment

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Categories: Foreign affairs, Foreign Policy, History, Middle East, Military history, Opinion/Editorial, Politics, Syria, World history, World news

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2 replies

  1. Russia is apparently bored with the Syrian war. They have issued ‘invitations’ to all parties to attend a ‘peace’ talk in January 2015.

    Putin is not going to give up the Russian port on the Mediterranean that he has in Tartus, Syria. So, any ‘participants’ might as well get used to that part of the who gets what play.

    The Syrian Civil War started out as an internal one and has progressed to an international one, Russia and the US having an ‘interest’ in the outcome. Though the why the US is interested is nominally based more in a long standing and now outdated prejudice against the Russian government that most in the US government perpetuate for their own political advantage.

    The secondary aspect and more important one, is that some, including those in the Euro, have developed a concern about Russia having a seaport on the Mediterranean and can (probably have) put sub’s and ships there. Boxing or caging depending on whose opinion you read, Russia, out, is not an option however. It has never worked historically, nor will it currently.

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  2. The Russians have been pretending to be interested in peace negotiations for years. It’s complete bullshit. Russia is the leading supplier of the weapons that have killed over 200,000 Syrians, over 10,000 of which were children. Bashar al-Assad has committed every war crime imaginable under international law.

    U.S. foreign policy has nothing to do with prejudice toward Russia.

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