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For the approximately 23,000,000 people of Syria 2012 was a year of great tragedy.

More than 40,000 people - civilians, rebel fighters, and Syrian government forces - may have been killed and probably at least three or four times that number were wounded in 2012.

About half a million people are reported to have fled from the fighting and the hardships which accompany it to neighboring countries in 2012.

Another 10% of the population - about 2,300,000 people - are reported to be 'internally displaced' and/or to be suffering from severe food insecurity now.

Even for those whose lives remained relatively normal in 2012 they had to live with the knowledge that their lives could be abruptly turned upside down at any time. One example of which is Ras al-Ayn, a farming town of about 50,000 people on the Turkish-Syrian border in northeastern Syria, which had been quiet and peaceful and under the nominal control of the Syrian government until rebel forces, who were not from the area, attacked it about two months ago. Much of the town remains deserted today and clashes regularly erupt there between the Arab rebel forces who occupy much of the town and local inhabitants who are predominately Kurds. There are many many more instances of such atrocities which were commited by both Syrian government forces and rebel forces in 2012.

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I think that there are seven different ways in which events might develop in Syria this year.

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Spreading Unrest, Death, and Destruction

Fighting escalates between rebel and Syrian government forces, between rebel and Kurdish forces, and possibly even between different rebel groups, as the hardships which the people of Syria suffer also increase.

The unrest then spreads to Lebanon where sectarian battles break out, and to Jordan where the monarchy is put in danger of being overthrown, and to Iraq where the fragile Sunni, Shia and Kurdish balance begins to unravel, and to Turkey where terrorist attacks by various groups inspired by the fighting in Syria and armed with weapons smuggled from Syria increase.

International military intervention to restore order to the region becomes more and more likely as non-military international efforts to prevent this widening downward spiral fail.

A Negotiated Resolution

International efforts result in a cease-fire which leaves the current government structure in Syria temporarily in place, either with President al-Assad remaining in office or with another official taking his place. This would be followed by an internationally monitored referendum and election process in which the people of Syria decide on the form of a future government and elect those they want to govern them.

The Status Quo Continues

The fighting, as well as the divisions between opposition groups and rebel forces, along with the supply of money and weapons from external actors continue at a level similar to that of 2012, as do the resulting hardships suffered by the people of Syria.

A Quieter Stalemate

As the yearning for a more stable normal life grows among the people of Syria and as 'donor fatigue', donor dissatisfaction, and efforts to limit the inflow of weapons increase, the fighting settles into a quieter but relatively stable stalemate where neither Syrian government forces nor the divided rebel forces have the resources to defeat those they are fighting against. Syria becomes a patchwork of areas where the government retains control of certain areas, where the various rebel groups exert control over a number of small areas, and where Kurdish groups exert control over Kurdish-inhabited areas along the Turkish-Syrian border.

A Government Victory

Rebel forces collapse under the weight of their divisions and a growing dissatisfaction of the people of Syria with the rebel forces and with the hardships they have had to endure. Syrian government forces then reassert their control, although very tenuous in some areas, over most of Syria, and a much less intense guerrilla war continues.

A Victory by United Opposition Groups and Rebel Forces

Opposition groups and rebel forces are able to overcome their multiple major and minor differences and to unite and form a viable political entity and command structure which are able to both win the hearts and full support of the people of Syria and to fight strategically and cooperatively under a central command.

A Victory by Divided Opposition Groups and Rebel Forces

The Syrian Government collapses even though opposition groups and rebel forces remain divided and a period of vicious sectarian unrest and fighting between the various rebel groups ensues. Following this an individual or group seizes power by force, or the international community successfully convinces opposition groups and rebel forces to work together in the establishment of a new government, or the international community occupies Syria to restore order.

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At this time I believe that the fourth - A Quieter Stalemate - is the mostly likely.

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Originally posted to InAntalya on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 08:18 AM PST.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tough days for Syria, at best. (10+ / 0-)

    Thanks for the discussion. Here's to a cessation of the suffering. My thoughts are with the millions of innocents.

  •  Wow! I thought every diary about Syria had to .... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    InAntalya, Wee Mama, Aunt Martha

    have "Breaking" in its title. (just kidding) Thanks for this diary.

  •  Hard to say. Some of what I read indicates (6+ / 0-)

    the Syrian govt has the upper hand and the FSA/rebel side is faltering.  Some indicate the opposite, especially if you read the neocon sites like WINEP.  
    Either way, the Syrian people are in for a long, painful transition.  

    "The Global War on Terror is a justification for U.S. Imperialism. It must be stopped."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 09:00:32 AM PST

  •  Current situation can't last (5+ / 0-)

    I agree that the situation has a lot of inherent  uncertainties but I suspect the current unstable equilibrium can't last indefinitely. As we have agreed in another place, the impact of the winter will be telling. It could further weaken and fragment the opposition and facilitate the current government offensive. But if the FSA et al forces manage to "weather" it a new dynamic could open up. My concern is that the US could start to look for a quick political solution a la Brahimi which would drive various wedges into the opposition forces military/political; compromisers/intransigeants.
    One think missing from your calculations is the role of the civilian opposition, which appears to be remarkably resilient, if currently sidelined, but could reemerge once the military situation is stabilised. We also hear very little of what is happening politically in the refugee camps, but something must be.

    •  The Turkish Government generally tries to keep (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poco, Friendlystranger, Aunt Martha

      a lid on politics in the refugee camps in Turkey since there have been several incidents in them - including riots, attempts by one group or another to take over the camps, and attacks on the personnel and police assigned to the the camps.

      Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

      by InAntalya on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 12:35:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks - (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Do you have any info on what groups are vying for influence? There were reports of disturbances in the Jordanian camps some time ago (I gather the conditions are worse there) and the camp occupants there seemed fairly politicized.

  •  Lebanon, 1981 (6+ / 0-)

    Even if/when Assad leaves the picture, the underlying sectarian and ethnic divisions, which have been dramatically exacerbated by outside interference, will not be easily healed.

    Perpetual crisis means never having to say you're sorry.

    by chuckvw on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 10:49:24 AM PST

  •  "A Government Victory" seems highly unlikely. Even (5+ / 0-)

    the Russians seem to be bailing on Assad. These situations seem to quite often show no apparent status quo alteration until all of a sudden there's a dramatic change.

    Delenda est filibuster!

    by TofG on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 11:39:51 AM PST

    •  The Russians are bailing on Assad? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      InAntalya, Aunt Martha, poco

      Do you have a link? I know that Bogdanov said something a few weeks ago prior to the rebel offensive on Damascus which subsequently fizzled. But my reading of that was that it was misdirection by the Russians, designed to give confidence to the rebels and lure them into the attack on Damascus. Now if it was Lavrov or Putin saying they would bail on Assad then I think you'd be right.

      •  The Russians have been making various noises - (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        which seem to be urging the Syrian government to talk to the opposition but they have been offset by other comments saying that Assad will not be stepping down, the Russians have no influence etc. A possible shift may have been registered by Putin (which of course is far more important than a statement from anywhere else) at his 20 December press conference:
        Make of it what you will.

  •  Troops with the most Middle Eastern experience (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    being currently redeployed to the area says that DOD is betting that shit meets fan in the near future.

    I'd tip you but they cut off my tip box. The TSA would put Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad on the no-fly list.

    by OHdog on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 06:02:04 PM PST

  •  Thanks, InAntalya. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, InAntalya, angry marmot

    I'd love to hear more about why you think the fourth option is the most likely one.

    •  I'll probably get some heat for this. (3+ / 0-)

      I won't be surprised if someone says in a huff of indignation 'How can you compare the noble freedom fighters in Syria to drunks?'

      I'm not.

      Have you ever seen two drunks fight with a small crowd of other drunks watching and egging them on?

      After an initial period of shouting and cussing at each other, the two drunks - very vocally egged on by the assembled onlookers - start to really beat the crap out of each other. But as time passes they loose steam and the punches become less frequent, and as this happens the eggers-on begin to loose interest and one-by-one drift away from the fight, leaving two bloodied wheezing staggering drunks glaring at each other as maybe one or two onlookers make feeble attempts to get the fight going again.

      Syrian government forces and rebel forces seem to be at something like the bloodied-wheezing-staggering-glaring-at-each-other-stage now, and many of the donor countries and groups seem to be loosing interest and drifting away as the sure quick victory they had expected and been promised doesn't materialize.

      To summarize - I feel that Syrian government forces, the various rebel forces, and Kurdish forces this year will probably have only enough strength to maintain their positions.

      Additionally, I have been noticing a marked decrease in the extreme sloganeering which I experienced much too much of last year. After a period of time the adrenalin, anger, and grief fueled extreme slogans (such as the pro-government one that goes something like 'If it isn't Assad, we'll burn the country.' or the anti-government one that goes something like 'We'll destroy the country to get rid of Assad.' begin to loose their shine as people start to ask themselves 'What the #### am I saying?'.

      To summarize - I feel that extreme emotions are beginning to be replaced by a focus on realities and practicalities.

      Also, as I recall the objective of this whole affair was more political freedoms for the people of Syria. And now after more than 20 months of death and destruction many in the areas under rebel forces control are beginning to feel (according to some information I have been hearing recently) 'We not only still don't have any political freedom, we are also seeing our religious, social, and individual freedoms slipping away. And this is happening to us while we shiver and starve in the dark.' Fear of the same thing happening to them by people in areas not under rebel control also seems to be turning public opinion against rebel forces and opposition groups.

      To summarize - I sense that rebel forces and opposition groups have begun to lose vital public support, but it is not necessarily shifting towards the government.

      Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

      by InAntalya on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 08:12:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks, InAntalya! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have always appreciated your diaries and I especially appreciate your perspective from Turkey on this topic.  Far too much information about Syria is spun daily by the MSM for American consumption.

    It isn't nice to go to jail ... but if that's freedom's price

    by Rusty Pipes on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 02:54:53 PM PST

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