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Unrest Casts Shadow on Syria's Future

  • Pamela Dockins

A Shi'ite fighter holds his weapon while patrolling a road at Sayeda Zainab area in Damascus, May 26, 2013.

A Shi'ite fighter holds his weapon while patrolling a road at Sayeda Zainab area in Damascus, May 26, 2013.

With no solution in sight to the end of a bloody civil war, there are growing concerns about Syria's survival as a nation.

Some analysts fear the chaos could tear the nation apart.

"I think we are slowly sliding toward a situation where Syria will break apart," said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a Middle East analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.

On VOA's Encounter program, Ottolenghi said after two-and-a-half years of unrest, more than 100,000 deaths and millions of displaced civilians, he questions any possibility of a united Syria.

"The destruction that has taken place...The level of sectarian violence and corresponding desire for revenge at the sectarian level to me ensures that even if the regime fails to re-take the country, or conversely, the rebels fail to overrun the regime, you are not going to find a solution that brings the country back together," he said.

Daniel Serwer, a professor of conflict management at Johns Hopkins University, agrees. He said Syria could become a "nightmare scenario" that destabilizes the region.

"I certainly think that’s one possibility, that the state structures in the region, in the Levant, just won’t hold," said Serwer.

Last month, the United States announced plans to supply military aid to Syrian rebels after determining that President Bashar al-Assad's government had used chemical weapons during the civil war.

Serwer believes President Barack Obama would launch an even stronger military effort before any break-up of Syria occurred.

"If the president [Obama] wakes up one morning and says ‘This is going to [lead to] the partition of Syria and rearrangement of the borders throughout the Levant. This could put at risk Turkey. This could put at risk Iraq. I really have to do something about this,'" he said.

However, Serwer said what the Obama administration really wants is a political solution for Syria.

"There’s not going to be a political solution unless there is some re-balancing of the military situation. The opposition simply has to be stronger to bring Bashar al-Assad to the negotiating table," he said.

A multi-national effort to bring both sides to the bargaining table has stalled.

In May, the United States and Russia announced plans to hold a peace conference on Syria.

Organizers initially hoped to hold the conference in Geneva in June. That slipped to July and is now being considered for August at the earliest.

Further complicating the effort is the fact that the United States is supporting the Syrian opposition, while Russia supports the Assad government.
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