News / Middle East

Syrian Unrest Could Have Broad Geopolitical Impact

Civilians gather at the of an explosion in Beirut's southern suburb neighbourhood of Bir al-Abed on July 9, 2013.  A car bomb rocked Beirut's southern suburbs, stronghold of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement,  wounding 15 people, television reports and
Civilians gather at the of an explosion in Beirut's southern suburb neighbourhood of Bir al-Abed on July 9, 2013. A car bomb rocked Beirut's southern suburbs, stronghold of Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement, wounding 15 people, television reports and
TEXT SIZE - +
— Since the Arab Spring, chaos seems to have further engulfed the already volatile Middle East. 
 
Back in 1982, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry official forecast in a little noticed policy paper the disintegration of many of the countries of the Middle East with the violent redrawing of borders and the emergence of smaller, weaker states based on greater ethnic and religious homogeneity.
 
Thirty years later, as Syria continues its sectarian civil war,  some are arguing that prediction is taking shape as state-based nationalism is declining and something larger and older is taking over. 
 
The Syrian war they believe marks the beginning of the end for the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided the Ottoman Empire after World War I and created the modern Middle East.
 
Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general and now the director of a political think tank in Beirut, believes the likely outcome of the civil war is the breakup of Syria. He foresees Alawites, members of an offshoot sect of Shia Islam, and Christians cleaving together along Syria’s coast, and Kurds and Sunni Muslims establishing separate states of their own.
 
That would have devastating repercussions across the region, he warns.
 
“In my opinion the unity of Lebanon, of Turkey, of Jordan, of Iraq will not be secure or guaranteed at all,” he said. 
 
American University political science professor Bassel Saloukh, based in Lebanon, agrees. He says the Arab Spring-uprisings, along with the geopolitical rivalry of Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, have pushed the region into unchartered and dangerous waters. He suspects the sectarianism that has been unleashed will mean at the very least the end of strong unitary states for many Middle East countries. 
 
“I think the only way to maintain them as political entities, as political units is by experimenting with some kind of institutionalized ethnic-sectarian power-sharing agreement,” he said.
 
He says Lebanon may well be seen by some as a model for power-sharing arrangements by other countries - from Syria to Jordan.
 
“What Lebanon serves today is as a model for countries like Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Jordan in the future. Those countries where state power has collapsed, there is no more consensus on the different ethnic sectarian groups living together,” he said. 
 
But the Lebanese model is not working so well either, Saloukh says. And if that is the best Syria and some other Middle East countries buffeted by sectarianism can hope for, the future will be difficult.  
 
“There is a sentiment now in the country and you see it mainly with the Maronites which is that this power-sharing agreement is not working because it is built on a centralized state. The Maronites who created this country find themselves now playing third fiddle for Sunnis and the Shi'ites and they look around and see the whole region up in arms,” he said.
 
Analysts say the Middle East seems to be heading towards a future of enfeebled states and possibly smaller ones, divided along sectarian lines and so weak they are unable to resist the influence of Saudi Arabia, Iran or Western powers or curb the activities of non-state actors like al-Qaida. 
 

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 270 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid