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
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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More