The Middle East, with Syria at its core, faces a long haul to stability.
The disheartening opinion is today shared in separate think pieces penned by Talal Salman, founding publisher and editor-in-chief of the Lebanese daily as-Safir, and George Semaan, former editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.
According to Semaan, writing for al-Hayat under the title “Syria stirs regional wars and the finale is way-off,” all Syria players know the regime’s fall is a matter of time.
What they fear is Syria collapsing totally and becoming ungovernable or inhospitable to any new regime.
The utter and systematic destruction of most of the country’s cities and townships goes on unabated. The opposition did not leave Homs, Hama, Idlib or Deraa, but little of them is left. That’s what will also happen to the two capitals, Aleppo and Damascus.
The Annan mission that was meant to give international and regional players extra time has breathed its last, prompting the regime to disseminate seeds of conflict on several regional fronts.
Among such seeds are (1) the regime’s talk of chemical and biological weapons to perturb the whole world, chiefly Israel (2) its empowerment of Syrian Kurdish groups on Turkey’s doorstep (3) its apathy to the pouring of Syrian refugees into neighboring countries, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and (4) its apparent indifference to sectarian fighting that could well draw in Arab countries and non-Arab Iran.
In Iraq, America’s decapitation of the Saddam regime changed the country from a Sunnite-led dictatorship to a Shiite-led democracy. In Syria, forcible change from an Alawite-led dictatorship to a Sunnite-led democracy would fire up Iran.
How else would you translate the recent flood of threats by Iran, basically saying that regime change in Syria is just a dream?
“The forceful emergence of the Iranian factor in the Syria crisis coupled with shockwaves of sectarian and ethnic struggle in the region won’t perturb the Russians. They would strengthen her hand in standing up to the West and many Arabs.
“Syria’s breakup and its becoming a failed state after the regime’s exit won’t perturb the United States and Israel either.
“We are thus into a new and lengthy chapter bound to prolong the sufferings of Syrians and their neighbors as well,” Semaan concludes.
In his leader for al-Safir, Talal Salman sees Lebanon becoming the prototype for Arab world statelets gripped by civil war.
Lebanon, he explains, is renowned as a country where society is infinitely stronger than the state.
The experience of the 20 years of armed internecine strife – which subsided but remained simmering – showed that, despite occasional cosmetic change, Lebanon’s sectarian regime is a “constant” whereas statehood is the “variable.” Statehood might dissipate for a few years before being resurrected as per new sectarian power balances and outer sponsors. Once brought back to life, the “state” resumes the role of relations manager and traffic policeman.
In truth, conditions in Lebanon – which appear farcical but are tragic in origin – reflect the turbulence sweeping the Arab World’s Mashreq and Maghreb.
Syria is sinking in the blood of its urban and rural areas, army, security forces and insurgents backed by disparate regimes and policies united by a “sole enemy” – namely a Syrian regime that lost its credibility amongst its people before losing its undeserving “friends.”
In Egypt, ongoing attempts to monopolize power are almost burying the Tahrir Square Revolution. The party that won the presidency for its candidate cannot claim to be the “ruling party.” Nor can its allies accept seeing the “compromise candidate” act as a partisan.
But, though open-ended, the power struggle in Egypt remains peaceful and unlike in Syria, where the ruling party evaporated by orders from above for failing to cover up one-man rule. And while the situation in Egypt is temporary, Syria’s is pending.
In Iraq, the legend of a “leader party” ruling the country and its people in the sole leader’s name is no more. But the situation is Iraq is still knocking at the door of civil war.
Lebanon being the only country that can survive as a collection of sectarian statelets, the danger today is of Lebanon becoming the template for restructuring the “states” around it, whether far or near.