Tuesday 21 February 2012

Civil war could trigger Syria’s three-way breakup

(Syria map from The World Factbook)

Events in Syria are regrettably moving towards a civil war. The uncertainty is if a full-blown civil war would keep Syria whole.
Political analyst George Solage, a longtime media aide to Lebanon’s former defense minister Elias Murr writing today for the Beirut daily al-Joumhouria, suspects internecine strife might eventually lead to the country’s breakup into three statelets, namely,
(1) A Sunnite statelet chiefly run by the Muslim Brotherhood and covering about two-thirds of Syria’s total area of 185,180 square kilometers. It would stretch from Deraa and Suwayda to Aleppo and al-Bukamal and include Damascus.
(2) An Alawite statelet roughly the size of Lebanon’s 10,452 kilometers and run along the Mediterranean coast from Lebanon’s northern border to Tartus, Latakia and up to the frontier with Hatay province in southern Turkey. The Alawites would thus be building on the autonomy given to them by the French mandatory authorities between 1920 and 1936.  (“Building upon sectarian and regional consciousness, the French set about formalizing Alawite particularism in political and military forms. In 1922, an Alawite state was constituted, albeit in federation with Damascus and Aleppo, yet in 1925 it was separated and became an independent governmental entity. It had a local council with a majority of Alawite members, others being Christian, Sunni and Ismaili. In the spirit of the times, Sunni tribunals were precluded from judging Alawite cases. While Alawite primacy was irrefutable in what was called L'État des Alaouites, the French nonetheless chose to modify its singular communal image. In 1930 the state was renamed Le Gouvernement de Lattaquié. It was in this period that Syrian Arab nationalism gained momentum in Damascus and other key urban centers, and its leadership aspired to reintegrate the outlying provinces of the Druzes and Alawites into the political fabric of national life. In 1936, this was achieved with the annexation by Syria of the Latakia entity, which, though subsequently reconstituted in 1939, disappeared wholly as a distinct political or administrative unit in 1942. When Syria became an independent state in 1946, nothing remained of the French devise of an Alawite État...”  -- Quotation from…).
Ibrahim Hananu (photo from Wikipedia)
(3) A Kurdish statelet running from ar-Raqqah to al-Hasakah and al-Qamishli in northeast Syria on the border with Turkey and close to Iraq. Syria’s estimated two million Kurds have an affinity for the Kurdish movements in Turkey, Iraq and Iran and are already demanding recognition of their right to self-determination. This is despite the fact that Syrian Kurd Ibrahim Hananu is considered one of the most celebrated warriors and heroes of the resistance against the French Mandate. Two Syrian Kurds have also assumed the presidency since Syria’s independence from France in April 1946. They are Husni al-Za’im in 1949 and Fawzi Selu between December 1951 and July 1953.
According to Solage, “Turkey will be first to reject such a partition. A Kurdish statelet on its border is a red line. And an Alawite statelet would create an expanse for its own Alawites and problems it does not need.”