Latest update: July 19th, 2012
And finally there are the Sunni Muslim Arabs who comprise about 60 percent of the population. As a group they would be the new rulers. But they are very much divided among themselves. On one hand there are the Islamists, both Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists; on the other hand there are urban moderates who are more proportionately numerous and politically astute than their Egyptian counterparts. Who will get the upper hand?
Yet even that is an incomplete inventory. In addition, there are many rural Sunni Arabs who could be described as traditionalists, who want a socially conservative state but could swing in either direction politically.
Last and certainly not least are the military officers who deserted Assad’s army and now run much of the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA). They can be described as both technocrats and as Arab nationalists in varying degrees. Would they impose themselves on a new government?
The exile groups, including the U.S. backed Syrian National Council (SNC) seem to have little influence and prestige within the country. Would the Obama Administration and others try to force this Brotherhood-dominated group onto those who did the fighting?
At some point, one side or the other will win and at this time that winning side seems to be the opposition. It will establish a new central government in Damascus. That government will have to complete the conquest of the Alawite region and to decide on whether to grant some autonomy to the Kurds. A huge problem is whether it can, or wants to, prevent ethnic massacres. And of course there will be the question of who, and which political philosophy, will rule. I do not think Syria is going to fall apart. Everybody pretty much has a vested interest in the survival of the state as a whole, just as happened with Iraq.
As you can see there are many questions and unknowns about Syria’s future. These apply regardless of the timing of any rebel victory, and they are going to be major factors affecting the Middle East over the coming decades.
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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