Today, at the peak of speculation regarding who will rule Syria after Assad, we say that the ‘moderate opposition’ will fall before the Assad regime and that the legacy left by it and the regime will be shared by the two ‘brotherly’ organizations [ISIS and the Nusra], before one of them succeeds in liquidating the other, says Urayb ar-Rintawi in Jordanian ad-Dustour
by Urayb ar-Rintawi – ad-Dustour
(translated by Mideast Mirror Ltd)
There has been a notable increase in competing reports and analyses that draw the main scenario for the day after the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but the problem with this over-optimistic wave of propagandistic clamor consists of the fact that much of it is drawn from assessments based on wishful thinking that lack seriousness, depth, and caution and is part of the psychological war that is being waged on the regime and its allies with the active participation of the Turkish/Saudi/Qatari axis’ media. Most such analyses also ignore the most likely scenario if predictions regarding the regime’s fall prove to be correct, specifically that in which ISIS and the Nusra Front take control of the country.
The regime is on the retreat militarily and on the ground. This is an indisputable truth, especially over the past three or four months. But the loss of one or many battles does not mean it will lose the war. In fact, there are credible reports that the regime has decided to move to Plan-B and focus on the center/coastline axis that stretches from Latakia to Damascus via Homs, Hama, and the Qalamoun, where over half of Syria’s population lives. This means that the regime’s loss of one or more provinces will take the war raging in Syria to a new level, but without putting an end to it.
Another scenario is sometimes mentioned in serious Western circles, namely that of the regime’s ‘sudden collapse.’ But there are many obstacles that prevent this from happening, most importantly, the fact that the majority of those who have been fighting on the regime’s side believe they are waging a life-or-death battle and that their options have become very limited.
But let us take those analyses that deal with the ‘day after’ Assad’s fall seriously. Here, it should be stressed that the sole organized forces that are likely to fill the vacuum left by the regime are the jihadi/Qa’ida/ISIS forces. No force in the opposition camp classified as ‘moderate’ has the ability to fill that vacuum. We would thus be facing a dangerous race between the various shades of the jihadi spectrum to reach the heart of the capital and rule Syria from there. All other scenarios and alternatives are mere figments of the imagination or an expression of ignorance and ‘denial,’ or perhaps an attempt to market the slogan of toppling the regime, regardless of what may happen afterwards.
This prospect is causing the West, especially the U.S., serious concern and it does not concern Russia, Iran, and Hizbollah alone. Meanwhile, the Arab/regional axis that is opposed to Assad and his allies seems to be indifferent to what happens or who will rule Syria after him. The important thing is that Assad should leave, that Iran should be de-fanged and that [the Saudi-led Yemeni] Operation Decisive Storm should continue, this time on Syrian soil and airspace.
These fears are what brought U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to the resort in Sochi [Russia] and that have led the two superpowers to initiate a dialogue at the level of experts and second-tier figures regarding Syria. It may also be what has led the Russian foreign minister to say that Moscow and Washington share a common view regarding what is happening Syria but without revealing its nature and limits.
I believe that the coming days will witness a feverish race between military escalation and diplomatic initiatives especially if an international agreement is reached with Iran over its nuclear file.
This is not a matter of looking into a crystal ball and predicting the unknown. For what is happening in northern Syria represents a rehearsal for what the situation may be like the day after the regime’s fall. The violent battles between ISIS and the Shamiyya Front are just a trial run for the subsequent battles that will break out in Syria’s northwest between ISIS and the Nusra Front, which heads Jayshul Fateh.
A bloody and feverish race is underway to fill the vacuum left by the regime in northern Syria, which also includes the areas under Kurdish control. Reports indicate that ISIS is advancing on two fronts, with the [Kurdish] Popular Protection Units (YPG) in the one case, and the Islamist groups fighting under the Shamiyya Front’s banner in the other. On the first front, it is benefiting from the Kurds’ ethnic cleansing of Syrian Arabs and their expulsion from their areas; and on the second front, ISIS is exploiting the various opposition groups’ endless fears, divisions, and rivalry to decide the situation in its favor.
Three years ago, at the height of speculation and wagers on NATO aerial strikes against regime targets in Syria, we said that the first American air raid would target fundamentalist forces in the opposition’s camp, not the regime; and this is what actually happened. Today, at the peak of speculation regarding who will rule Syria after Assad, we say that the ‘moderate opposition’ will fall before the Assad regime and that the legacy left by it and the regime will be shared by the two ‘brotherly’ organizations [ISIS and the Nusra], before one of them succeeds in liquidating the other.
In light of such a situation, we still believe (or hope) that the ‘international community’ has not yet totally divorced its reason and interests, and that it will intervene with an initiative for a political solution for the Syrian crisis before it is too late now that the Syrians have lost their ability to take such initiatives, hold dialogues, produce solutions, and safeguard their independent decision.