Thursday, February 23, 2012

Q&A: Nir Rosen's predictions for Syria

Journalist who recently spent time travelling the country draws on his experiences to consider Syria's fate.

Nir Rosen

"Journalist Nir Rosen recently spent two months in Syria. As well as meeting members of various communities across the country - supporters of the country's rulers and of the opposition alike - he spent time with armed resistance groups in Homs, Idlib, Deraa, and Damascus suburbs. He also travelled extensifvely around the country last year, documenting his experiences for Al Jazeera.

This is the final of a series of interviews he gave to Al Jazeera upon his return. Catch up by reading his comments on Syria's armed opposition, the country's protest movement, sectarianism and daily life in Syria

Al Jazeera: To quote General David Petraeus in Iraq: 'Tell me how this ends.'

Nir Rosen:
The regime can survive for a long time, even if it steadily loses control of territory within the country. It is very unlikely that there will be any large-scale international military intervention. In Washington, there is a great deal of frustration. Zionists and advocates of the muscular use of US power, including several Republicans, are calling for Obama to arm the opposition. Even the neoconservatives are climbing out from under their rocks to call for a US military intervention. Fox News has seized on this cause too.....

Only a "Hama" could change the equation. Nobody can say exactly what that would entail, because "Hama" has become an epithet, a symbol, it just means for something terrible to happen. So, until now there is no Hama-type event that the opposition or international media could use to give leaders in Turkey or the West a pretext for humanitarian intervention or to delegitimise the country's leadership. Such an incident would have to be so grave that international opponents would use it to obliterate the Russian and Chinese veto in the United Nations, and to criminalise those two countries for their backing of the Syrian regime....

If the struggle drags on, the local civilian "political" leadership of the revolution will lose influence, and the more moderate Sufi sheikhs who exercise an influence over armed groups will also lose control. The insurgency and its supporters will become increasingly radicalised. They will condemn those leaders who looked to the outside world for support, and those who called for restraint. Those voices who say Islam is the only solution will become loudest; those voices calling for a declaration of jihad will be raised, and they will, in my opinion, target Sunni rivals as well as Alawites and other minorities. This scenario is also possible if the regime kills or captures enough senior leaders of the revolution.....

The insurgency will gradually carve out autonomous zones, from Idlib to Hama to Homs and approaching the suburbs of Damascus. Foreign intelligence agencies will eventually provide covert assistance to the insurgency. But Iranian - and possibly Russian - advisers will likely provide advice to the regime in counter-insurgency. So parts of the country will fall into opposition hands, and parts will remain in the hands of the regime. Alawites in Homs may flee to the villages they originally came from. Christians will flee to their former villages or to Damascus. Both of these trends have already started. Sunni remaining in Latakia will be vulnerable, and in the event of Alawites returning to Latakia's mountain villages, fleeing from other parts of the country, the region's Sunni may also be forcibly displaced.

In this scenario, some villages in rural Hama and Homs governorates will fight between each other. Damascus will see further assassinations and bombings. Working class Alawite neighborhoods of Damascus, where members of the security forces live - such as Ish al Warwar, Mazze 86 and Sumeria - will be besieged, or face reprisals from angry Sunni. In Aleppo, powerful rival Sunni clans - who hate each other and have access to arms - will turn on each other and feud as soon as the state weakens. The elites of Aleppo might once have preferred for the Assads to stay in power, but increasingly they are giving up hope that he can pull them back from the abyss...."

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