The situation in Syria is deteriorating. To the east, the city of Tadmur has fallen into the hands of Islamic State, giving that organization control over nearly half the country, including the areas bordering on Iraq and Jordan. Assad’s regime has lost the border crossings to Iraq, while the military airfields in the desert -Tadmur and T4 – have fallen to ISIS. Hundreds who lived in the city and helped the regime have been slaughtered by Jihadist knives and their bodies flung onto the streets. The world is concerned that Tadmur’s antiquities, priceless relics of ancient cultures, will suffer the same fate at the hands of ISIS as did the ancient artifacts of Iraq.
Currently, there are several combat zones focused on the western part of the country, the area where most Syrians live and where most of the agriculture and industry are located. Battles rage between the regime and a coalition of rebel forces, most of them Islamists attempting to overthrow Assad, mainly in the Qalamoun mountains and the Idlib region. Fierce fighting is taking place in both areas and over the past few weeks, the regime and its ally, Hezbollah, have been losing ground as well as more and more fighters and equipment.
The deteriorating situation in Syria has forced Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader who led his organization into the Syrian quagmire, to schedule three appearances in which he found himself facing mounting criticism from Lebanese Shiites. The large number of Hezbollah casualties has raised the possibility of a general draft, causing high school pupils to be kept from school by their Shiite parents for fear of forced induction into the Hezbollah militia.
The terrible situation in which the Syrians have found themselves has sown panic among the Alawites, who know full well that the connection between their heads and their bodies has a good chance of being severed if the Jihadists prevail. This, naturally, causes them to look for someone to blame and their natural choice is Bashar Assad. Many Alawites accuse Assad of destroying the country and creating the situation in which they – that is, close to two million people – are now in mortal danger. They know how the majority of Syrians view them after forty five years of the Assad family’s regime and its extreme cruelty, cruelty which was especially evident when dealing with Sunni opponents.
The Alawites are deathly afraid of the day that mass graves of about twenty thousand people who “disappeared” in Tadmor prison between 1980 and 1981 will be found. Most were peaceful citizens murdered for being suspected of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. The regime has never told their bereaved parents, widows and orphaned children the fate of their loved ones. The discovery of the graves and the sight of the many skulls they contain will serve to exponentially increase Sunni hatred and thirst for revenge against the Alawites.
Alawites are fleeing enclaves and neighborhoods located in Shiite cities – Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama – for the regions they came from in northwest Syria, but the rebels are getting closer and threatening to annihilate them. Suspicions run rife, with Alawites accusing one another of collaborating with the enemy, or attempting to flee the country in order to save themselves. In the city of Qardaha, the Assad family’s home town, a fight broke out several days ago, in which two of the ruler’s cousins were killed.
Even the Druze, who are traditionally loyal allies of the Alawites, have begun washing their hands of any connection to them and their regime. Sheikh Hamoud Al Hinawi, one of the Druze spiritual leaders, said,this week,that “recent events have shown that reliance on what was once called ‘the Syrian Army’ is of no value.” The Sheikh despaired of the ability of Assad’s forces to protect Druze enclaves in southern Syria, especially after the transfer of significant forces that had been keeping the Sunni rebels at bay to other fronts – the Qalamoun mountain range and the Idlib region. The sheikh called on the regime to return to the Druze the heavy and medium strength weaponry that was moved from the area so as to enable them to defend themselves.
The deterioration of the Syrian army is causing it to lose all restraint and it is beginning to act as if there are no rules of warfare. There have been an increasing number of incidents in which civilians were blown up by explosives including chlorine gas and where scud missiles were launched at towns taken over by the rebels without taking into account the possibility of innocent civilian casualties.
All this is happening at the time when several rebel groups are uniting under one umbrella, hoping to take advantage of the resulting momentum to topple the Assad regime once and for all.
Bashar Assad has lost faith in his Alawite security forces and the only guards who surround him day and night are Iranians of the Quds force, an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards sent by Iran in order to aid the weakened ruler.
The entire region is experiencing upheaval as a result of the developments in Syria, chief among them the efforts expended by the Saudis and Turks to overthrow Assad. The significance of this joint effort is that the Saudis will fund purchases of weapons, armaments, communications equipment and other tools of warfare which will reach the rebel forces via Turkey. In addition, Turkey will make it easier for foreign volunteers to enter Syria, join the rebels and enhance their ability to operate.
During the last few weeks, there have been reports citing the possible places where Assad can seek refuge – Russia, Iran and Switzerland have been named. Russia and Iran are listed due to their being friends, while Switzerland, it is surmised, is listed due to the Assad family’s secret bank accounts in that country. The billions stolen by the ruling family from the Syrian people over decades will be enough to ensure a life of opulence and maximum security for centuries.
It is, however, quite clear that even if Assad leaves the stage, Syria’s problems will be far from over and that the country will soon be in the throes of violent power struggles between warring organizations, tribes and factions. Rivers of blood will continue to flow as they do today until the country is divided into homogeneous regions, each under independent rule: the Kurds in the northeast, Alawites in the northwest, Druze in the south, the Bedouin given the east, plus Damascus and Haleb. It is realistic to assume that Hezbollah will take over the area along the Lebanese border in order to provide the Shiites with a security zone. The breakup of Syria will strengthen Islamic state, which may then go on to threaten Jordan and its regime.
Assad has been reiterating that if his regime falls, those who will suffer most from the aftershocks are the countries that helped to topple him – Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, America and NATO – who will not be able to escape the black scourge of rising Jihadist and extremist Islamism as, encouraged by Assad’s fall, it continues to butcher and destroy. Thousands of volunteers will stream into Syria from all over the world to take part in the looting, pillaging and expansion of Islamic State that will move on to take over Turkey, Iraq and all the other countries created by colonialist European powers.
The war in Syria will continue, exactly as the war in Libya is still going on four years after Qaddafi’s fall. Bashar Assad is only part of the problem. His legacy will be a lethal mix of organizations and groups that will continue to squabble and battle over the dead corpse of the Syrian state. It must be kept in mind that among these groups there are Iranian forces, who, it can safely be assumed, will remain there to see to the Ayatollahs’ interests. It is entirely possible that Iranian forces will take over Damascus to protect Shiite holy sites located in the city and its environs.
There remains the possibility that Russia will take control of Latakia and its surrounding area – “temporarily,” of course – to permit its naval craft to dock in the last port Russia has on the Mediterranean. If this scenario becomes a reality, it may spread to other ports, namely Baniyas and Tartus.
Assad’s regime is fast becoming a thing of the past. Jihadist, destructive anarchy that can easily turn into another Afghanistan, will take the place of the state of Syria, spawning organizations bent on International Jihad whose extremist Islamist message will spread throughout Europe, America and the rest of the world.
The world will yet mourn for Assad, as Libya longs for Qaddafi, and Iraq for Saddam Hussein to rise from the grave and return to power. The new order in the Middle East may return it not only to the days of the ancient Muslim Empire but to the period of endless tribal warfare that preceded it – the trivial difference being, of course, that in those days they waged war with daggers, swords and camels whereas today’s tools of war are rockets, tanks and bombs, all fruits of modern industry.
All that’s missing is a nuclear powered Iran to complete the utter chaos that will be the new Middle East. Oddly, there are those who think that the world can live with these developments and are willing to reach an agreement with Iran that allows it to achieve that nuclear power.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News