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Oct 31, 2012 | 20:20 GMT

A Local Perspective on Syria's Post-al Assad Fragmentation

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Editor's Note: This local observer's perspective on the future of Syria does not necessarily reflect Stratfor's view but provides a unique viewpoint on the country's ongoing fragmentation.

Syria's beleaguered president, Bashar al Assad, is charting the course of events in his country after the impending collapse of his regime. Post-al Assad Syria will not turn into a democracy; instead, it will emerge as a country thoroughly fragmented along ethnic, sectarian and regional lines. Al Assad has definitely succeeded in pitting not only Kurds against Arabs but also against fellow Kurds who are allied with the Free Syrian Army. The FSA should not rejoice over the fact that Kurds are engaged in fratricide because it has happened before among Kurds in Turkey and Iraq. That tribal Kurds are divided has not prevented them from eventually presenting themselves as a serious challenge to the central government. Syrian Kurds are currently going through the same phase of communal solidarity and political evolution that their brethren elsewhere in the region went through years ago. A main political fault line in post-al Assad Syria will be between Arabs and Kurds.

Sectarian Divisions in Syria

Syria's Sunni Arabs will not be able to benefit from the comfort of their majority status — they constitute 60 percent of the country's total population — because they are segmented along regional lines as well as urban vs. rural lines. There is little in common between the metropolises of Damascus and Aleppo. The latter had always turned to Mosul and Baghdad, whereas the former had historically identified with Egypt and locally felt much closer to the cities of Beirut, Tripoli and Jerusalem. There is no Kurdish issue for the residents of Damascus because Kurds there have been "Arabized" over the centuries. The vast countryside of Aleppo has left more than 700,000 rural Kurds bitter, alienated and unaffected by the city's rise as the country's economic hub. Whereas Turkey appears positioned to establish itself as the regional hegemon in northern Syria, the Hashemites in Jordan will certainly try to carve for themselves a unique place in southwestern Syria, including Damascus, which they see as a prize.

Syria's Alawites on the coast are readying themselves to eventually ally with Maronites in northern Lebanon and Shia in the northern Bekaa area. Hezbollah's military activity along the Orontes River Basin points in that direction. Syria may maintain its status as a unitary state, but it will emerge as a highly unstable and fragmented country. The struggle for Syria that predominated the country's politics during the 1950s will most likely resume on a much larger scale this time. Should al Assad physically survive his country's bloody conflict, he will be able to tell his critics, "I told you so."

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