If Assad Falls...
Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is.
T.E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia) was not talking about the ongoing conflict in Syria, but rather the Arab Revolt of 1916. Yet, his warning seems more pertinent than ever. The international community has heard repeated warnings that external interference in Syria could have profound and far-reaching effects. The Russian ambassador to the UN cautioned that “such approaches lead to a never-ending circle of violence,” while China’s Middle East envoy made it clear that international interference “would be a huge disaster for the people involved, the region involved, and it would have a negative impact on world peace as well.”
It is not simply prejudiced nations that fear what the future of Syria means for stability in the Middle East, and the world. In his reply to this week’s Rapid Response question, Middle East expert Matthieu Aikins noted that “Syria is more like Iraq than Libya,” and cautioned that a civil war in Syria could quickly escalate into a much larger Iran-West confrontation. Kyle Matthews of the Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies calls Syria “a hornet’s nest that no country wants to contemplate engaging in.”
As Assad’s grip on power seems to be loosening, and the American director of National Intelligence declares, “it’s a question of time before Assad falls,” it is time to seriously consider what a post-Assad Syria might look like. The region is far too complicated for anyone to make predictions with complete certainty, but here are a few:
Interactive graphic created by Cameron Tulk, research by Anouk Dey.
With thanks to Ioana Sendroiu, Amjad Iraqi and Molly Grove for their help.