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Three scenarios for Syria's future

BEIRUT | - May 13, 2012, 21h56
How likely is a fall of the Assad regime, and who would be most likely to succeed it? Three main scenarios are currently most plausible for Syria’s future, according to Barah Mikail, a senior researcher at spain-based think tank FRIDE , who recently published a report on the Syrian crisis, entitled "Assad’s fall: how likely, how desirable?"
"Since the start of the 2011 uprisings, many analysts have predicted that the fall of the Syrian regime was unavoidable", Barah Mikail  stated in his report "Assad’s fall: how likely, how desirable?". "One year on, it has yet to happen," the report says, stressing that economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure have not had the desired effect.

The report explains that the Syrian government has effectively fought off international attempts to end the violence. In the latest development, the Syrian regime has nominally accepted Kofi Annan’s plan to define a solution. But the government and its opponents continue to accuse each other of not fulfilling their commitments. The international community has failed to find efficient means to solve the Syrian crisis, while Qatari and Saudi demands to arm the opposition have been consistently rebuffed. At the same time, most external observers have underestimated the strong rejection of any kind of Western or other foreign role in bringing about change, whether it be from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Turkey. A viable solution to the Syrian crisis remains a distant prospect.

The continuation of violence
So, the most likely scenario in the short term is the continuation of violence in a context in which the Syrian regime remains the strongest player. The window of opportunity for a process of gradual change led by Assad seems to have passed long ago, and Assad’s propositions for reform lack credibility. But the Syrian regime will still try to contend it is leading change. After the approval of a new constitution in a referendum on 26 February 2012, parliamentary elections to the Syrian People’s Council are due to be held on 7 May this year. The presidential mandate is said to be limited to a maximum of two terms, of which Assad can still try to avail in order to remain in power.

A sudden fall due to too many defections and/or a deterioration of the economic situation
The possibility of a sudden fall of the regime cannot be entirely ruled out. This could be brought about either by a series of defections from its political and diplomatic ranks, or by further and more significant splits at a high level in the army. A serious deterioration of the economic situation could give new impetus to the popular uprisings. That said, Syria currently lacks an opposition force with the broad popular backing needed to fill a sudden power vacuum. Opposition groups such as the Syrian National Council (SNC) do not enjoy huge public support in Syria. Their internal contradictions and divisions, their funding source in Qatar and their subordination to the demands of foreign powers make their domestic credibility limited. Other members of the Syrian opposition, victims of their own diversity, are not doing much better. In the absence of an attractive alternative around which to rally, the majority of the Syrian population appears to be identifying with the regime.

A foreign-led military intervention
The main option most likely to bring about the sudden collapse of Assad’s regime is a foreign-led military intervention. But unless something unexpected happens, the United States’ reluctance to add fuel to the Syrian fire given its own upcoming elections, combined with Russian and Chinese opposition to any war scenario, may well allow Bashar al-Assad to remain in power until 2013 and beyond.
#Syria, #FRIDE
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