By Gary C. Gambill, Associate Fellow, Middle East Forum
Mr. Gambill puts forth an idea that has received growing attention in the past few months. Based on the realistic assumptions that the Syrian civil war is basically a stalemate and that the Assad regime is not going down anytime soon, Gambill views a partition as a viable, if not optimum, approach to the future of the Syrian state. He believes, quite rightly, that the eventual overthrow of the Assad regime will not bring peace or stability to the region but that partition is a realistic assessment of what is occurring on the ground. Gambill views the war as basically intractable, with Saudis and Gulf state money pouring in, continuing to finance the anticipated emergence of a Sunni state. On the other hand the Alawis and other minorities view the war as existential and cannot countenance any sort of compromise with their enemies.
Gambill acknowledges that the Syrian provinces are not homogeneous and in many areas, especially in the cities, are ethnically mixed, making a sectarian state problematic. He observes, however, that like Iraq, as the war drags on, the refugees fleeing the fighting congregate in their ethnic enclaves, eventually creating ethnically-cleansed regions.
For the international community the issue is whether to condone or even encourage those sectarian enclaves to make the partition of Syria an easier process. The amount of human tragedy involved would be is immense and a human disaster. This may be difficult to sell to the Western world, but there have been so many continuing Middle Eastern sectarian tragedies in the past century that the world has become somewhat anaesthetized to these man-made disasters.
The response to sectarian partitioning is not an optimal development for Syria's regional neighbors. However, Gambill writes, that is not the worst option...