A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hof and Landis on the Future of Syria; Also New MEI Summary

Two people who know Syria a hell of a lot better than I do have weighed in on the future of Syria in 2013. Forget all your "tipping points": neither paints an optimistic picture. And my MEI colleague John Calabrese has provided a summary of discussions carried out by MEI with the Hollings Center on "The Regional Implications of the Syria Crisis." which also can serve as a good summary of the state of play.

More sobering are the assessments from Fred Hof and Josh Landis. Hof, who recently left the State Department after working as a special advisor on Syria, and is now at the Atlantic Council, offers "Syria 2013: Will the Poison Pill of Sectarianism Work?" He begins thus:
At the dawn of the New Year President Bashar al-Assad and his regime remain committed to pursuing a corrosively destructive sectarian survival strategy, one enjoying a critical assist from an increasingly radicalized and politically directionless armed opposition.  Left to their own devices—as both the West and Russia seemed inclined to leave them—the regime and its armed opponents seem poised to devote 2013 to putting Syria on an irreversible course to state failure and perpetual sectarian conflict.
He argues that the regime strategy of relying on sectarian cliques dooms the country's future if it is successful; it's a grim and lengthy assessment worthy of your reading it in full.At the end he offers some hope:
Yet if 66 years of independence have produced anything resembling secular, civic citizenship overriding all other categorical distinctions, there is hope that the state-killing enterprise of a family regime can be defeated and a Syria of 23 million citizens saved.  For this to happen, however, those who oppose the regime must apply antidotes to the poison pill with intelligence, discipline, and credibility.  Meanwhile, perhaps those occupying key positions within the regime will have second thoughts about a strategy whose targeting of innocents will surely wreck the country and for which they will be held personally accountable. 
Meanwhile Joshua Landis seemed the odd man out a year ago when he predicted the Asad regime (though Hof and Landis both prefer "Assad") could survive through 2013. That alone should be reason to listen when he says "Assad Regime May Well Survive to 2014." He gives his reasons at his site, citing interviews he has given.

UPDATE: And while we're on Syria, check out Bilal Saab and Andrew J. Tabler at Foreign Affairs: "No Settlement in Damascus."

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