Important as events in Cairo are, they distract Western attention from the much bigger game being played out in Syria which significantly risks changing the Levant after a century of relative territorial stability, according to a new paper from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
The Remaking of Syria, Iraq and the Wider Middle East written by RUSI's senior associate fellow Professor Gareth Stansfield analyses the impact the Syrian civil war could have on the future of the Middle East state system across the Levant. The report warns that ongoing conflict may prompt the fragmentation of the region's twentieth-century defined states. Stansfield outlines how Lebanon, Jordan - and the interests of Israel and Turkey - could all be profoundly affected; but the most important casualty of the war is potentially Iraq, with inter-communal conflicts driven by deeply held and murderous sectarian hatreds that continue to stalk its political landscape today.
'Is Syria on the verge of collapse? And could Iraq, in particular - as well as Lebanon, Jordan and Israel - survive this eventuality? The answer is a tentative Yes to the first question and a probable No to the second,' writes Stansfield.
'There seems to be growing regional and international acceptance of the possibility of erasing the once-rarefied, externally imposed boundaries that have divided peoples as much as they have united them, with greater emphasis on the need for state structures to be tied more authentically to the peoples they encompass.'
'Therefore, if it is now no longer possible to simultaneously maintain the integrity of the extant state system while advocating democratisation - which may result, among other things, in the removal of existing dictatorships - then a different, and even more worrying, set of questions need to be posed. The problem now is how to ensure that the ongoing, escalating instability in Syria and Iraq does not deteriorate further into a region-wide war.'