Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

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  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Syria's Possible Futures: An Israeli View

Former head of Israeli military intelligence, Aman, Amos Yadlin, laid out five possible outcomes to the ongoing and escalating civil war in Syria in a briefing to the public at the Institute of National Security Studies in Israel yesterday. He is presently the director of the institute. Here are the five scenarios:  First, the regime could survive by working out its problems with Turkey and winning more support from Russia. Second, the civil war continues forever as a low-level conflict of the type that is common in the Third World. Third, Syria disintegrates into three sectarian states: Alawite, Sunni, and Kurdish. Fourth, a Sunni-dominated state emerges. And lastly, a failed state emerges reminiscent of Somalia after the fall of Siad Barre or of Congo after the collapse of the Mobutu regime. Yadlin did not indicate which of these scenarios was most likely to occur or even rank order them. He simply pointed out that all of them was less threatening than the status quo ante in which a powerful centralized Alawite regime legitimized its rule through maintaining a verbal conflict and tension with Israel. A senior Israeli security official, possibly Defense Minister Ehud Barak, speaking anonymously took the exact opposite viewpoint arguing that the border had become more dangerous since the start of the civil war in Syria.

My own belief is that any of the last three scenarios is quite possible. I don't believe that the civil war will continue indefinitely as the Assad regime will run out of funds and as it gradually loses more aircraft it will be reduced to a more level battlefield with the rebels. Moscow has indicated that it is willing to abandon Assad in order not to completely lose its investment in Syria. I have already discussed the possibility of an Alawite coastal enclave on the Mediterranean. The Kurdish area in Syria is quite small and would simply break away and become de facto an extension of the autonomous Kurdish are in northern Iraq.  

Yadlin also discussed the Iranian nuclear threat and stated that Tehran could probably weaponize in a four-to-six month drive with an intensive effort to enrich enough highly-enriched uranium (HEU) to build a single bomb. He has not seen any indication that Tehran is about to do so any time soon.

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