Syria grows fragile, Iraq too

Syria grows fragile, Iraq too

On Sunday, Aug. 5, Bashar al-Assad’s administration in Syria announced that they had cleared the capital Damascus of “terrorist elements” and had made considerable advances in Aleppo where they had deployed 20,000 additional troops.

On Monday, Aug. 6 there was an explosion at the state-run radio and TV building, which could have been an isolated terrorist action. But it was followed by another development which actually was big news. Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab, who had assumed his office after the general elections in May, had left his post and fled from the country, possibly heading for Qatar.

This was a second major blow to the al-Assad regime after a bomb attack last month killed four top security officials.

It is not clear whether al-Assad sacked him before or after he learned that he had left the country with his family. But a spokesman for Hijab told the media that he would join the Syrian opposition, possibly the Syrian National Council (SNC). Another former close aide to al-Assad who had fled Damascus nearly two months ago has been touring the neighborhood (with an unannounced stop in Ankara) in order to take part in post-al-Assad transitional government scenarios. It is possible that Hijab could be a part of those scenarios since the Western “Friends of the Syrian People” group has already rejected an Iraqi-style de-Baathification, which ruined that country, meaning a transitional government in Syria would need people from the old regime who regret (or at least pretend to regret) what they have done. That includes ministers, mid-rank army officers, policemen, fire fighters, teachers and doctors. It seems that the formation of a transitional government to run the country is on its way.

Hijab’s flight could be regarded as an indication of Syria’s increasing fragility, and post-al-Assad scenarios are to prevent the country from falling apart.

Because Iraq at risk of falling apart. Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north of the country, which borders Turkey, has started to sign oil and gas deals with energy giants despite the objection of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad, who refuses to approve a hydrocarbons law to regulate the sharing of oil and gas income. The energy giants have an interest in supplying more oil and gas that is not controlled or is less controlled by Russia and Iran to Western markets; Turkey provides an option under NATO protection for both Iraqi Kurdish and Azeri resources to be transferred further west. The presence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the KRG region and its armed campaign is, of course, a pain in the neck and a big obstacle to greater cooperation, but it is also a bargaining chip for Barzani. It is not an easy problem, but without the support of the Syrian regime and friends of the current Syrian regime, the PKK is likely to fall into a downward spiral.

If Syria falls apart, the division of Iraq might be imminent. If borders start to change in the region, no one can guess where they will stop.