Syria: Quo Vadis?
The Syrian uprising has settled into a routine for the last three months. “The opposition gains power in a slow but steady way and the Baath regime loses power in a slow but unsteady way” constitutes this new routine. While the Baath apologists claimed this routine was a period of stagnation, the Western actors - who refused to commit to a tangible policy in the crisis - tried to take advantage of the “routine” by exaggerating the “al-Qaeda problem,” and did not come up with any constructive policies. In the same period, while Saudi Arabia, one of actors engaged in a “proxy war” in the crisis, thought it had got everything it possibly could out of the crisis, Iran began to realize that the Baath regime was getting too small to hide behind.
For internal actors in Syria, this period was mostly one of gathering strength. The Syrian opposition turned into resistance movements able to carry out coordination among themselves. The resistance plan of the revolt, which mostly consisted of tactical moves with heavy costs until this fall, has now reached a strategic stage and the Syrian resistance achieved coordination; while the Baath regime, which lost control of over half of its territory three months ago, lost its connection with the lands in the north almost completely last month. Bashar al-Assad, who was forced to surrender border gates to the opposition months ago, was also unable to prevent the opposition from creating a new front in the south of the country this month. The regime, which mostly depends on operations carried out by the air forces, has in effect lost its state qualities and turned into a militia, not unlike the Shabiha militia that the regime had been deploying on streets since the beginning of the uprisings.
It is possible that the struggle that will intensify in Damascus in the upcoming weeks to put an end to all hopes regarding the al-Assad regime once and for all. The Baath regime no longer struggles to regain its old power, but only to carry out a proxy war with support from Russia and Iran.
The Kurdish opposition that is flourishing outside the PYD (Democratic Union Party)-PKK line shows that, at this point in the crisis, the Kurds are also seriously reflecting on their position, despite the problematic stance they have taken so far during the crisis. Another important component - Russia’s declaration about the impossibility of victory for al-Assad - has, de facto, carried the Russia-Syria relations to another level. Russia has prioritized the management of the geopolitics of its own retreat from the Middle East via the retreat of the Baathists from Syria.
It would be accurate to interpret the United States’ and the West’s increasing interest in Syria as a rush to secure a role in the scenario in which the Baath regime is nearing its end. The day when the Baath regime, which has already in effect become simply the “Damascus regime” after having lost wider Syria, retreats from the stage, all the regional and global actors will have had a litmus test in the Syrian crisis. They will hold no meaning beyond the political weight and position revealed by this litmus test.