What lies ahead in the post-al-Assad future?
Is the question “What lies ahead for Syria after Bashar al-Assad?” a question of curiosity or a question about a perceived threat? There are, of course, well-intentioned politicians, strategists, academics and journalists who pose the question in an attempt to predict post-al-Assad developments. However, the great majority of such doomsayers solely intend to either talk about an apocalyptic scenario or to perpetuate the al-Assad regime’s demise by bringing up allegations about the country’s post-al-Assad setting.
Emphasis on “what lies ahead” inevitably seeks to cover up “what is going on.” This serves to divert attention from the ongoing tragedy in Syria with reference to post-al-Assad doomsday allegations. It is not uncommon to come across assertions that the al-Assad regime’s resilience stems from all interested parties’ lack of preparation for its replacement. In other words, this claim indicates that the United States and Russia are unwilling to revise their current positions due to their lack of a clear vision for post-al-Assad Syria. In order to account for this hypothesis, it would be necessary to demonstrate that both governments are reluctant to embrace the notion of an ethnic/sectarian civil war and a region-wide proxy war. However, it is virtually impossible to explain why such scenarios would disturb the two governments in the face of their lack of reaction against an actual war in Syria today. If the United States and Russia are so uncomfortable with a post-al-Assad apocalypse, should they not develop different reactions vis-à-vis the ongoing tragedy?
What are the chances that the actual object of fear is a stable post-al-Assad Syria? In the aftermath of turmoil and chaos, the newly achieved stability is expected to rest upon a Sunni demographic with a hint of Islamist politics. As such, this new setting would build upon the legacy of the only stable political equilibrium that the country has produced over the course of centuries. Regional and global actors who have taken no steps thus far to stop the bloodshed over the past three years have no right to talk of post-al-Assad apocalyptic scenarios – least of all on ethical grounds. It is precisely for this reason that the real concern of today’s doomsayers is the likelihood of Syria’s stability in its post-al-Assad future. There is no doubt that the Sunni population, Syria’s great majority, represents an insurance policy for the country’s stability. Although the Syrian opposition’s leadership remains confused about current developments in the country, they nonetheless have succeeded in developing a relatively clear discourse on its future. They are clearly voicing their support for a new Syria where different ethnic and sectarian groups can peacefully coexist. It’s not just the opposition’s discourse, but their leadership’s political identity and worldview also attest to the validity of this claim.
A stable post-al-Assad Syria is a shorthand term for all of the following: It refers to a political crisis in Iraq for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his supporters. It represents the likelihood that all parties benefiting from the current Syrian regime will act more carefully. It stands for Israel’s loss of a comfortable enemy. It entails the bankruptcy of Iran’s investments in Baathist regimes and Tehran’s reconsideration of its past mistakes vis-à-vis Iraq’s transformation. The ultimate way to evaluate the sincerity of post-al-Assad doomsayers is to analyze their behavior while al-Assad remains in power.