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Syria After Assad's Fall Would Lead To More Strife

Michael Juliani |
September 11, 2012 | 6:05 p.m. PDT

Assistant News Editor


(Dawn Megli / Neon Tommy)
(Dawn Megli / Neon Tommy)
Diplomatic Immunity is Neon Tommy's blog covering international news and issues.

Though the opposition to Bashar Assad's regime in Syria has been widespread and aggressive in the past year, a hypothetical image of post-Assad Syria has not only become more difficult to imagine, but also more frightening. 

While the remaining forces in Assad's military continue to bombard opposition forces and civilians with heavy weaponry from planes and helicopters, the scattered opposition agendas and tactics create a dynamic that would mean for a possibly more contentious and brutal post-Assad situation.

It is impossible to definitively know how long the Syrian struggle will continue or how a post-Assad will look, accorrding to Laurie Brand, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California.

Though the opposition had once been made up of rebels who wanted to defend their own streets or quarters, Brand said, it's become clear that at least some of the fighters are not from Syria.

Brand said that the opposition to Assad's regime, loosely described as the Free Syrian Army, is made up of several types, including defectors from Assad's military, local anti-Assad militants fighting to defend their towns, criminal groups who kidnap and steal in wake of the conflict's lawlessness and jihadists.

An Aug. 25 article by the Los Angeles Times detailed the complex relationship between Syrian rebels and jihadists like the Al Nusra Front militia who showed up to fight Assad in hopes of establishing a Sunni state after the supposed fall of Assad's Alawite government.

The Los Angeles Times article also suggested that there could possibly be a small presence of al-Qaeda fighters in Syria.

Brand said she's "not even sure what al-Qaeda is anymore," though the group's presence, or the presence of other jihadists like them, will give pause to the minorities groups within the opposition such as Christians or Alawites who may not necessarily be pro-Assad.

"They've got very narrow interpretations of what it means to be a Muslim," Brand said, "and they're not particularly forgiving for those who don't agree with those things."

The intensity of the civil war has grown immensely since the uprising started in earnest a year and a half ago. 

What began as a series of episodic violent incidents last year has devolved into heavy violence between the opposing groups in Syria, where dozens are killed every day and thousands have been killed and displaced over the year and a half.

Brand, who has lived in Syria for brief periods of time since 1978 and been to most of the country's areas, said that the conflict has roots in the growing regionalistic divide between the thriving urban areas of Syria like Aleppo and the rural areas that were becoming more impoverished due to Assad's negligent aid to farmers who were facing a drought. 

When the Arab Spring began, many believed that Syria was immune to an uprising, Brand said, until several young teenagers were tortured by the government for writing anti-government graffiti ("Down with the regime") on a wall at their school.

"They hung me from the door by my hands for four hours," one of the boys said, according to CBS News. "They stripped me naked and then they began to beat me."

The outcry against the regime's brutality came flooded with the already brewing resentment about the regime's economic policies.

The government began piling on physical assaults to its already stifling record of censorship, political imprisonments and "disappearances."

The people of Syria began to realize they had nothing left to lose, Brand said, and broke through the "barrier of fear" they had of their government.

Brand said that Assad's government had the chance to prevent the widespread violence if it had considered reforms to appease the disenfranchised masses.

"These regimes, there's nothing that says that they're smart," Brand said.  "They're well-entrenched and they're brutal, but it doesn't mean that they're smart."

The time for nonviolent reform has come and gone, she said.  There won't likely be a solution any time soon, either. 

Unlike the outcomes of other ethnic civil wars like Bosnia's, the result in Syria will probably not include a split state.  

"There's not an easy solution here," she said.



Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of Syria here.

Reach Assistant News Editor Michael Juliani here; follow him on Twitter here.



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