William Zartman


It all depends on how far Beyond (the Stalemate) we are considering: Far enough away nothing is excluded.  But for the next year or two, I would count on something like Scenario 2, if only by process of elimination. #3 is for dreamers.  Even when it's all over, Syrian fragmentation, now accentuated by sectarian rifts, can contribute to a democracy only when the notion of a Syrian nationhood has been restored.  So, is it ever all over? #4 is the same. The khilafa is no basis for nationhood, and it will fall apart of infighting the further it spreads.  There is nothing so divisive as religious unity. #1 is simply not ripe.  The stalemate has to be longer lasting and recognized as such by the parties (MHS is a subjective appreciation, not just an objective occurrence). As noted, Geneva II was undercut by regime confidence; any Geneva III is now undercut by the confidence of various rebel groups. Furthermore ISIS has no mind for negotiation; you don't negotiate with God and until that link is worn away by worldly events, it will be a barrier. #5 is prelude to #4.  At the moment, some sort of fragmentation of the regime itself is to be expected, maybe a stab at negotiations between a breakaway group (maybe even as assassination of Asad) and some rebels against ISIS.  The conflict is most likely to settle down into a Scenario 5 situation (soft stable self-serving stalemate) with fighting around the edges of each piece and much fatigue, viewed by all as preferable to negotiations or heightened fighting in which some groups may lose.

Dr. Ira William Zartman is Professor Emeritus at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University

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