In “A Syrian Stalemate,” Jacobs ponders the ancient, sectarian origins of the ongoing Syrian Civil War. This is a relatively under discussed topic, given the media’s penchant for boiling the conflict down to “dictator versus people,” an interpretation that best fits into the traditional “Arab Spring narrative.”
Jacobs shows that the Syrian Civil War is far more complex than that, with the problems reaching back to (at the very least) the Allied carve-up of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Most informed people probably have some vague understanding of the conflict being rooted in a classic Sunni/Shia power imbalance,* but Jacobs clearly and decisively points out the subtleties of the sectarian situation in Syria (say that three times fast), with the Shia-Alawite minority controlling the government, military, and economy.
In short, Jacobs claims that there is the possibility of the Syrian state breaking up along sectarian lines, similar to the balkanization of Yugoslavia (can I use “balkanization” to describe the thing it was coined after?) in the 90s. Under this (admittedly unlikely) scenario, the Assad regime could retreat to its ancestral homeland along the western coast, where the population is still predominantly Alawite, as the rest of Syria dissolves into Druze and Sunni states.
I’m of the firm belief that British, French, and Russian colonial aspirations/stupidity caused virtually every problem in the modern Middle East†, and while a fragmented Syria is certainly problematic from a geopolitical standpoint, I think it’s a whole lot better than some four-year old’s plan to draw a bunch of straight lines on a map and hope that all the different factions lumped in with each other get along. Now, somebody draw up the plans for an independent Kurdistan and we’ll be fucking good.‡
(Via New York Times)
*Sitcom pitch: “Coming this fall! Sunni believes that the Prophet didn’t name a successor! Shia believes that Ali was the true successor! Will these mismatched roommates ever get along?!” You’re welcome, ABC Family.
†See: David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace
‡ Like that’ll ever happen.