March 20th, 2012
12:33 PM ET

Dangers for Syria after the fall of al-Assad

Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.

Rebel forces and government troops clashed in Damascus yesterday, in what opposition sources described as the heaviest round of fighting in the capital since the start of the uprising. The authoritarian regime established in 1970 by Hafez al-Assad and inherited by his son Bashar in 2000 is highly likely to end in its current form, but not imminently: It could last well into 2013.

The regime seems likely to collapse following a prolonged conflict that exacerbates sectarian divisions. This could lead to a period of instability much worse than in Libya as groups of Sunni Arab rebels vie for power with each other and with militias dominated by the al-Assad family's Alawi sect, and possibly other minorities. Eventually, a weak government is likely to emerge, which is guided by a secular constitutional framework, but deeply divided internally along communal lines.

Post-al-Assad Syria is likely to see a constitution that balances democracy with the rights of the major communities. These consist of Arab Sunni Muslims (51-53%); Kurds (14-16%); Alawis (11-13%); Christians (8-10%); the Druze (3%); and Ismaili Shia (3%). The Sunni Arabs will seek a dominant share of representation in the new system because of their numbers and leading role in the uprising.

The Muslim Brotherhood has long been the main source of opposition to the regime, but it lacks the grassroots organization that benefited mainstream Islamist groups in Egypt and Tunisia. Its leadership understands the need to build an inclusive system and will come under strong external pressure to act cooperatively.

A substantial part of the opposition wants a continuation of the secular regimes that have ruled Syria since independence. However, the experiences of Iraq and Lebanon have demonstrated a preference for systems based on ethnic and religious affiliations, particularly at times of political upheaval. Such a system can paralyse decision-making, impede reform and entrench communal divisions.

The Alawis are too large a minority to be excluded from the system and are likely to remain a key element in the armed forces. The Alawi-dominated Praetorian Guards and the numerous security and intelligence services will be disbanded. However, the government will need to retain some Alawi officers in other parts of the armed forces to ensure Syria can continue to defend itself.

The ruling Ba'ath Party will follow other state parties into oblivion. It will take time for new ones to form, organize and win support. The Sunni political and business elite has some experience in government, albeit in the al-Assad system where ministers had little authority.

There is as yet no viable alternative government on the model of Libya's Transitional National Council. The external opposition, including the Syrian National Council, is divided and lacks credibility. The internal opposition is composed mostly of local groups and lacks a coherent national structure.

The increasing involvement of the international community should see efforts to help the opposition organize more effectively and plan strategies for a new Syria.

Any successor government will inherit an economy weakened by sanctions and conflict, and by the al-Assads' failure to modernize it effectively. Drought, declining oil output and a still poorly developed tourism sector will limit the capital available to invest in job creation and tackling poverty. The change will generate great expectations that could overwhelm a fragile new administration run by inexperienced leaders.

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Topics: Syria

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. bashar al kalb is a murderor and he must be hanged

    there will be no danger what ever the shiia thugs have with usa and israel we can do the same deals and better, we are 82% of population sunni , and the rest are kurds and christeans so the shiia are less than 4 % those shiia are killers they kill 14,000 civilians ra ped women...take weapons from iran and give it to terrorists hizballah, we will not allow terrorists to operate on our land make it safer for every body and they know that, thos shiia thugs mut be hanged as war criminals. usa should start see the light and help us to get red of al asad

    March 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Reply
    • danny

      It is in the best interest for the West to start supporting the Christians for a change. The West have been supporting Muslim regimes too long and so far nothing positive have come out of it.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:56 am | Reply
    • syrianandproud

      Allah souria, bashar o bs

      March 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Reply
    • Little Whirlwind of Liang Shang Po

      what make you think we are not helping. I guess you didn t noticed who accepted to sell high tech stealth fighters to your leading allies, those with trained combat pilots. Because when the time comes it will be needed to take down the syrian army.

      Syrian is not like Lybia, it s a verry hard battleground, and the ideal situation is to pill russia on our side (major progress recently)

      The biggest problem by far is Assad s brother saying they stand ready to use the chemical weapons against civilian if the us or arab nations (including turkey) go in. This means, Assad, his brother, and leading generals must be terminated before the strike begins. If they are dead they cannot give the order.

      Another more peacefull option is for the russian commando, if they are willing to do it, to capture assad and the top peoples and ... extradite them via submarine, james bond style. If this happen the regime would crumble verry fast.

      Now, it is important that you do not let anger direct you. some of those shia have sinned and must be judged and punished. But be a good muslim and liave 90% of them alone. No harming childrens and women, and those not in the army, not linked to Assad. For the army it s more touchy, not all soldiers are maniac, give them a chance to surrender, and you can figure out latter what brigades they were with and if they are guilty.

      Time is a great tool for ensuring justice. It gives you time to verify the guilt of the accused. Too often rash justice result in harming innocents. It doesn t matter to you did justice on the guilty, if you kill even one innocent among the accused , you have sinned and are as guilty as them. Keep that in mind.

      You have suffer many losses, but believe me, if he unleash those chemicals, it will not be 10,000 or 100,000 deaths, it will be millions of deaths, horrible way to die also.

      And remember above all, protect the peoples of the book.

      March 25, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  2. bashar al kalb is a murderor and he must be hanged


    March 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Reply
    • Socrates


      March 25, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  3. Marine5484

    By and large, the biggest single danger Syria faces if and when al-Assad is ousted is the establishment of a pro-Western, right-wing dictatorship similar to that of Egypt under Mubarak. This alone will put Syria firmly under NATO control.

    March 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    No doubt Assad's dynasty is highly likely to end. What comes out is uncertain. The about asymmetric warfare – the fight of the weak against the strong – is that it is not about pitched battles. For the opposition, keeping going matters above all. If the Gulf States keep their promise to supply arms to the rebels then the uprising will increase in intensity.
    So far Assad, riding out the storm, seems to believe that he could win. Apart from the military, he has genuine support from his own Alawite community, and other minorities, including Christians, who fear what the consequences of a violent change of power. Not only has the opposition to organise itself, it should also reach out to the other minorities now, before it's too late.

    March 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      In fact, j. von hettlingen, Bashar al-Assad could win the Syrian civil war if the outside countries would only butt out. Let the Syrians decide their own future whatever it is!

      March 20, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Reply
    • Little Whirlwind of Liang Shang Po

      George Patton from Beijing,

      yes I recognized you

      The syrian majority are oppressed by the syrian minority. Do you expect Hitler to be killed by a mouse ...

      The Syrian asked for our help and it will be given freely. We are already doing more than they know. The Light work within the Shadows, brightening them until the curtain fall appart.

      Of course, Assad would win. Between the russian tanks he purchased and his murderous thugs, do you think the Syrian peoples stand a change with sticks and rocks. Of course the arab league are helping their Syrian brothers, just like Iran have been helping Syria by providing them with expert terrorist squads to stage fake attacks and blame the peacefull rebels. Getting rid of general about to defect in the same strike.

      So you can expect things to get harsher for your friends in Syria.

      How is the weather in Bejing. Ready for a little game of Ling Shang Po. I am Little Whirlwind. Enjoy the weather while it last.

      March 25, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Reply
  5. matt

    Their didn't seem to be a reason for western nations to butt in until the reality of thousands of dead Syrians became apparent.

    Assad is a pariah, but was tolerable before this slaughter commenced.

    March 20, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Reply
    • Socrates

      Also Satanjahu.

      March 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Reply
  6. Rz

    Yep, best bet is to go long on those Syrian Preemptive put options.

    March 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Reply
    • Patrick

      yep hehehehe...

      March 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Reply
  7. Benedict

    It does look like Assad‘s time in power is at it‘s end since fighting has come to Damascus. It remains to see how the various Syrian ethnic groups cope with the transition.

    March 21, 2012 at 5:15 am | Reply
  8. Matt

    I failed revolutionary uprising crushed with violence sets back regime change generations, while Syria will be unstable for sometime the regime will not fall. The ability for the revolution to regenerate itself and promote change depends on the severity of how it is crushed. Short term the violence is bad for the regime, long term it is good because it provides inter-generational rule for the regime. It takes generations, decades for the movement to regenerate. If in the short term the uprising is crushed easily due to compliance of the protestors 'they comply and go home' long term the period in which another push can occur is shorter. So it gives the regime short term gain 'less violence' but longer term pain. Russia are looking for long term survival of the regime, so butchery is suspended for 2 hours a day.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:33 am | Reply
    • Little Whirlwind of Liang Shang Po

      The regime will fall because it was judged by international authorities.

      Just like when you steal all the cupcakes out of glutony, letting the other children with nothing ... you get punished with a slap ... The Assad regime will get a major slap in the face. They have no idea what s coming to them

      March 25, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Reply
  9. Holland1990

    The report is biased for minorities. According to the U.S. government, the Sunni Arabs (74%),also kurds is Sunni Muslims and. Free Syrian Army should be to govern Syria after the fall of the Assad for 12 months until you get the parliamentary and presidential elections as it does in Egypt. Now the real opposition to Bashar al-Assad is FSA. We should not forget that "democracy is majority rule with minority rights save " . Therefore, the Sunni Muslims should govern Syria after Assad as in Tunisia and Egypt. All the massacres and war crimes that have occurred in Syria did by Alawites. So should the dimensions of the Alawite military and intelligence. Alawites came to power a military coup in 1970. If I keep the Alawites in the army, it will be a military coup to return to power .

    March 22, 2012 at 11:29 am | Reply
  10. zakzuk

    Like you all love, adore and care about the Syrian people. Just leave them alone and get your nose out of their A.H and they will be fine. Long live Syria

    March 23, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Reply
  11. Valsor

    Anything is better than 10,000 people killed each month by their own government.

    March 24, 2012 at 1:30 am | Reply
  12. Tahir

    There are dangers for Syria but people forgot what dangers west faces after supporting terrorists in Syria. Like Taliban support of west against Russia, now west faced terrorists attacks due to the terrorists camps built by west for Taliban against Russia.People get trained there no. After Syrian support there will more camps much closer to the Europe and we may enjoy another 9/11. Long live western policies to destroy themselves.

    March 25, 2012 at 10:16 am | Reply
  13. Little Whirlwind of Liang Shang Po

    Tahir, we are not supporting terrorists in Syria.

    not all Jihadist are terrorists. A Jihad can be called in defense, like in 1200s, when the Mongol Horde killed everyone in Bagdhad, and the Mamluke rose up and crushed them.

    The west never said thak you, but if the mongols had won, they may have looked north. We got lucky twice. The northern horde turned back on the news of Ghengis Khan death. Had to attend funerals.

    So that s what Jihadists in Lybia and Syria were. Muslims helping Muslims. No danger for the west there.

    Talibans were not supporting the west against russia, they were just pushing the russian out, but honestly, it s the terrain and the weather that pushed the russian out. Too costly. The americans only won because they had those hugue helicopters equiped with cannons, it was not affected by the landscape much.

    The general thinking in Islamic countries these days is that the terrorists like Al Quaida are heretics, infidels, much worst than being even hindu 8D and that tells a lot. The beliefs of Al Quaida are spawned from a variant of the Hashishin beliefs, a heretic doctrine that says God really wanted Abraham to do a human sacrifice and that killing is not a sin. This goes against everything preached by the prophet. How many times does he refer to Jesus as a messenger. When he said he wanted to correct a few things, he didn t meant negate what Jesus said, he meant that christians took too litteraly the *if someone hit you, let them hit you again*, and that there are conditions where you must fight in self defense. The prophet himself never tried to conquer outside of Arabia, it is the successors that disobeyed.

    I think Islam is reaching maturity and will now focus more on understanding the words of the prophets and less in searching the hadith for excuses to be angry. The hadits were not written by the prophet, they are a bit like the stuff written by the disciples of Jesus. Important, but not as important. And every subgroup of Islam has different sets of hadiths. It s a bit like different editions of the bible. (catholic, protestant, mormon, etc)

    March 25, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply

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