Let Syria Split

Syria’s conflict is likely to continue for years – unless we change more than the rules of the political game. A two-state solution is most likely to prevent further bloodshed and preserve regional stability.

The thing about Syria’s president Bashar Assad is that not even Israel knows whether it would be better if he stayed or if he left. I was puzzled by recent reports: Some claimed that Assad remains the middle-man between Iran (and the country’s Russian backers) and Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. If you get rid of Assad – who is an Alawite Shiite – the Sunni majority would take over in Syria and the Shia terrorist connection would presumably disappear. We should welcome that prospect. Yet, with Assad gone, the Sunni government might also undergo a transformation that leads to free elections, the victory of an Islamist right-wing party, and radicalization of the country with the corollary of ethnic cleansing.

A Sunni controlled Syria would be unpredictable. It would not cooperate with the Hashemite King of Jordan, the pro-American Abdullah II (and with his wife Rania), but would try to destabilize Abdullah’s rule by providing a safe haven to radical Islamists. It would support groups that contribute to widespread Islamization in Jordan. Radical Syria and Jordan would then likely team up with radicalized Egypt (thanks to the politics of president Mursi) and target “enlightened” Emirates. In the end, the whole region could be destabilized. The Iraqi civil conflict could possibly reignite as well – as if we have not had enough Iraqi sectarian conflict yet!

Which one is Syria’s lesser evil: radical Shiites or radical Sunnis? I recently spoke with Shlomo Brom, a Senior Fellow at Tel Aviv’s “Institute for National Security Studies”, who also held very high posts in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). He clearly admitted: “There is no consensus in the Israeli defense establishment on this subject. In any case I believe we can forget about peace negotiations between Israel and Syria taking place for the coming years”.