Dr. Mordechai KedarDr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel.
The situation in Syria is deteriorating. To the east, the city of Tadmur (Palmyra) has fallen into the hands of Islamic State, giving that organization control over nearly half the country, including the areas bordering on Iraq and Jordan. Assad's regime has lost the border crossings to Iraq, while the military airfields in the desert -Tadmur and T4 - have fallen to ISIS. Hundreds who lived in the city and helped the regime have been slaughtered by Jihadist knives and their bodies flung onto the streets. The world is concerned that Tadmur's antiquities, priceless relics of ancient cultures, will suffer the same fate at the hands of ISIS as did the ancient artifacts of Iraq.
The deteriorating situation in Syria has forced Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader who led his organization into the Syrian quagmire, to schedule three appearances in which he found himself facing mounting criticism from Lebanese Shiites. The large number of Hezbollah casualties has raised the possibility of a general draft, causing high school pupils to be kept from school by their Shiite parents for fear of forced induction into the Hezbollah militia.
The Alawites are deathly afraid of the day that mass graves of about twenty thousand people who "disappeared" in Tadmor prison between 1980 and 1981 will be found. Most were peaceful citizens murdered for being suspected of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. The regime has never told their bereaved parents, widows and orphaned children the fate of their loved ones. The discovery of the graves and the sight of the many skulls they contain will serve to exponentially increase Sunni hatred and thirst for revenge against the Alawites.
Even the Druze, who are traditionally loyal allies of the Alawites, have begun washing their hands of any connection to them and their regime. Sheikh Hamoud Al Hinawi, one of the Druze spiritual leaders, said,this week,that "recent events have shown that reliance on what was once called 'the Syrian Army' is of no value." The Sheikh despaired of the ability of Assad's forces to protect Druze enclaves in southern Syria, especially after the transfer of significant forces that had been keeping the Sunni rebels at bay to other fronts - the Qalamoun mountain range and the Idlib region. The sheikh called on the regime to return to the Druze the heavy and medium strength weaponry that was moved from the area so as to enable them to defend themselves.
All this is happening at the time when several rebel groups are uniting under one umbrella, hoping to take advantage of the resulting momentum to topple the Assad regime once and for all.
The entire region is experiencing upheaval as a result of the developments in Syria, chief among them the efforts expended by the Saudis and Turks to overthrow Assad. The significance of this joint effort is that the Saudis will fund purchases of weapons, armaments, communications equipment and other tools of warfare which will reach the rebel forces via Turkey. In addition, Turkey will make it easier for foreign volunteers to enter Syria, join the rebels and enhance their ability to operate.
It is, however, quite clear that even if Assad leaves the stage, Syria's problems will be far from over and that the country will soon be in the throes of violent power struggles between warring organizations, tribes and factions. Rivers of blood will continue to flow as they do today until the country is divided into homogeneous regions, each under independent rule: the Kurds in the northeast, Alawites in the northwest, Druze in the south, the Bedouin given the east, plus Damascus and Haleb. It is realistic to assume that Hezbollah will take over the area along the Lebanese border in order to provide the Shiites with a security zone. The breakup of Syria will strengthen Islamic state, which may then go on to threaten Jordan and its regime.
The war in Syria will continue, exactly as the war in Libya is still going on four years after Qaddafi's fall. Bashar Assad is only part of the problem. His legacy will be a lethal mix of organizations and groups that will continue to squabble and battle over the dead corpse of the Syrian state. It must be kept in mind that among these groups there are Iranian forces, who, it can safely be assumed, will remain there to see to the Ayatollahs' interests. It is entirely possible that Iranian forces will take over Damascus to protect Shiite holy sites located in the city and its environs.
There remains the possibility that Russia will take control of Latakia and its surrounding area - "temporarily," of course - to permit its naval craft to dock in the last port Russia has on the Mediterranean. If this scenario becomes a reality, it may spread to other ports, namely Baniyas and Tartus.
The world will yet mourn for Assad, as Libya longs for Qaddafi, and Iraq for Saddam Hussein to rise from the grave and return to power. The new order in the Middle East may return it not only to the days of the ancient Muslim Empire but to the period of endless tribal warfare that preceded it - the trivial difference being, of course, that in those days they waged war with daggers, swords and camels whereas today's tools of war are rockets, tanks and bombs, all fruits of modern industry.
Written for Arutz Sheva, translated from the Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky