What will the Middle East look like once the Syrian civil war brings about the fall of President Bashar-al-Assad, whose family has ruled the country for more than four decades?
Former UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan warned, “Syria is not Libya — it will not implode, it will explode beyond its borders.” The collapse of Assad regime will have major strategic repercussions on Syria’s regional allies and will also impact upon the balance of power in the Middle East.
Here are some states and non-state actors who would be likely winners and losers if Assad is ousted.
If Assad’s regime falls without any intervention, the US will definitely be among the major shareholders of winners. It will basically serve as evidence that United States can influence events in other countries without directly participating in their affairs. Moreover, the fall of Assad will provide US with the opportunity to weaken Iran, something that will give US a chance to mend its relations with Israel.
Turkey has announced plans for its pipeline projects in Iraq to oil fields in the south and the north. The increasing influence of Iran in post-war Iraq serves as a barrier for Turkey. Even though Turkey does not want to militarily involve itself in Iraq, but it does want political influence for safeguarding its interests. The ousting of Assad would provide Turkey with the opportunity. The Turks for the fulfillment of their economic objectives do want the collapse of Assad regime.
The Sunni-led group Hamas did not back Assad regime that resulted in the withdrawal of Iranian funding. In addition, Hamas also pulled all its leaders operating from Damascus. However, there have been reports that Hamas has since benefited from Qatari and Turkish funding. Also, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has emerged as a major donor for energizing Hamas. The fall of Assad and the rise of a Sunni regime would be advantageous for Hamas to dictate the militant side of politics in the region.
Iran has invested troops, weapons and ample resources to ensure that Assad’s power base in Syria remains unshaken. It is the hotspot that will allow Iran to maintain its influence from Afghanistan to Lebanon. Experts suggest that the fall of Assad regime will serve as a strategic blow to Iranians in two ways. Firstly, it would end their hopes of creating their sphere of Shiite influence. Secondly, Iran would be forced to shift its stance from confrontational to a more defensive one.
Russia backed the regime from the very beginning and also opposed sanctions by UN and Arab League. When the Assad regime falls, Russia would lose its significant customer of arms and ammunition. Moreover, Russian Navy would also lose its logistical support facility at Tartus.
However, apart from all these Russia wants to support Assad regime because of its belief that Arab revolutions have further destabilized the region and cleared the road to power Islamic radicals. Russians have long suffered from terrorism and extremism at the hands of Islamists in Chechnya, and hence they are in favor of authoritarian governments.
The powerful Shiite militia based in Lebanon has publicly tied its future with Assad regime. The fall of Assad government would deprive the group of its strategic partner and main supply line for its arsenal. Moreover, it would also open crumble the long hegemony that Hezbollah has enjoyed as the undeclared army of Lebanon.
The only good news for Israel will be that Iran will be weakened by Assad’s fall. On the flip side, it is important to mention that Syria and Israel fought two wars, one in 1967 and the other in 19733. But, despite all bloodshed Israel seems to have developed an understanding relation with Assad. The relationship allowed Assad to dominate Lebanon in return for restraining Hezbollah. However, the fall of Syrian regime and its replacement by an Islamist form of government like the one in Egypt will pose a direct threat to Israel’s national security and interest in the region. Hence, on the whole Israel has much to lose in post-Assad Syria.