What next for Syria? Analysts see no end in sight for conflict

As the Syrian civil war drags into its sixth year, analysts are predicting that the violence will continue for a long time as regional and world powers struggle to defend their interests and defeat the Islamic State extremist group.

SERGEY ALEKSASHENKO, a former deputy finance minister of Russia, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a foreign policy think tank in Washington.

dpa: What do you think Russia's next move in Syria will be?

Aleksashenko: Russia's position on Syria is clearly articulated: united country under the legitimate president, Bashar al-Assad. The recent ceasefire deal could be claimed as Russia's victory, as the opposition has agreed to stop fighting against al-Assad and to start negotiations. In this respect Russia will support peace negotiations as an intermediary and will support al-Assad fighting against [the terrorist group] Islamic State.

dpa: Where do you see Syria a year from now, and what role will Russia have?

Aleksashenko: Best-case scenario is that the peace negotiations will result in a comprehensive political accord on how Syria will be organized and managed. Russia will defend its interests: Assad as president until new elections, the Russian military base in Syria, and arms supply contracts to Syria.

Worst-case scenario: the ceasefire will not last long and the Syrian civil war will re-emerge with growing tensions between Russia and Turkey. As a result, Syria may collapse as a single state.

dpa: What's your best estimate on how the war ends?

Aleksashenko: Best case: the war ends with a political resolution.

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MATTHEW ROJANSKY is the head of the Russia- and Ukraine-focused Kennan Institute in Washington.

dpa: What do you think Russia's next move in Syria will be?

Rojansky: I don't think Russia is looking to escalate its involvement - maybe very limited ground forces if needed, but so far the air campaign is having the desired result and allowing al-Assad's forces to push the rebels back.

dpa: Where do you see Syria a year from now, and what role will Russia have?

Rojansky: The war will not be over. However, Assad will have likely regained control of the key western population centres and may even make a push for Raqqa [Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria].

dpa: What's your best estimate on how the war ends?

Rojansky: I'm not sure it will end within the reasonable near term. Look at Afghanistan. That country has been in a state of perpetual low- or high-intensity conflict for almost 40 years.

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GHADI SARY is an academy fellow with the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House, an independent policy institute in London.

dpa: What do you think the next move of the United States will be in Syria?

Sary: Their policy has been clear regarding guaranteeing their national security goal in defeating [Islamic State]. The US will continue to push for more cooperation with Russia, seeking its pressure to limit sectarian policies of its allies in the region, while also working on encouraging its own international and regional allies to increase their support for the war on terror.

dpa: Where do you see Syria a year from now, and what role will the US have?

Sary: The war would continue in different forms for years, but I believe that a major collapse of the Syrian government is unlikely under the current direction of travel. The latest US effort has played a role in downgrading the risk of a regional war which would have included Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia - possibly Israel.

dpa: What's your best estimate on how the war ends?

Sary: Just like the war in Syria contributed to exacerbation of tension in the region, the war cannot end until a wider agreement between the different regional powers takes place. Defeating the Islamic State will contribute to that as it restores the confidence of Sunni states in the stability of their regimes and therefore reduces the reliance on proxies in Syria aimed at achieving that balance of power at a huge humanitarian cost.

Last update: Sun, 13/03/2016 - 09:23
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