Some people think that the collapse of the Syrian regime will have the same impact on the Levant that the collapse of the Soviet Union had on the Eastern Bloc since at the time Communist Moscow was controlling the destinies of the Warsaw Pact in Eastern and Central Europe.
Similarly, Syria controlled the destiny of Lebanon, played an important role in shaping the destinies of Palestine, Jordan, and Iraq, and wielded considerable influence in Turkey. The collapse of this regime will, therefore, put an end to a “staged” situation and pave the way for a normal one even though the concept of “normalcy” is quite ambivalent in our part of the world.
The comparison between Syrian and the Soviet Union is quite valid and its validity is what makes the situation in Syria more complex and what turned a “revolution” into a “crisis.”
However, the two cases are not identical. The toppling of the Syrian regime will not have the exact same impact on the neighboring countries that the collapse of the Soviet Union had on Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary. The Yugoslavian scenario sounds like the most plausible one. This means that the region is not expected to witness the type of unification that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany or a peaceful secession modeled after the separation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Disintegration, violent and bloody, is the most likely outcome.
This is definitely not a conspiracy, neither is it another Sykes Picot as some like to assume. It is rather the biggest favor the Syrian revolution has done to the region when it exposed the nature of the relationships between its different groups and the degree of coexistence between them in the post-Ottoman era. Those who argue that the Syrian revolution should not have happened so that we wouldn’t be faced with truths we have for long tried to avoid are like those who say that Eastern and Central Europe should have remained one bloc so that the Yugoslav War would not have erupted. In both cases, it is the preference on an imposed reality that is basically founded on lies and tyranny.
Now that the Syrian revolution is approaching victory, it is important to get ready for the coming phase and which is not expected to be any easier and might even be much harder. This necessitates a close examination of the way nations in the region were formed and the complex relations between its diverse groups coupled with an effort to promote tolerance on both the religious and the ethnic levels. The revolution would solve a problem that should have been solved a long time, but it would also create new problems that have to be duly faced through dealing with the reality in the Levant while always taking into consideration the fate of former Yugoslavia and doing so in the most rational way possible and with a critical eye that would help overcome the numerous shortcomings inherent in the current situation.
Hazem Saghieh is a columnist at al-Hayat, where this article was published on Dec. 11, 2012