Brahimi: Syria could be a new Somalia

Sub: Brahimi warned of a scenario in which warlords, militia and fighting groups filled the void left by a collapsed state

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The U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, called on Syrians to seek a “swift settlement” to the ongoing crisis or warned that the country could “turn into a big Somalia.”

Brahimi warned of a scenario in which warlords, militia and fighting groups filled the void left by a collapsed state.

He expressed his support for establishing a new government in Syria, adding that Syrians should be the ones to determine their new country’s “nature,” in statements carried by the Arabic Agence France-Presse.

“In my humble opinion, this should lead to a new, democratic, republican system, non-sectarian in Syria, which opens the door to what I call the new Syrian Republic,” Brahimi said in an interview with the Swiss public television network on Monday.

Meanwhile, Brahimi said he hopes Saudi Arabia and Iran participate in an upcoming peace conference to be held in Geneva next month.

He said opposing Syrian groups still seem to be unwilling to reach a ceasefire ahead of the Geneva talks.

Brahimi, a veteran peace negotiator, sees that if negotiations do not lead to a solution, the situation in Syria could spiral out of control.

The “Somalization” of Syria, a description made by Brahimi in earlier statements, could lead to a war-torn state driven by warlords, as is the case in Somalia.

More than one million people have been killed in Somalia, following years of fighting between rival clans and warlords, after the President Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.

However, some analysts think there are more steps yet to come that could determine the future of the Syrian conflict.

Theodore Karasik, director of Research and Consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), told Al Arabiya News the nature of Syrian society is drastically different to Somalia’s.

“The differences between Somalia and Syria are great. In Syria you have a multidimensional society made up of [people from] various origins, like secularists and tribes. Somalia is a clan based society that is represented by regional federations of clan members who are beholding to a particular tribal ethos in the Somali society,” Karasik said.

He said changes on the ground will be determined by the results of the Geneva II conference, set to be held next month, as well as Syria’s presidential elections, set for 2014.

“It is highly unlikely the Syrian regime will fall at this juncture, given the resilience of President Bashar al-Assad and his government, which are being backed by Hezbollah and Iran.
The Somali scenario is unlikely to happen now,” he added.

Peter Neumann, professor of security studies at the Department of War Studies, King’s College in London, told Al Arabiya News that Brahimi’s warning is “timely” despite the uniqueness of the Syrian case.

“Somalia has gone through 20 years of civil war and has become one of the most chaotic, least effectively governed places on earth, with a whole generation of Somalis being lost to fighting and misery,” he said.

“Though Syria is a far more developed country and the civil war has gone on for just two - not 20 - years, Brahimi's warning is timely and appropriate,” Neuman said.

“If the current military stalemate continues and [neither of] the two sides are ready for a compromise, the bloodletting, ethnic cleansing, hunger and refugee flows will only become worse,” he added.

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