Syria’s implosion worries neighbours: Analysis
This week’s sustained battles in the capital Damascus and the explosion that killed Assad’s feared brother-in-law and three other men at the core of his fight for survival have focused attention on the possible consequences of his downfall.
Strategically, Iran and Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah group - whose leader Hassan Nasrallah publicly mourned the slain Syrian officials as “comrades-in-arms” - have the most to lose, and their regional foe Saudi Arabia the most to gain.
Turkey, a friend of Assad until it fell out with him last year for rejecting its advice to defuse the uprising with real reform, will be happy to see him go, but is nervous about the uncertainties of any future struggle for power in Syria.
No mechanism for an orderly transition is in place. The bloodshed of the past 16 months has created many new scores to settle, particularly between Assad’s Shi’ite-linked Alawite minority and Syria’s 70 percent Sunni Muslim majority.
Any slide into sectarian warfare in Syria, which also has Druze and Christian minorities as well as ethnic Kurds, risks knock-on effects in neighbors such as Iraq and Lebanon with their own delicate and sometimes explosive communal mix.
Such a conflict could spill over Syria’s borders or suck in neighbors trying to defend their interests or co-religionists.
Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon are jittery about refugees who might flood across their frontiers and the potential rise of radical Sunni Islamists in Syria, which Assad has long warned could become “another Afghanistan” without him.
Israel will be delighted at the damage Assad’s fall would do to Iran and Hezbollah, but must reckon that any future Syrian government will be just as attached to the Israeli-occupied
Golan Heights, captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Despite their hostility to Israel, Assad and his father before him kept peace on the border for nearly 40 years, prompting some Israelis to