Our last post highlighted our belief in a Syrian Deal in the works and our main reasons behind this thesis. In this post, we look at what shape a Syrian political solution will take politically and why.
The focus will be on the main areas of contention and possible Syrian political solutions that we feel have a high probability of coming to fruition.
First and foremost, there is the issue of what to do with Assad. A clue here revolves around the fact that Russia had no intention of prolonging its stay in Syria and that the pull-out occurred after strengthening the Assad regime but not going too far in extending his power beyond just survival.
This means that they might be able to bend on this issue for something in return – Saudi oil production cuts (already happening), lifting of sanctions, or some form of acceptance of the Ukrainian situation. The recent meeting between Putin and Kerry lasted four hours, so something has been agreed too.
Result: Assad will go but under a scheduled timetable. This is important since otherwise it would also create a power vacuum in Syria. I think he will step down eventually.
Second, the Kurdish north part run by the YPD will become a semi-autonomous region under the guidance of the US and Turkey. Recent bombings in Ankara are not good for elections and survival of the AKP party so the current Turkish strongman, Erdogan, will find this to be the most practical solution. They YPD had 100,000 fighters and it would take a significant amount of resources and time in the military sense for Turkey to prevent this. And they would not have any more success than they are currently having in the southeast part of Turkey. Also expect some type of cease-fire and trust-building exercise to occur with the Kurds in the southeast of Turkey. Of particular note, the recent bombings in Turkey have put fear in Turkish citizens and this has affected normal economic activities and the real danger for Erdogan is that he and his party could lose power if the economy falters.
Third, the Saudis without Turkey and backing from the US are left hanging and have no choice but to negotiate to end hostilities in Syria. Practically, this means that financing of some Syrian groups will cease.
Fourth, the ISIS problem. This is difficult one to predict, but the US would need to place some military assets on the ground in addition to airpower in order to defeat ISIS. This could be done in a multi-lateral context by getting other countries – EU, Turkey, Saudis etc, in an alliance to defeat them. Also coordination with the Shias/Russians could be in the works.
In the end, the Russians will retain some influence and access to the naval and air bases in the Alewite part of Syria run by Assad, the Kurds would gain semi-independence but not a state (the second worst option for Turkey) and the Syrian Sunni opposition groups would take over a semi-autonomous Sunni part of Syria currently run by ISIS. Of course there will be some borders renegotiated to make this practical.
The only wild card in this solution is what to do with the city of Aleppo. No answer here yet as I need to think and research this one a bit more.