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Syria's quagmire points to eventual foreign intervention

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Second, in contrast to the relative unity of the regime, the opposition forces – although having risen in power and status and being able to seriously threaten the regime – still lack strong internal cohesion.

Judging from the little and not always reliable information coming out of Syria, the opposition forces have so far failed to create a truly inter-sectarian coalition (the opposition is mostly Sunni, with other groups – like the Kurds – remaining at the margins, fearing retaliation from the regime). The internal division is not surprising, considering the regime targeted and suppressed political opponents for decades.

Third, despite it’s involvement, the international community – and this definitely also applies to the Arab League – has not been willing to strongly take sides in Syria, as it did in Libya. Short of this type of intervention – which is highly unlikely right now – the future of the revolt seems to depend only on the internal balance of power between the regime and its opponents.

Looking at Syria through this “quagmire” lens, the country’s future is neither a “Tunisia-style,” peaceful, transition nor a “Libya-style,” relatively quick, civil war that defeats the previous regime.

At home, the violence of a prolonged quagmire will have an extremely high humanitarian cost. As regime brutality continues, new refugees will be created and the civilian population will keep paying the price in disrupted and destroyed lives.

Regionally, a failed state in limbo could affect the balance of power. A weakened Syrian regime, for instance, could lose its role as the strongman of Lebanon’s politics. That, in turn, promises to change internal Lebanese dynamics, for example by giving a powerful second wind to the “Cedar Revolution” and its supporters.

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