After over two years of intense infighting, the nation formerly known as the Syrian Arab Republic has virtually ceased to exist.
— zeina karam (@zkaram) August 4, 2013
The AP reports that the three territories are suffering their own microcosms of the greater civil war, religious and ideological struggles giving way to turf war. The one thing we know for certain: the longer the fighting lasts, the less likely it will be for Syria to reemerge as a cogent nation.
Charles Lister, an analyst at IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center, has said that “There is no doubt that as a distinct single entity, Syria has ceased to exist… Considering the sheer scale of its territorial losses in some areas of the country, Syria no longer functions as a single all-encompassing unitarily-governed state.”
Assad’s regime has control over lands near the southern border with Jordan reaching up through Damascus and up to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Free Syrian Army rebels, made up of mostly Sunni Muslims, control parts of the territory in Aleppo and Idlib provinces headed down to the Euphrates towards the Iraqi border. The far Northeastern corner of Syria holds the Kurdish minority, who control their territory with semi-autonomy.
The rebels use the rural countryside to their advantage while Assad loyalists fight to maintain control over regional urban centers, having already lost Raqqa city and most of Aleppo. Loyalist bases scattered throughout the countryside find themselves under siege by guerrillas, and supplies must be airdropped to avoid losing ground.
To paint the Syrian civil war as “loyalists against opposition” would be to carelessly neglect the spectrum of fighting taking place. Al-Qaeda extremists have recently been reported as engaging with moderate rebels as well as Kurds and other radical Islamist groups. The AP believes that such violence would be more than capable of escalating minor skirmishes into all-out war between rebel factions.
For the moment at least, the more peaceful areas of Kurdish Syria are celebrating their culture more openly than ever before permitted. Where the Baathist Assad regime would have previously suppressed public expression of Kurdish cultural identity, Kurds are now printing their own license plates, appointing their own police, and even teaching their schoolchildren their native tongue.