Syria Endgame and A New Map (Minorities in the Middle East)

Fascinating article by Frank Jacobs in the NYT Opinionator about the conflict in Syria, speculating on a possible endgame in which President Assad sets up a rump state in the areas of Syria with an Alawite majority along the northern coast of the country. Jacobs doesn’t think this is necessarily or even likely going to happen, but this map suggests what Syria would look like. 

It’s an interesting thought experiment, a possible world. If you look carefully at the map and extrapolate, what you would get are minorities forming into capsule-like majorities hugging the coast up and down the eastern Mediterranean —an Alawite minority-majority on the coast of Syria, a Christian minority-majority just south close to the coast, a Shiite minority-majority in Southern Lebanon and along the coast, and Jewish minority-majority due south, also along the coast. (This article from the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet adds the Kurdish dimension into the mix.)

There is a distinct whiff of colonialism at work here, but for one thing. Jacobs is a London based writer and blogger interested in cartography. Unlike the old colonial map-making, this one would be propelled by internal and regional political dynamics –sectarian, Syrian, Gulf Arab, Turkish, and Iranian. Assuming you are not a conspiracy theorist, unlike the organized system of administrative control that marked colonialism historically, this one will reflect the pure mayhem taking place now.

These thoughts by David Ignatius in the Washington Post are more constructive, meant to shore up the state system in Syria after Assad as well as to shore up the state systems in the countries surrounding Syria. Ironically, these centripetal prescriptions are more dependent upon the external interventions of western power than the internal centrifugal forces tearing Syria apart.



About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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