After Two Years of War Syria Has 'Ceased to Exist'
BYLINE: Zeina Karam Sapa-AP
BEIRUT: More than two years into Syria's civil war, the once highly centralised authoritarian state has effectively split into three distinct parts, each boasting its own flag, security agencies and judicial system.
In each area, religious, ideological and turf power struggles are under way and battle lines tend to shift, making it impossible to predict what Syria could look like once the combatants lay down their arms. But the longer the bloody conflict drags on, analysts say, the more difficult it will be to piece together a coherent Syrian state from the wreckage.
"There is no doubt that as a distinct single entity, Syria has ceased to exist," said Charles Lister, an analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. "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."
The geographic dividing lines that have emerged and cleft the nation into three remain fluid, but the outlines can be traced on a map.
The regime holds a firm grip on a corridor running from the southern border with Jordan, through the capital Damascus and up to the Mediterranean coast, where a large portion of the population are members of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect.
The rebels, primarily drawn from the Sunni Muslim majority, control a chunk of territory that spans parts of Idlib and Aleppo provinces in the north and stretches along the Euphrates river to the porous Iraqi border in the east. Tucked into the far north-eastern corner, Syria's Kurdish minority enjoys semi-autonomy.
Those contours provide the big picture view. The view from the ground, however, is slightly muddied.
While Sunni rebels control large parts of Syria's rural regions in the north, the government controls provincial capitals there, with the exception of Raqqa city and parts of Aleppo city. The regime retains some military bases and checkpoints in the overwhelmingly rebel-held countryside, but those are besieged and isolated and supplies for troops are air-dropped by helicopter or plane.
The opposition movement is far from monolithic, and there has been infighting between al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists and moderate rebel groups, as well as between Kurds and rebels of a radical Islamic bent. …