Inside Syria

What does 2013 have in store for Syria?

With the two-year-old conflict worsening all the time, we ask if 2013 could be the deadliest year yet.

The conflict in Syria has been going on for nearly two years now. And as we enter 2013, we look at what the future may hold for the country.

If the fighting continues – and it shows no sign of stopping – then I fear my predictions are very, very gloomy. Syria, a major Arab county after all, faces the possibility of dismemberment, fragmentation, partition.

– Patrick Seale, a British writer on the Middle East

The opposition fighters have made significant gains in their battle for control of parts of the country. But elsewhere, the government’s grip on power remains as firm as ever.
What is clear is that civilians continue to pay a heavy price; since the start of the uprising, the UN estimates that more than 60,000 people have died.
More than half a million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries and the UN believes that number could top a million in the coming year.

With neither side in any mood to negotiate, the fighting looks set to continue.

This week, UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi gave one of his bleakest assessments of the conflict, at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo: “The situation in Syria is bad, very, very bad. It is getting worse, and worsening more quickly. Therefore, if about 50,000 were killed in close to two years, if, God forbid, this crisis goes on for one more year, it will not be 25,000 dead, rather close to 100,000 deaths …. I can’t see a solution or anything but one of the following two possibilities: Either there will be a political solution that satisfies the Syrian people and realises their ambitions and legitimate rights, or Syria will turn into an inferno.”

So, where do things stand right now, and what is likely to happen in 2013?

Inside Syria, with presenter Hazem Sika, is joined by guests: Patrick Seale, a leading British writer on the Middle East and the author of The Struggle for Syria and Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; Joseph Bahout, a professor of Middle East politics at the Institute for Political Studies in Paris; and Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow with the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“I’m absolutely convinced that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has no political negotiated solution in mind, it doesn’t belong to the software of this regime. The problem is that the people at the top of this regime are living in a kind of bubble, they are living in a complete state of denial, at best thinking that they can win over everything and bring some weak parties to the negotiating table, which in fact will refurbish the regime in one way or another and at worse they think that they can in fact put a very high price in front of everybody and then discourage everyone to go on that course …. But they miss one thing that the resolve of the rebellion is complete … the rebellion in Syria is not betting anymore on any intervention of any sort.”

Joseph Bahout, a professor of Middle East politics


Since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011, mapping out exactly what is happening inside Syria, has been very difficult. Each side in the conflict gives its own, often conflicting, version of who controls what.

But according to an independent assessment from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War:

  • The city of Aleppo is predominantly in rebel hands
  • There are government forces still in Idlib and Homs, although the situation there is changing all the time
  • The city of Homs is divided between government and rebel control
  • To the south, Derra, where the uprising began, is still under state control, although rebels control much of the nearby countryside
  • The study shows rebel forces mostly control the north and areas east of Aleppo and much of the border with Turkey and south of Idlib
  • And the coastal provinces along with Suwaida in the south are firmly under the government’s control