I co-wrote with Nick Ottens, a Wikistrat supervisor and Dutch journalist who specializes in globalization reportage.
This crowdsourced simulation, conducted in real time on Wikistrat’s online platform during the course of three weeks, discussed the sustainability of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and forecasted dozens of scenarios for its collapse or survival. In addition, analysts explored and evaluated a range of policy options for the United States, Russia, Iran, Israel, Turkey, France and other actors. The simulation saw the participation and collaboration of over 120 Wikistrat analysts from all around the world. The following is an excerpt from the simulation’s executive summary, available for download here.
Assad has little control over his own destiny. His survival to date has had less to do with his bloody suppression of insurgents than the absence of comprehensive foreign intervention, China’s and Russia’s diplomatic support (along with some material support from Moscow), and the opposition’s enduring divisions. Brute force can put down any uprising, but it won’t put the sectarian “genie” back in the “bottle.” Those enduring tensions will do more to shape the future of Syria than anything Assad can now manage.
Absent assassination, military coup or outside intervention, the struggle will require significant time to reach resolution. Assad’s forces keep the upper hand wherever they focus attention, but they cannot hold territory once they move on. Recent opposition successes notwithstanding, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) survives but does not flourish.
The Wikistrat simulation explored five scenario pathways. Overall, the analysts agreed that the rising sectarian violence, questionable army loyalty and ongoing defections dramatically reduce Assad’s chances to restore stability. The most plausible scenarios thus portray a slow-but-continuous of the regime until Assad falls. At that point, the opposition’s divisions and conflicting goals imply Libyan-style post-war difficulties.