With the exception of Iran and Egypt (where the army appears to be effectively re-establishing control), there is no situation in the Middle East more potentially dangerous than the Syrian civil war.
These are the various possibilities for Syria, in reverse order of likelihood: Installation of a secular, democratic regime (this isn't going to happen) or the current regime survives, with or without leader Bashir Assad (possible but unlikely). The demons of sectarianism have been unleashed, which will, in all likelihood, lead to a Sunni government, most probably Wahhabi.
The Saudis have actively supported the rebels and would love to establish a Wahhabi outpost in the northern Arab world. This is a major opportunity for them. Should such a development occur, the big losers would be Iran and Hezbollah. It would be good for the Lebanese government and for Israel, since it would mean a regime heavily influenced by a country informally allied with Israel against Iran.
A Muslim-Brotherhood-run or Salafist-ruled government is the most likely development, however. Such a Syria would break its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, but also be unremittingly hostile to Israel and negative for Lebanon and Syria's own minorities.
Outside forces can influence the result only to a certain extent. Iran and Russia support the current Alawite regime, which is probably doomed. Saudi Arabia and Qatar support the rebels. Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Europe and America look on. Of the likely outcomes - both fundamentalist Sunni - the "Saudi solution" is preferable for many reasons.
NORMAN A. BAILEY
Institute for Global Economic Growth
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