Since the Arab Spring, chaos seems to have further engulfed the already volatile Middle East. Back in 1982, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry official forecast in a little noticed policy paper the disintegration of many of the countries of the Middle East with the violent redrawing of borders and the emergence of smaller, weaker states based on greater ethnic and religious homogeneity. Thirty years later, as Syria continues its sectarian civil war, some are arguing that prediction is taking shape as state-based nationalism is declining and something larger and older is taking over.
Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese army general and now the director of a political think tank in Beirut, believes the likely outcome of the civil war is the breakup of Syria. He foresees Alawites, members of an offshoot sect of Shia Islam, and Christians cleaving together along Syria’s coast, and Kurds and Sunni Muslims establishing separate states of their own.That would have devastating repercussions across the region, he warns.“In my opinion the unity of Lebanon, of Turkey, of Jordan, of Iraq will not be secure or guaranteed at all,” he said. American University political science professor Bassel Saloukh, based in Lebanon, agrees. He says the Arab Spring-uprisings, along with the geopolitical rivalry of Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, have pushed the region into unchartered and dangerous waters. He suspects the sectarianism that has been unleashed will mean at the very least the end of strong unitary states for many Middle East countries. “I think the only way to maintain them as political entities, as political units is by experimenting with some kind of institutionalized ethnic-sectarian power-sharing agreement,” he said.He says Lebanon may well be seen by some as a model for power-sharing arrangements by other countries - from Syria to Jordan. “What Lebanon serves today is as a model for countries like Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Jordan in the future. Those countries where state power has collapsed, there is no more consensus on the different ethnic sectarian groups living together,” he said.