As the United States embraces a plan to get rid of all chemical weapons in Syria, the Syrian rebels are reorganizing themselves into Islamic coalitions that are independent of the US-backed Syrian National Coalition and are in opposition to an ascendant al-Qaeda. This reorganization represents a significant loss of US influence among the rebels, their willingness to adopt a hard-core Islamist character, and the probability of internal fighting between al-Qaeda and the other Sunni rebels in Syria.
Syria’s political reality is changing from a unified state into a fragmented series of regions. A Sunni enclave is developing in the north and east, a regime controlled area in the west and south, and a Kurdish autonomous area in the northeast. Kurdish autonomy will help bolster Turkish influence in the region while a US-led strike against the regime will only solidify the Balkanizing process in Syria.
With fighting in Syria escalating, Hezbollah has openly began assisting the Syrian regime in the battle for the strategic city of Qusayr. Sunni rebel groups, including the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front, are retaliating by beginning violent campaigns in Lebanon. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is attempting to capitalize on the chaos in Syria by bombing Shia population centers in Iraq. An analysis of these recent developments illustrates the short- to mid-term forecast of events in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.