How Syria Could Be Permanently Ripped Apart, In Two Maps

The Syrian Civil War is quickly approaching its third anniversary on March 15.

Instead of moving towards peace, negotiations have largely stalled, the Assad regime has continued its use of brutal tactics, and various warring factions inside the country have multiplied in a constant shifting of alliances.

Large swaths of the county are controlled by a patchwork of government, rebel, Kurd, or jihadist forces — who themselves are composed of multiple different groups — as this map from Reuters shows.

By and large, these zones of control line up strongly with Syria’s diverse ethnic composition. Worryingly, this could have have broader implications that challenge the region’s already shaky borders.

The Kurds, around 15% of Syria’s population, have recently declared autonomy with the blessings of Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government.

Simultaneously, al Qaeda affiliates and other jihadists control large segments of Syria, overlapping with Iraq. This has culminated in the Iraqi province of Anbar largely falling to jihadist forces.

Syria’s western border with Lebanon is also starting to blur as the war spreads into Beirut, due in large part to Shiite Hezbollah coming to the aid of the Syrian regime.

This spillover of war has the potential to start chipping away at the established borders in the Middle East, which is hardly surprising given how regional borders were mostly drawn in the past century by European colonialists.

If these borders were to change, a new more representative map of the Middle East could arise — but it would likely require significantly more bloodshed for that point to be reached.

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