Syria, shattered

What this means, said Taqi, is that any attempt to broker a diplomatic solution must begin with a cease-fire, and with combatants holding different slices of territory. The future Syria that emerges will have to be a more decentralized state, reflecting the intense feelings of communal separation and rage that have emerged over the past two years of war.

This blunt analysis is useful as the United States and Russia explore arrangements for a Geneva peace conference, perhaps in October, that might bring together the regime and the opposition for talks. “It may not be possible to reestablish a national convention based on a central state,” warned Taqi in a recent research paper. “We need . . . a state where all regions have a high percentage of decentralization.” …

The regime has seemed equally bent on division. “The manner in which the regime has responded to its opponents strongly suggests that it considers the bulk of the Syrian population and territory not even worth governing,” wrote Frederic Hof, a leading U.S.-Syria expert, in a paper published last week by the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Middle East Center. “Why else would it subject neighborhoods filled with Syrian citizens to merciless artillery shelling, aerial bombing, and missile strikes?”