The past year's blueprint for Syria's future
We can say 2014 was a critical year in the Syrian crisis. The drivers of the conflict have become more vicious and entrenched over the last year. De-escalation is effectively impossible in the near future, and there are few incentives for a peaceful resolution.
The year 2014 was not a good year for Syrians by any standard. The military situation in Syria has become static, as each party has entrenched itself in the areas it controls.
The margin of movement and change has become highly limited on both sides, as the strategies currently employed have failed to effect any significant change in the balance of power. This situation is unlikely to change unless there is foreign intervention, which is also unlikely. Syria is divided, with a third of its territory under regime control and two thirds controlled by rebels and Islamist groups, and its borders are fluid.
The demographics of displacement
The year 2014 also uncovered the large demographic changes taking place in Syria, which are a reflection of conscious policies as well as a natural outcome of the conflict. Certain areas were cleared and others were left behind by residents who sought refuge elsewhere.
There were indications the regime was settling non-Syrians in areas such as Aleppo, Damascus and Homs, and of the large-scale buying up of real estate, reportedly funded by Iran.
Meanwhile, Western countries were settling refugees who fled in countries further and further from their homes.
|This year has confirmed the impossibility of achieving an international agreement on a solution for Syria.|
A new national geography developed in 2014, as every religious and ethnic group became increasingly insular, forming its own group of fighters.
This does not only apply to the two main parties to the conflict, the Sunnis and the Alawites, all sects in Syria have tried to cut themselves off from others "for protection", and the only form of dialogue between them is that which is takes place on the battlefield.
The collapse of the Syrian state and its institutions is further complicating matters, despite the facade of functionality the regime's control of the capital and the major cities have given it.
The state is unable to provide its normal services due to the complete collapse of the economy. The regime announced the 2015 budget extends to approximately $7.5 billion; but Syria needs $10 billion to cover the costs of importing oil alone.
The past year has also shed light on the complicated results of the Syrian crisis on the regional arena. Ethnic and sectarian strife have increased and imposed themselves as the new reality, adding new regional complications.
The Kurdish model of autonomy - or even outright independence - has presented itself as the solution. This will have major implications for the region, especially as sectarian divisions were so clearly geographically defined in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
This year has also confirmed the impossibility of achieving an international agreement on a solution for Syria. World powers are otherwise occupied in a multitude of issues and crises.
The Syrian issue has become marginal, the priority has been given to the war against the Islamic State group. In 2014, the Syrian crisis turned into a quagmire of linked crises and problems, which have overshadowed the main reason for conflict in Syria and will no doubt have huge effects on the future of the country.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.