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Solution to Syrian war

November 06, 2013

RUSSIA and the US are insisting that they want to see a diplomatic solution to the civil war of Syria. Here are four things that Barack Hussein Obama and Vladimir Putin should keep in mind.

First, civil wars do not end quickly. The average length of civil wars since 1945 has been about 10 years. This shows that Syria’s civil war is in its early stages, not in its later stages.

Second, the greater the number of factions, the longer the civil war tends to last.

Syria’s civil war is being fought between the Assad regime and 13 major rebel groups whose alliances are relatively fluid.

This suggests that Syria’s civil war is likely to last longer than an average civil war.

Third, most civil wars end in decisive military victories, not negotiated settlements.

Of these wars, the government has won about 40pc of the time and rebels about 35pc of the time. The remainder tend to end in negotiated settlements.

This shows that civil war in Syria will not end in settlements but will rather end on the battlefield.

Fourth, the civil war that ends in settlement has two things in common: they divide political power among the combatants based on their position on the battlefield.

This means that any negotiated settlement in Syria will need to include both the Assad regime and the Islamists, neither of whom is particularly interested in working with the other.

Successful settlements enjoy the help of a third party willing to ensure the safety of combatants as they demobilise.

This means that even if all sides agree to negotiate, it is unlikely that any country or the UN will be willing to send peacekeepers necessary to help implement the peace.

Is there a likelihood of a successful negotiated settlement in Syria? Probably, close to zero.