With the battle for Syrian soil near an end, the most brutal conflict of modern times is becoming a fight for who gets to shape what emerges from the ruins. Backed by his allies, Bashar al-Assad has all but won and – abandoned by theirs – the myriad forces who stood against him have lost. The battlefield is now now potently geopolitical. Iran and Russia, who saved Damascus, want a strategic return on their blood and treasure, but both have very different visions for post-war Syria. Turkey too is demanding an outcome that suits it's interests. As is Israel. A waning USA, Saudi Arabia and Qatar also want a say in how the regime is aligned in a fast changing and volatile region.The stakes have rarely been higher in the modern Middle East. The next few years will test the modern borders of the region, and further strain an ethnic sectarian balance that has neared breaking point from Tartous to Qom.
Martin Chulov (@martinchulov) who covers the Middle East for the Guardian, won the Orwell prize for journalism in 2015. He has reported from the region since 2005.
Ian Black is Visiting Senior Fellow at the LSE Middle East Centre. Ian is a former Middle East editor, diplomatic editor and European editor for the Guardian newspaper. In recent years he has reported and commented extensively on the Arab uprisings and their aftermath in Syria, Libya and Egypt, along with frequent visits to Iran, the Gulf and across the MENA region.
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Image: Return to Homs. Image Courtesy of Xinhua/Pan Chaoyue, Flickr.