9 January 2013, 19:08

Syria: what the end of game will be?

Syria: what the end of game will be?

Throughout the year 2012, the events in Syria made headlines all over the world. Russian chess grandmaster Alexey Kuzmin compares the current situation in Syria with… the situation in the match which took place between Russian chess players Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov 30 years ago, and predicts that the end of the Syrian conflict will probably be like the outcome of that historic match.

Throughout the year 2012, the events in Syria made headlines all over the world. The reason is not only the large amount of victims of the long-standing civil war, however tragic this is in itself. The significance of the Syrian events for the entire world, as many experts say, is that it looks like with this conflict, “the Arab spring” has reached a deadlock.

Not long before the New Year, both warring sides in Syria (and supporters of each of these sides outside Syria) obviously became more active. Both the government and the opposition wanted to show that the year was ending with success on their side. The government conducted several anti-terrorist operations, and the rebels responded with a number of terrorist acts and attacks on the government army.

In the end of 2012, quite a few Western media sources claimed that Bashar Assad was still in power because Russia had allegedly helped his regime to strengthen its air defense and because the opposition is afraid that Assad may fulfill his threat to use chemical weapons against the rebels. Russia has not yet made any comments whether it has really helped the Syrian regime to strengthen its air defense. As for chemical weapons, Russia finds it unlikely that President Assad would really order to use them.

Russia still insists that nobody from outside Syria should interfere in the conflict on the side of either the government or the opposition. Is it only the Syrian people who should determine Syria’s future, Russia is convinced.

Russian chess grandmaster Alexey Kuzmin compares the current situation in Syria with… the situation in the match which took place between Russian chess players Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov 30 years ago, and predicts that the end of the Syrian conflict will probably be like the outcome of that historic match.

“Kasparov and Karpov were competing for the title of the World Champion,” Alexey Kuzmin says. “Karpov had already won 4 games in succession, and the rules were that one who would win 6 games in succession would be the absolute winner. It looked like Garry Kasparov had no chances. However, at a certain moment, he chose a strategy that, in the end, helped him if not win himself, then, at least, not to let his rival win either. Although the entire situation looked to be against him, Kasparov would not acknowledge Karpov’s victory, defending himself as long as possible. His secret strategy was that he just wanted to “starve” his rival into surrender.”

“The next 17 games ended with draws. Then, Karpov won the fifth victory, but he was utterly exhausted.”

“The current situation in Syria reminds me of the situation in that match,” Alexey Kuzmin says. “The opposition’s chances to win are probably not very large, but, on the other hand, the government is obviously exhausted in its fight against it.”

“As for a foreign invasion in Syria, I believe that it is hardly possible.”

“I also believe that if President Assad wants to stay in power, the best strategy for him would be to give up controlling the entire territory of Syria,” Mr. Kuzmin continues. “In the current situation, it would probably be better for him to “sacrifice” some part of the country to the opposition. I believe, he may stay in power if he controls only the capital and the main communication lines.”

“However, one should keep it in mind that at present, the destiny of Syria depends not only on Syrians,” another chess grandmaster, Vladislav Tkachyov, says. “Many forces outside Syria are trying to manage the situation there.”

“If Bashar Assad is still in power, this is not because he is very effective in fighting against the opposition, but rather because he somehow manages to keep any foreign force from interfering in the Syrian conflict,” Mr. Tkachyov says. “I don’t know how he manages this – but somehow, he does. Most likely, it was the story with the Turkish plane, which was shot down by Syria, and the rumors that the Assad regime has chemical weapons that make foreigners refrain from an invasion in Syria.”

By the way, the historic match between Karpov and Kasparov didn’t bring a final victory to either of them. It dragged on for so long that finally, the organizers decided to end it without ascribing the victory to any of the rivals, although, at the moment when it was interrupted, the score was 5:3 in Karpov’s favor.

Experts are predicting a similar end to the Syrian conflict. The approximate date of this end will be September 2013, they say. If Bashar Assad manages to keep control over Damascus and some territory around it till that time, he’ll probably manage to persuade the opposition to start constructive talks with the authorities. Still, most likely, even after that, he will have to leave the president’s post. However, it looks like even if he does, he wouldn’t take it as his absolute failure.

But, to achieve such a result, Mr. Assad should adhere more to diplomacy than to force against the opposition.

Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein and the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi both lost power – and their lives – because they didn’t want to find a compromise with the opposition in their countries. If the incumbent Syrian President doesn’t want to end like them, he should be more ready for compromises.

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