In comments at the Aspen Security Forum, CIA Director John Brennan warned that after five years of bloody civil war, he is no longer confident that it’s even possible for Syria to remain as a whole country, saying it may not be possible to avoid a partition.
This is not the first time US officials have mentioned partition as a possibility for Syria, and indeed Secretary of State John Kerry presented it back in February as “Plan B” if that ceasefire failed. The ceasefire is gone, but Brennan is the first official to bring it up since.
Indeed, US officials have long resisted the notion of even couching partition as a possibility, insisting they want Syria to remain united, and with a powerful central government, albeit a different, more pro-US ruling faction. US officials have repeatedly spurning proposals that would involve keeping Syria nominally united but in a more federalized system, with significant regional autonomy. Such proposals have been common among both the Kurdish YPG and the Russians as possible solutions to the war.
It’s unclear what an eventual partition would look like, but at present there are three significant territorial possessions outside of central government control. This would be the Kurdish territory, mostly in the far northeast, ISIS territory across the east, and al-Qaeda’s territory around Idlib Province.