ABSTRACT. The Syrian civil war developed from a broad based uprising against the brutal and corrupt Assad regime in 2011. By 2012 this had become a full scale civil war with profound splits on confessional and ethnic grounds. As this worsened, ISIS was able to capture cities in the North-East creating its version of a caliphate spreading across Syria and Iraq. The war has displaced over 50% of the Syrian population with over 25% of the population having fled the country. Military advantage has shifted from one side to the other – mainly reflecting the degree of external support but there is no end in sight. On this basis, this paper argues for a federal solution as the least bad option for Syria. It offers the means to eliminate ISIS and some security to the various confessional groups now fragmented on sectarian lines. A federal solution is not ideal but maybe the only alternative to allowing the war to drag on.

Keywords: Syria; Assad; ISIS; peace; federalism

How to cite: Ibrahim, Azeem (2017). “Ending the Syrian Civil War: Is There a Federal Solution?,” Geopolitics, History, and International Relations 9(2): 141–166.

Received 10 April 2017 • Received in revised form 16 June 2017
Accepted 17 June 2017 • Available online 5 July 2017


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Ph.D., The University of Cambridge;
The Center for Global Policy,
Washington, D.C.;
The Strategic Studies Institute,
U.S. Army War College

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