Syria is descending into a Somalia-style failed state run by warlords, which poses a grave threat to the future of the Middle East, former peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has said.
Brahimi, who stepped down a week ago after the failure of peace talks he mediated in Geneva, said that without concerted efforts for a political solution to Syria's brutal civil war "there is a serious risk that the entire region will blow up."
"The conflict is not going to stay inside Syria," he told Der Spiegel magazine in an interview published at the weekend.
More than 160,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which grew out of protests against President Bashar Assad in March 2011, inspired by uprisings in the wider Arab world.
Brahimi said many countries misjudged the Syrian crisis, expecting Assad's rule to crumble as some other Arab leaders' had done, a mistake they compounded by supporting "the war effort instead of the peace effort".
The civil war has drawn in powerful regional states, with Sunni Gulf monarchies and Turkey supporting the rebels and foreign jihadists. Shi'ite Iran, Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi'ites back Assad.
Major powers at the United Nations have also been divided, paralyzing diplomatic efforts. Assad's Western foes have pressed for action against Syrian authorities, but Russia and China have vetoed draft resolutions against Syrian authorities.
Brahimi, who resigned as United Nations special envoy for Afghanistan in 1999, drew comparisons between Syria now and Afghanistan under Taliban rule in the lead-up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
"The UN Security Council had no interest in Afghanistan, a small country, poor, far away. I said one day it's going to blow up in your faces. It did," he said. "Syria is so much worse."
He also compared it to Somalia, which has suffered more than two decades of conflict. "It will not be divided, as many have predicted. It's going to be a failed state, with warlords all over the place."
amsi,com & agencies.