Syria has already been shattered by more than four years of civil war, and with no solution in sight, some players on the ground and observers outside have concluded its fate will be to break up along sectarian or regional lines – in a best-case scenario, tenuously held together by a less centralized state.

A true partition would risk yet more mayhem, including ethnic or sectarian cleansing and battle over every bend in the border. But so spectacular is Syria’s disaster that many wonder whether its disparate groups can share a unifying national sentiment again.

The sectarian dynamic was evident last week in a U.N.-backed truce deal in the key Zabadani region near the Lebanese border, which reportedly envisions the transfer of thousands of Shiites and Sunni fighters from one area to another.

In all, half the prewar population of 23 million has been displaced and a quarter million killed, propelling a huge wave of refugees to neighboring countries and now to Europe.

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