A handout picture released by Syria's opposition-run Aleppo Media Centre (archive photo from 2013)
© AFP
A handout picture released by Syria's opposition-run Aleppo Media Centre (archive photo from 2013)
Last updated: October 29, 2015

Thinking about TEFKAS, the entity formerly known as Syria

Banner Icon How things will go down 10 years after Assad’s visit to Moscow...

The date is October 20, 2025. It’s precisely ten years after Russian president Vladimir Putin met Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in Moscow, thus bringing the man many wanted to send to hell in from the political cold. 

Syria is divided into two main parts, one being a Russian satellite state along the line running from Damascus to Homs to Latakia (and south of it), the other one being the Syrian province of the Islamic State. There are some pockets of territory left - notably around Aleppo and Idlib - where American special forces, Iranian Al Quds forces, Hezbollah fighters and the Nusra Front still battle violently, in changing configurations. The Crisis Group calls them “the lost kids of the post 9/11 era”. 

In international political and military circles, the land between Deraa in the south, Aleppo in the north, Tartus in the west and Al-Bukamal in the east is referred to as TEFKAS, the entity formerly known as Syria. What began with a campaign of air strikes in 2015 gradually developed into Russia creating a sizeable footprint in the Middle East, fully controlling the southern half of TEFKAS. 

The Russian part of TEFKAS is officially called Putinistan. The country is recognized by 154 nations and was elected to the UN Security Council a month ago. Putinistan has replaced Israel as the number one destination for Russians willing to emigrate. Implementing a policy coordinated with the Islamic State, Putinistan president Vladimir Putin particularly encourages Muslims to leave Russia and move to the Middle East. A census in 2023 showed that the Muslim population in Russia has dropped to 8%, with a trend towards 5%; Moscow is almost Muslim-free. In polls, Putin’s approval rates are again soaring. 

Residing in Damascus, Vladimir Putin governs a country of relative stability and prosperity. Former Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is holding the same office in Moscow, with Dmitry Medvedev as his ever loyal prime minister and shadow president.

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© Pyotr Velikiy, Wikimedia Commons
 

In a huge demographic shift TEFKAS and Europe have swapped large parts of their populations in the past decade. Traffickers are working in both directions. In many European countries extreme right parties now have a share of over 50% of the voters. Marine Le Pen is the French president, Angela Merkel is history. Le Pen regularly telephones Putin and Assad to get their advice on how to best deal with the unruly Syrian minority in France. 

Being hesitant for a long time, Asma al-Assad finally decided to stay in Damascus and not move to Moscow with her former husband. “I am an Arab girl,” she said in an interview with Vogue last month, “I want to be with the power. My hair feels stronger this way.” For Vladimir Putin it is his third marriage, having been divorced from Lyudmila in 2014 and from Alina Kabayeva seven years later. 

In Moscow, Bashar al-Assad assumes all the duties of a Russian president. He regularly orders the downing of civilian planes over Eastern Ukraine and meets US ambassador Edward Showdem twice per week for lunch. 

The partition of TEFKAS must be called definitive. The Islamic State became the 214th member of FIFA, the international football federation, at the beginning of 2024 and has qualified for the 2026 football world cup to be played in Gibraltar. After having served as the honorary ambassador of the 2022 FIFA world cup in Qatar, Pep Guardio started coaching the Islamic State’s football national team two years ago. However last week Pep resigned from the job. In an interview with Spiegel Online, he cited the impossibility to field a competitive team in 2026 as the reason for his resignation. In yet another misinterpretation of tradition and history, the Islamic State’s football association had recently introduced a custom copied from the ancient Maya culture in southern Mexico in its national championship whereby the winning team’s captain would be ritually beheaded after the game. 

In a strategy modeled after Qatar it is through sport that the Islamic State tries to promote itself internationally in a positive way. The antic monuments in Palmyra were completely razed to make way for the newest F1 racetrack which will see its first Islamic State Grand Prix next month. Dubbed “The Hijra”, the course was built with money from Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and other traditional Arab F1 venues. F1 president Bernie E who tested the track in a white Toyota Landcruiser last week said in a press conference that he is excited to be back in the desert and announced the arrival of yet another Arabic Grand Prix. Bernie E refused to talk about details but rumors have it that Petra in TEFKAJ - the entity formerly known as Jordan - is the chosen location.

"In a huge demographic shift TEFKAS and Europe have swapped large parts of their populations"

The visual arts have always been an important part of the Islamic State’s mise-en-scène. Palmyra’s new Baalshamin CineComplex will host the country’s first film festival next month, the result of a strategic partnership with the city of Hollywood. The opening night will see the premiere of “Qasem of Persia”, a biopic dramatizing life and particularly death of the famed commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Qasem Soleimani. Soleimani was the failed architect of the so called Shia Crescent, aiming to connect Tehran with Beirut. In the movie, Soleimani is played by George Clooney. Other stars include Christoph Waltz as Ayatollah Khamenei and Miley Cyrus who plays Soleimani’s social media manager. 

For the United Nations “Syria as we knew it” has officially ceased to exist. Today the UN closed its files on Syria after a five-year waiting period during which nobody claimed the remnants of the former Ottoman, French and Assad colony. For UN Secretary General Zuckerberg, who was posting the closing ceremony online, the fate of the Syrian state falls in line with other historical trash such as Iraq and Libya: online by colonialism, offline by tribalism, sectarianism and interventionism. In a symbolic gesture Zuckerberg unliked the maps of all three former states and moved the files to an electronic coffin at www.nobodygivesadamn.org

Two weeks ago, in a district court in Manhattan, Iran filed a lawsuit against Russia (the Russia of both Putin and Assad) and the Islamic State for usurping control over former Syria (TEFKAS). Iran claims that its extensive engagement in Syria that started in 2012 was actually meant to make it the 35th province of Iran. It says that it was particularly betrayed by Bashar al-Assad who, after initially following Iran’s plan in order to save his regime, abruptly sold Syria to Russia in 2015 to help him loosen the Iranian chokehold. In a parallel lawsuit, the widows of IRGC and Hezbollah fighters and commanders who were killed while fighting unsuccessfully in Syria filed for compensatory damages. From Riyadh, the King of Saudi Arabia, reiterated his pledge to cover all the expenses resulting from any legal actions against the Islamic State. 

Former US president Obama tours the world to promote his memoirs that were published in September of 2025. In last Tuesday’s “The Tonight Show starring Justin Bieber” Obama recalled how in 2015, in a series of phone calls, he and Vladimir Putin had negotiated the division of the Middle East, replacing the outdated Sykes-Picot line with the very similar Obama-Putin line. Cornered by Bieber, Obama regretted that the United States were not able to hold their part of the territory - nowadays TEFKAI, the entity formerly known as Iraq - while Putin is sitting comfortably in Damascus. Obama blamed outgoing US president Donald for the failure: “Using drones would have been more effective than building walls.”

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In a rather surprising visit, the president of International World Class Golf Holidays, Eldrick Woods, is going to meet Putinistan president Vladimir Putin today. Woods will pitch a proposal to build two first rate golf resorts in the cities of Homs and Hama. According to Woods, asked by reporters when leaving Damascus airport, the terrain in Homs and Hama is naturally suited for golf since much of the landscaping was already done by Assad’s barrel bombs between 2011 and 2017. 

In a Damascus suburb a person thought to be a moderate opposition figure has been recorded last Friday by a surveillance camera mounted on the roof of a MAGNIT supermarket. While hitherto perceived to be a Western fantasy, these images may well be proof that the moderate opposition actually existed in Syria before TEFKAS became a reality. The man in question was only seen for a few seconds in the background, the picture was blurred and he was wearing a yellow sweater. The Oslo Nobel Peace Prize committee is now actively searching for this person. If found, the man can expect to win the Peace Nobel Prize in 2026, Oslo Chairman Stoltenberg, the former NATO Secretary General, said. 

In academic news this weekend, the Georgetown University in Washington DC has announced the establishment of a Chair in Geopolitical Calculations. The chair will be fully funded by the Unites States’ Department of State and the Iranian Supreme Leader. Students will be able to obtain a Master of Arts in Syrian Miscalculations. As stated by the university, lectures will be held by Presidents Putin and Assad, former US president Obama and the Emperor of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Former Hezbollah chairman Hassan Nasrallah and retired Islamic State Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi will speak to the students via Skype from their bunker in South Beirut and their ranch near Dallas TX, respectively. 

Back in the Middle East, Lebanon keeps being buried under garbage. General Michel Aoun (90) still upholds his claim to the Lebanese presidency. He is expected to travel to Damascus next week.


Editor's note: These are just thoughts. Not actual events. This writer cannot predict the future.

Victor  Argo
Victor Argo, which is a pseudonym, regularly writes for Your Middle East. He is personally connected to Lebanon.
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