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Posts Tagged ‘Alawites’

Rubin Reports: Will the Rebels Win Syria’s Civil War and What That Means

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/will-rebels-win-syrias-civil-war-and.html

The tide seems to be turning in Syria. While the civil war is far from over, the regime is clearly weakening; the rebels are expanding their operations and effectiveness. There have also been more high-level defections. What does this mean and why is this happening? There are three main factors that are making a rebel victory seem more likely.

First, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with Turkey’s facilitation and U.S. coordination, are sending arms to the opposition.

Second, the regime has been rushing the same trusted units around the country to put down upsurges and these forces are getting tired and stretched thin.

Third, President Bashar al-Assad really has nothing to offer the opposition. He won’t leave and he can’t share power. His strategy of brutal suppression and large-scale killing can neither make the opposition surrender nor wipe it out. Even if he kills civilians and demonstrators, the rebel military forces can pull back to attack another day.

Even though the fighting may go on for months, then, it is time to start assessing what outcomes might look like. Here are some suggestions:

–Ethnic massacres? While there have been reports of such actions — the regime killing Sunni Muslims; the opposition killing Alawites and Christians — what we’ve seen already might be nothing compared to what is to come. Such murders might take place during the civil war or after it ends.

–An Alawite fortress? Assad has built up his defenses in northwest Syria where most of the Alawites live to make a last stand or to try to hold out. How would such a final phase in the war go and could Assad keep the rebels from taking this stronghold?

–Obama Administration bragging rights? We’ve already had leaks about U.S. covert involvement in the anti-Assad effort. If the rebels seem to be winning or do in fact win the war before November, the White House will claim Syria as proof of its tough, triumphant foreign policy (The elections in Libya, in which reportedly the Islamists were held off by a U.S.-backed government, will be cited as another example of success).

–But at great risk. What if the Obama Administration increasingly claims credit for regime change in Syria and then has to take blame for massacres or an Islamist takeover?

–The Kurdish factor. Syria’s Kurds have essentially walled off their northeast section of the country. Their armed militia, helped by their compatriots in Iraq, can hold out against all but the most concerted force. The Kurds generally view the regime as repressive Arab nationalists while they see the opposition as Islamists and Arab nationalists. Would a new regime in Damascus make a deal with them for autonomy, or would it be tempted to try to conquer the area? If so, how would the opposition’s Western backers react to such an assault?

–And then there’s the biggest question of all: Who among the opposition forces would take power? Syria is quite different from such relatively homogeneous countries as Egypt and Tunisia. Let’s just list the different groupings:

Alawites now rule and in general support the regime. The treatment of the Alawites—who pretend to be Shia Muslims but really aren’t Muslims at all—would be a key indicator for a new regime. Would it seek conciliation or would it massacre large numbers of them? Unless Assad can hold out in the northwest, the Alawites will have little role in a post-Assad Syria.

Christians also generally support the regime because they fear Islamists taking power. Will they face massacres and flee the country or will the new regime work to accommodate them?

Alawites and Christians together number more than one-fourth of the country’s population.

The Kurds have been discussed above. Their goal is autonomy, one that a new central government could meet but will it want to grant them such status?

The Druze, who live in the southwest of the country, have not played a major role in the rebellion. They tend to accommodate themselves to the status quo. Will they organize communally and seek some autonomy? The Druze strategy is of special interest to Israel since they live closer to the Golan Heights and, indeed, Israel rules a Druze population there most of whose members identify as Syrians. Would a new regime’s treatment of the Druze make the Golan Heights’ residents more rebellious against Israel or more eager to remain under Israeli rule? Israel’s military intelligence commander has already warned of the danger of jihadists infiltrating into the border area, though one might add that Israel already has strong defenses in place there that would stop any cross-border attacks, a contrast of course with the Sinai.

Mordechai Kedar: The Division of Syria

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Syria comprises 14 administrative districts that reflect the demographic distribution of the population.

Following the collapse of the central government, Syria is likely to be divided up according to its ethnic groups, and this division will be fairly similar to the map of administrative districts: six main districts; the rest will either become independent/autonomous, or some or all of them will be subsumed by one of the groups mentioned above.

It could be that some of the districts will declare total independence, while others may form some sort of federation.

The Druze

Opposite the Golan is the district of Kuneitra. This district may unite with the district of Dara’a and Damascus, so that facing Israel will be a state whose center is Damascus. It is very doubtful that the district of Suwayda’ will join it, as it is likely that the Druze will declare themselves to be independent. In the year 1925, when they understood that the French Mandate wanted to bring them into the framework of a Syrian state, they began a rebellion that continued for several months, under the leadership of Sultan Basha al-Atrash, a statue of whose likeness, riding on a noble horse with his unsheathed sword in hand, adorns squares in many Druze villages, and whose picture is hung on the wall of every Druze household.

The ‘Alawites

About two million ‘Alawites live in Syria, who represent a minority of about 10 percent of the citizens of the state. Their traditional area of residence is the Mountains of Ansariyya, the topographical continuation of the Israeli Galilee and the Lebanese mountains. All these mountains are settled by religious and ethnic minorities: Druze, Christians, ‘Alawites and Shi’ites, because they minorities were persecuted by the Sunni Muslim majority in the area. The mountains served these minorities as a place of shelter and refuge for several reasons: the mountain caves provide convenient hiding places; it is difficult for a large army to reach them; and it’s easy for the local residents to block approach roads by tumbling down boulders and trees.

The ‘Alawites, who are considered heretics by Islam, were vigorously persecuted until the French Mandate rescued them from their miserable situation, when it armed and equipped them and made them into soldiers and officers. After the Ba’th revolution of 1963, and especially after Salah Jadid assumed control of the regime in 1966, many ‘Alawites moved to the cities: Aleppo, Homs, Hama, and principally Damascus, where they live in self-contained neighborhoods.

Following the expected fall of the ‘Alawite rule, they will need to flee from their neighborhoods because of the hatred with which the Muslims regard them and the desire of Muslims to take revenge on the ‘Alawites for tens of years of oppression, which has reached terrible proportions over the past year. Some of them will flee abroad, but most will flee to the Ansariyya Mountains, where they lived generations ago. In recent weeks the Syrian regime has been streaming great quantities of arms and ammunition to the mountains of Ansariyya so that they will be able to fortify themselves in these mountains after the great escape.

The Kurds

The Kurds are traditionally residents of the Hasaka area in the North of Syria, however over the years many have migrated to the cities – mainly Aleppo and Damascus. The Kurds and the Arabs relate to each other with mutual hatred. The Kurds are dispersed among four states: Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. In Iraq they are almost totally independent. However, in Syria they are oppressed, especially since the state of Syria was established in the year 1943. Most don’t have citizenship, and therefore they cannot hold government office and are not entitled to health or educational services. The regime does not recognize their language and their culture, and whatever they have achieved over the years has been as the result of demonstrations, some of which were violent, and “buying the favors” of the government.

The Kurds in Syria already sniff the scent of freedom from the Arab regime, and they are establishing contact with their brothers in Iraq who support them in their path to independence.

Syrian Homework for Hillary

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Speaking at the UN last week US Secretary of State Clinton declared, “It is time for the international community to . . . send a clear message of support to the people of Syria.” And after the failed Security Council vote vetoed by Russia and China, she reiterated that the world must “support the Syrian people’s right to have a better future.”

Mrs. Clinton speaks of the “Syrian people” as if it was a homogeneous national group. Her ignorance was further demonstrated when speaking to reporters on Sunday. “The international community has a duty to halt continuing bloodshed,” she said, “and promote a political transition that would see Mr. Assad step down.” Can she really believe Bashar al-Assad will simply agree to resign?

If one is to develop a coherent and attainable goal-oriented Syrian policy, one must first understand the various groupings and allegiances at play.

The “Syrian people” is a composite of religious and ethnic groups who have been historically opposed to one another. Sunni Muslims comprise two thirds of the population; 12% are Alawites; 9% are Kurds; 10% are various Christian sects; and the remaining groups include Druze, Turkmens and Circassians.

The Sunni majority includes the Muslim Brotherhood. The Sunni elite lost power to the Alawite dominated secular nationalist Syrian Ba’ath Party in a 1963 coup. This led to violent unrest which the Muslim Brotherhood later developed into open revolt.

In 1980, after a failed assassination attempt against President Hafez al-Assad, he came down on them hard. In 1982, the city of Hama, a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold, was destroyed by regular Syrian army forces, including tanks and artillery, killing an estimated 20,000 people. The revolt was quelled and the Alawite al-Assad family continued to rule.

But the dispute is far older. The Sunni majority view the Alawite minority as heretics. The Alawites, or Alawi as they called themselves because of their adherence to Ali (Mohammad’s cousin and son-in-law), were originally called by the Sunnis the “Nusayri” after the Shi’ite Ibn Nusayr in the 9th century, indicating their break with Islam. After 1920 and the onset of French rule in Syria, the persecuted Alawites ingratiated themselves to the new rulers.

The French encouraged the Alawites to join the French-commanded Syrian army and dominate the officer corps as a counterweight to the hostile Sunni majority. This set the stage for the Alawite dominance of the Ba’ath Party and the 1963 takeover of the Syrian government.

The Kurds comprise the majority of the Jazira province, and are affiliated with major Kurdish populations in neighboring Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. Historically, the Kurds once ruled their own land, known as Kurdistan, which included eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and northern Syria. Today, the Kurds are persecuted by the current ruling regimes in their respective countries.

It would behoove Mrs. Clinton and other world leaders to acknowledge the mosaic that is the “Syrian people”, so that the tumult that the country is facing now can be avoided in the future

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/syrian-homework-for-hillary/2012/02/08/

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