The `Alawite State: Once Analysis, Now Reality?

In a horrific leaked video recording that shows the torture of a Syrian citizen at the hands of the regime’s forces, one soldier repeats the question “do you want freedom?”, a phrase that has appeared in numerous videos ever since Bashar al-Assad declared war against his own people. Yet what is new in this particular recording is that the soldier also asks “do you want to fight the Alawites?”On 18th February 2012, I wrote in this column that “a year has passed since the eruption of the crisis, and from the outset or soon afterwards, the regime seems to have been eager to drag the country into the worst of all options; a civil war.” In this newspaper on the 2nd June 2012, reports began to suggest that Bashar al-Assad is endeavoring to create a state of “internal fighting whereby he can hold control over small districts of Syria; mainly Latakia and the Alawite mountains.”

What was once analysis has now become the reality. The Alawite military doctrine has begun to appear in the army, as seen in the statements issued by its officers, soldiers and thugs, and its actions on the ground. A look at the map shows that the regime is intensifying its major destructive operations near the Alawite eastern mountains and the lowlands extending around them; from Homs and Hama to Idlib in the north, where citizens are being forced to flee, aiming to create empty regions to function as a border for the Alawite state which the regime considers as its last shelter.

As for the relationship between the Alawite sect and the Syrian authority, Hafez al-Assad was raised in a sectarian environment where he developed his pro-minority awareness. In the Baath party and the army, he undertook the extensive mobilization of minorities in order to build up a political and military power that could eventually dominate. Later on, however, he abandoned these minorities and relied solely on the Alawite sect and then upon his own family, with which he managed to control of all elements of power in Syria. Bashar al-Assad seems to be following in his fathers’ footsteps with regards to his Alawite military sectarianism but he is also adopting a contrary policy of deliberately shrinking his political control; hoping to consolidate dominance over a smaller Alawite state rather than the whole of Syria.

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