Posted by Joshua on Saturday, July 21st, 2012
Will the Alawites try to establish an Alawite State centered in the Coastal Mountains?
Many opposition figures and journalists insist that the Alawites are planning to fall back to the Alawite Mountains in an attempt to establish a separate state. This is unconvincing. Here are the top five reasons why there will not be an Alawite State.
1. The Alawites have tried to get out of the mountains and into the cities. After the French conquered Syria in 1920, the earliest censuses showed a profound demographic segregation between Sunnis and Alawis. In no town of over 200 people did Alawis and Sunnis live together. The coastal cities of Latakia, Jeble, Tartus and Banyas were Sunni cities with Christian neighborhoods, but no Alawi neighborhoods. Only in Antioch did Alawis live in the city and that city was the capital of a separate autonomous region of Iskandarun, which was ceded to the Turks in 1938. In 1945 only 400 Alawis were registered as inhabitants of Damascus. Ever since the end of the Ottoman era, the Alawis have been streaming out of the mountain region along the coast to live in the cities. The French establishment of an autonomous Alawite state on the coast and their over-recruitment of Alawis into the military sped up this process of urbanization and confessional mixing in the cities of Syria. Assad’s Syria further accelerated the urbanization of the Alawites as they were admitted into universities in large numbers and found jobs in all the ministries and national institutions for the first time.
2. The Assads planned to solve the sectarian problem in Syria by integrating the Alawites into Syria as “Muslims.” They promoted a secular state and tried to suppress any traditions that smacked of a separate “Alawite” identity. No formal Alawi institutions have been established to define Alawi culture, religion or particularism. They did not plan for an Alawi state. On the contrary, the Assads bent over backwards to define Alawis as main-stream Muslims, Bashar married a Sunni Muslim in an attempt at nation-building and to stand as an example of integration. He claimed to promote a “secular” vision of Syria.
3. Assad has done nothing to lay the groundwork for an Alawite state. There is no national infrastructure in the coastal region to sustain a state: no international airport, no electric power plans, no industry of importance, and nothing on which to build a national economy.
4. No country would recognize the Alawite state.
5. Most importantly, an Alawite state is indefensible. Alawite shabbiha and brigades of special forces may fall back to the Alawite Mountains when Damascus is lost. But how long could they last? As soon as Syria’s Sunni militias unite, as presumably they will, they would make hasty work of any remaining Alawite resistance. Who ever owns Damascus and the central state will own the rest of Syria in short order. They will have the money, they will have legitimacy, and they will have international support. Syria could not survive without the coast. More importantly, it would not accept to do without the coast and the port cities of Tartus and Latakia. All the coastal cities remain majority Sunni to this day.
Aleppo, Abadiin Square: A friend who is taking part in the large demonstrations centered in Abadiin writes:
Today (Sat 21-Jul.) is the second day that the FSA has controlled Salah Al-Deen (Saladin), yesterday there were a few clashes between Assad’s army and teh FSA. Today is more quit with fewer clashes, but there are helicopters hovering in the sky. I have heard that tanks surround the neighborhood. It is the calm the precedes the storm.
….Activists in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city and a northern commercial hub, said hundreds of families were fleeing residential districts after the military swept into the Saladin district, which had been in rebel hands for two days.
Fighting was also reported in the densely-populated, poor neighborhood of al-Sakhour. “The sound of bombardment has been non-stop since last night. For the first time we feel Aleppo has turned into a battle zone,” a housewife said by phone from the city.
“Syrians Fleeing Capital Leave Bodies and Bombs Behind”
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR, July 20, 2012, New York Times
“You feel the government is losing control, slowly but surely, every day a little more,” said one 30-year-old construction engineer, declining to give his name because he might go back. “After the assassinations, the people who were saying the system will survive started talking about its collapse.”
If the government manages to reassert control in Damascus in the coming days, then maybe the country will not disintegrate, he said, but he was not optimistic, especially as the hatred deepened between Alawites and Sunnis.
“I think a civil war is coming; you can see it and feel it,” he said, with Alawites talking about their fears of surviving while Sunnis burn with the desire for revenge.
“Eighty percent of the problem is sectarian and maybe 20 percent is about corruption,” said Mohamed al-Jazaeri, a young engineer, explaining his wish for a slow, measured political reform process that is nowhere in sight. “They are going to destroy the country, and they won’t be able to bring it back for another 20 years.”
Is Syria Facing a Yugoslavia-Style Breakup?
Even if the regime loses its grip on growing swaths of territory, the civil war’s sectarian dimension could see it opt to retreat into enclaves controlled by its base of Alawite, Christian and non-Sunni support
By Tony Karon | @tonykaron | July 19, 2012
Zaid Benjamin tweets: “A committee to manage Syrian Kurdistan will be announced tomorrow – The Syrian Kurdish National Council.
A Kurdish Journalist writes from Kurdistan:
The liberation of Kurdistan in Syria has started and a few Kurdish cities have been liberated, but unfortunately Arab and western media hasn’t given a lot of coverage to it and I want to do a report about this and I have a few questions if you could answer me I’ll appreciate it…..
1- Why has Arab and Foreign media has ignored the events of Kurdish parts of Syria?
2- Do you think the events of last week in Kurdish parts of Syria has a impact on Syrian Crisis?
Hawar Abdul-Razaq Ali
Journalist and Translater
Rudaw Weekly Paper
Obeida Nahas tweets “Activists focusing on this issue [Kurdish] have been in constant meetings with Kurdish activists over the past few days working on this.”
Syria opposition has power struggles of its own
As rebels risk their lives for a new government, some feel overshadowed by exiled dissidents, who the fighters say are out of touch with the real revolution.
By Los Angeles Times Staff, Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2012
As Syrian opposition leaders threw punches at one another early this month in a five-star Cairo hotel, rebel fighters in Idlib province spent hours trying to fight off tanks, armored vehicles and attack helicopters with little more than Kalashnikov rifles.
By nightfall, as the rebels fled shelling that reportedly killed dozens, conference members continued to fight over post-revolution plans.
The conference scuffle laid bare power struggles among Syrians seeking the overthrow of President Bashar Assad, despite a conflict that has moved ever closer to the Syrian leader. On Wednesday, three of his senior military officials were killed in a bombing that struck at the center of the regime’s power. But even as some rebel fighters say they are pushing for a “final battle” others say victory is far off, especially with the opposition still struggling to agree on exactly how to oust Assad and who should lead the way….. “Everyone who says he represents us is a liar, and the proof of this is that they are not adopting the demands of the revolution,” Moaz Shami, an activist in Damascus, the Syrian capital, said via Skype. “They are all politicians trying to climb on our shoulders and on our goals.”
How “Damascus Volcano” erupted in Assad’s stronghold
By Andrew Osborn, LONDON | Fri Jul 20, 2012
(Reuters) – As darkness descended over Damascus last Saturday, few of its 1.7 million residents could have had any inkling that a decisive battle to wrest the city from the grasp of President Bashar al-Assad was about to begin.
Tartous, like many Alawite areas, is more liberal than Syria’s majority Sunni provinces. Women wear skimpy bathing suits on sandy beaches. Restaurants are stocked with alcohol.
Russia, one of Assad’s last remaining allies, retains its last warm water port in Tartous. These days, few ships go in and out of the walled base since Western states imposed punitive economic sanctions to pressure Assad to leave.
Long-time residents estimate that nearly half of Syria’s entire Alawite population has relocated to Tartous province since the uprising started. Finding an apartment in the city that swelled from 900,000 to 1.2 million inhabitants is now a matter of luck, real estate agents say.
Inside the quiet effort to plan for a post-Assad Syria
By Josh Rogin Friday, July 20, 2012 – Foreign Policy
For the last six months, 40 senior representatives of various Syrian opposition groups have been meeting quietly in Germany under the tutelage of the U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP) to plan for how to set up a post-Assad Syrian government.
The project, which has not directly involved U.S. government officials but was partially funded by the State Department, is gaining increased relevance this month as the violence in Syria spirals out of control and hopes for a peaceful transition of power fade away. The leader of the project, USIP’s Steven Heydemann, an academic expert on Syria, has briefed administration officials on the plan, as well as foreign officials, including on the sidelines of the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul last month…
USIP intends to release a report on the project in the coming weeks that will serve as a transition strategy document to be used by the next government. The next phase is to stand up a transition support network “to begin to implement these recommendations about stuff that needs to happen now,” Heydemann said.
In addition to security-sector reform, the group has come up with plans to reform the justice sector and a framework for the role of the armed opposition in a post-Assad Syria. The idea is to preserve those parts of the Syrian state that can be carried over while preparing to reform the parts that can’t. For example, large parts of the Syrian legal system could be preserved.
The group has come up with a few innovative proposals to make the post-Assad transition less chaotic. One example Heydemann cited was the idea of mobile judicial review squads, which could be deployed to do rapid review and release of detainees held by the regime after it falls.
The project has also tried to identify regime personnel who might be able to play an effective role in the immediate phase after Assad falls.
“There’s a very clear understanding of the Syrians in this project that a transition is not sweeping away of the entire political and judicial framework of Syria,” Heydemann said. “We have learned an enormous amount about the participants so that we can actually begin a very crude vetting process.”
The USIP-led project has been careful to avoid working to push the Assad regime from power.
“We have very purposely stayed away from contributing to the direct overthrow of the Assad regime,” Heydemann said. “Our project is called ‘the day after.’ There are other groups working on the day before.”
The project has been funded by the State Department, but also has received funding from the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Dutch and Norwegian NGOs. USIP partnered with the German Institute of International Affairs, which is why all of the meetings have been held in Berlin.
“This is a situation where too visible a U.S. role would have been deeply counterproductive. It would have given the Assad regime and elements of the opposition an excuse to delegitimize the process,” Heydemann said. …
The rebel fighters had already sacked the buildings making up the Syrian border post, which were bloodstained and riddled with bullets from Thursday’s battle…. They had also helped themselves to the contents of the Turkish lorries that were caught up in the battle as they waited to cross the border.
Villagers loot Syria border post seized by rebels
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi, BAB AL-HAWA, Syria | Sat Jul 21, 2012
(Reuters) – Rebel fighter Ismail watches approvingly as local villagers loot beer and whisky from the burnt-out duty free shop at Bab al-Hawa, the border post between Syria and Turkey seized from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on Thursday.
“This is the people’s money; they are taking it back,” he said. “Whoever wants to should take it. There is no shame or wrongdoing.”
Youths on scooters arrived from nearby villages to empty the charred duty free shop and warehouse, whose walls were already daubed with anti-Assad graffiti. “Down with the Iranian agent”, “Leave child killer” and “Free Army forever” the slogans read.
Some rebels had smashed bottles of alcohol to stress their Islamic opposition to drinking – leaving a powerful smell of liquor in the charred duty-free complex.
But others turned a blind eye as local villagers carried off Heineken beer and Chivas whisky along with cartons of tobacco for hubble bubble pipes.
“This is yours. Take it away,” said 23-year-old fighter Sameh, offering up a case of 12 Black Label whisky bottles before being politely turned down.
Syria: Assad regime starts to unravel
Damascus sees fierce fighting as Free Syrian Army fighters take control of key suburbs and crossings into Turkey and Iraq
Luke Harding in Beirut and Ian Black, guardian. Friday 20 July 2012
With the situation changing by the hour, the government’s control over large parts of the country continued to unravel. The FSA said it had captured two border crossings between Syria and Turkey as well as one in Iraq. The regime still holds key cities, at least during the day, but it appears increasingly vulnerable to guerilla raids.
Diplomats revealed that Assad had phoned the head of the UN monitoring mission, General Robert Mood, pledging to implement Kofi Annan’s peace plan shortly after Wednesday’s devastating bomb attack in Damascus, which killed four senior members of his military-security command. The UN says Assad and the rebels have failed to observe a ceasefire….