The Plight of Syria’s Druze Minority and U.S. Options

Waleed Rikab 1by Waleed Rikab

With the ethnic cleansing of the Yazidis in recent hindsight, how can the U.S. help prepare for a similar existential threat to Sweida’s Druze?

The Druze minority in Syria has been in the news quite a bit recently. In July, al-Qaeda’s affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) executed over twenty Druze villagers in Idlib. Just this month (Sept. 2015), Sheikh Waheed Balous was assassinated in Sweida, the mountainous “capital” of Syria’s Druze. Balous was critical of Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its corruption and for failing to protect the Druze from extremists.

Most Druze in Syria live in the province of Sweida which has traditionally been a regime stronghold but is now surrounded by rebel militias. A smaller number of the adherents of this religion also reside in Idlib province, where they have been forcibly converted to Sunni Islam under JN rule.

Following the assassination of Sheikh Balous, open resentment toward the regime has engulfed Sweida. All the same, the Druze are unlikely to join the rebels or break their alliance with the Assad regime. They do not want to see an evacuation of regime forces from the province.

The province is not within what Assad views as his heartland, although it is important for the protection of Damascus. Assad may redeploy forces away from the province if pressured in the capital or on the coastal region. His forces have suffered a number of recent defeats, and with ongoing attrition, many speculate that he will eventually have to pull out of the Sweida region. Such a pattern has been repeatedly witnessed in eastern, northern, and southern Syria. Today, most regime and allied forces have been pulled back to the areas where most Syrians live—the major western cities and the coast—defending smaller but strategic portions of what used to be the Syrian Arab Republic.

On the other hand, in the calculus of rebel factions, the geography of the mountainous Sweida region and its proximity to the capital may prove crucial to threatening Bashar’s grip over the capital.

These scenarios, which in the end will lead to battles for control of Sweida with or without a regime presence, should be the real issue, regardless of the immediate consequences of the assassination, calling into question the prospects of the Druze minority, which seems marked by strategic inferiority compared to potential rivals, mainly due to low military capabilities in the form of its newly established local militias. These militias were formed as an attempt to protect the Druze population amid a background of several attacks by JN and ISIS in the Sweida area.

An image of Druze men from the 10th issue of IS' Dabiq magazine, with a caption disparaging them

An image of Druze men from the 10th issue of IS’ Dabiq magazine, with a caption disparaging them: “The wretched Druze, an apostate sect under the protection of the Jawlani front”

The tenants of the Druze faith, for example the transmigration of souls, worship of saints, and the rejection of the pillars of Islamic orthopraxy, will make any peaceful life under hardline Sunni rule all but impossible. In this regard, JN and the Islamic State appear to only disagree over tactics, and not the essence of their ideology.

A recent issue of IS’s mouthpiece, Dabiq magazine, had this to say on the way Druze should be treated, quoting the medieval Islamic scholar Ibn Tamiyyah (issue 10, p. 9):

“They are not at the level of Ahlul-Kitāb (people of the book, meaning Jews and Christians) nor the mushrikīn (apostates). Rather, they are from the most deviant kuffār (infidels)… Their women can be taken as slaves and their property can be seized. They are apostate heretics whose repentance cannot be accepted. Rather they are to be killed wherever they are found and cursed as they were described… It is obligatory to kill their scholars and religious figures so that they do not misguide others.

These statements obviously echo the IS treatment of the Yazidi minority in Iraq, which has suffered the full brunt of the Islamic State’s dark ideology and remains dispersed and shattered to this day.

Both faiths are considered beyond heretical by IS and it uses the same justification for its intended annihilation of the Yazidis and Druze. For instance, an earlier issue of Dabiq justified the atrocities against the Yazidis, including the reintroduction of slavery, saying:

“The Islamic State dealt with this group as the majority of fuqahā’ (scholars) have indicated how mushrikīn should be dealt with. Unlike the Jews and Christians, there was no room for jizyah payment. Also, their women could be enslaved unlike female apostates who the majority of the fuqahā’ say cannot be enslaved and can only be given an ultimatum to repent or face the sword. After capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Sharī’ah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations, after one fifth of the slaves were transferred to the Islamic State’s authority…”

JN, on the other hand, will suffice itself with coerced conversions to Sunni Islam and the desecration of places of worship, which has been already been witnessed in Idlib and was clearly stated in JN leader al-Jolani’s interview with Al-Jazeera in May 2015, on the occasion of JN’s and Ahrar al-Sham’s gains in northern Syria.

The contradicting military efforts of the regime, JN, IS, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Southern Front are bound to reach Sweida province sooner or later, with each faction trying to deny the others any gains. Bashar will most likely abandon the province, given the current trajectory of the conflict and his distress in Damascus and the areas adjacent to coastal regions and the border with Lebanon. Such a scenario may allow the entry of forces from the relatively moderate and Jordan-backed Southern Front, but will also enable the entrance of JN and IS. However, even if the Southern Front enters the province, a settling of old accounts with Bashar’s supporters is to be expected, owing to the high numbers of regime-aligned parties in Sweida. Such control is also likely to be severely contested by the Islamist factions. Regrettably, the Druze minority’s entry into the turmoil of armed conflict and possible atrocities is just a matter of time.

How the U.S. Can Prepare

Syrian Druze preserve a unique and rich religious cultural heritage; the same cultural heritage that IS is systematically destroying in Iraq and Syria. Men, women, children, and beautiful places of worship, cannot be brought back once they fall into the hands of the chauvinistic ideology of IS and JN.  The U.S. is currently waging a campaign aimed at containing and disrupting Islamic State and al-Qaeda expansion in Iraq and Syria. It attempted to assist the Yazidis when their lands where attacked, albeit too late to prevent mass killings and enslavement. A quick reaction force or a U.S. contingency plan might possibly have saved thousands of lives.

Together with allies in the region, Jordan for example, the U.S. should now start working on local coordination with elements in the Druze community, applying lessons learned from the successful coordination of military tactics and aid with the YPG in northern Syria – the only model that has proven capable of protecting territories in the Iraqi and Syrian theaters – before it is too late. Such engagement would likely also deprive the Assad regime the support of the Druze community, which seems reluctant to openly disavow him only for lack of better options and out of a need for self-preservation.

Waleed Rikab, a former intelligence officer, heads the Strategic Research Department at Terrogence, a privately-owned counter-terrorism and risk assessment company

Comments (28)

Syrialover said:

Comments from the front line:

– “There’s absolutely a place for Syrian refugees to resettle – and that’s inside Syria”

– “Syria is where Syrians want to be most”

– “An idea: Stop the war in Syria to solve the global refugee crisis”

Lina Sergi Attar, CEO and Founder, the Karam Foundation


September 9th, 2015, 7:29 am


Syrialover said:

– Syrian refugees aren’t fleeing some natural disaster, they’re fleeing a man-made disaster created by the Assad regime, Iran and Russia

– “Donor fatigue”, “refugee crisis” – the trouble goes on. Dealing with symptoms always costs more than dealing with the cause

Maysaloon (

Meanwhile, a sick joke. You couldn’t invent it:

Iran’s Rohani Urges EU Countries to Absorb More Syrian Refugees –

EU refugee crisis ‘absolutely expected’ – Putin –

How many refugee places are being offered by Iran? By Russia?

September 9th, 2015, 7:33 am


Syrialover said:

And while keeping score:

Let’s never forget how Egypt suddenly turned on Syrians and kicked them out two years ago. And how Iraq, when relatively stable, kept its borders closed against Syrians when they first tried to escape the war.

September 9th, 2015, 7:35 am


Syrialover said:

Despite the emotional rhetoric, German officials are already hinting at limits. Democratic countries always eventually put first the interests of their own citizens and what they vote for.

Article: “Denmark takes out ads to tell refugees they aren’t welcome”


The Danish government has taken out advertisements in the Lebanese press conveying a blunt message: Refugees are not welcome in the small Nordic nation.

First published in four Lebanese newspapers Monday, the advertisements list some of the steps Denmark’s new right-leaning government has taken to toughen its immigration laws, including a 50% cut to social benefits for newly arrived refugees.

“Foreign nationals granted temporary protection in Denmark will not have the right to bring family members to Denmark during the first year,” said the text posted by the Ministry of Immigration, Integration & Housing.

Denmark has rejected pleas to accept more migrants. Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg told Danish television Monday: “We said in the campaign that if we were to win the election then we would tighten [immigration rules] and that is what we have done.

“There is more tightening to come and that is because the flow [of asylum seekers] to Denmark is too large.”

In the run-up to the general election in June, the issue of immigration dominated the campaign with Denmark’s two largest parties—the center-left Social Democrats and the center-right Liberals—both promising tougher rules.

(Wall St Journal, September 7 2015 –

September 9th, 2015, 7:56 am


Observer said:

Why should the US get involved in these byzantine and age old conflicts?
It is easy for any big power or group of powers to swallow any ME country but it has been proven repeatedly that it is impossible to digest any of them as two field armies were defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let the local powers deal with their local problems. If Russia and Iran want to help the Druze with or without Israel that has nurtured them on its side let them do it. We do not have a dog in this fight.
As for the Yazidis it was never for them it was to protect our interests in Iraqi Kurdistan where US companies are thriving there.
Private anti terror group my foot; as the saying goes: “My dog knows better than this expert does”.

September 9th, 2015, 8:12 am


ghufran said:

The GCC regimes should not be allowed to escape the consequences of the Syrian war and the refugee crisis, they were deeply involved in the war and they had the resources to help refugees but did not. Nusra and ISIS also could not have survived and thrived without support from the khaliji Bedouins. Treatment of the vulnerable especially women and minorities in any society is the most reliable indicator of the true character of any regime or a political movement, this is why I think the alternative to the Syrian regime being sold since 2011 is just a fascist movement that uses Islam as a cover to justify human rights abuse. The Druze like most Syrians are not in love with the regime but they were not given a decent alternative, I do not believe the West and the GCC cared about giving Syrians a good alternative to the regime, they were mostly concerned with fighting Iran.

September 9th, 2015, 10:27 am


ALAN said:

سحالي الخليج، زنادقة المجون ، رواد نوادي الساقطات . يومكم آت ..

September 9th, 2015, 1:01 pm


ALAN said:

Washington goes to the tactics of covert occupation of Syria, through the creation of “buffer zones” to “independent fighters for justice” in the north.
US media openly declare: (if the Syrian authorities will try to attack the “fighters for justice” that terrorists in the depths of these areas, from the “international guardians”, followed by a prompt response, the aim of which will be the Syrian Air Force – the only advantage of the Syrian military hordes of Islamists.

As the number of US and British forces on the ground in Syria grow, a variety of cover stories have been invented. The latest has been posited by Foreign Policy magazine. In their report titled, “Meet the Americans Flocking to Iraq and Syria to Fight the Islamic State,” they claim:

…the number of Americans traveling abroad to fight the Islamic State is picking up, with 44 percent of all fighters identified in the report arriving between May and mid-August of 2015. Whether you think of them as brave patriots stepping up to oppose a pressing threat or meddlesome war tourists taking foolish risks, one thing seems certain: More Americans will be arriving in Iraq and Syria to take up the fight against the Islamic State in the near future.

The anecdotes used to qualify Foreign Policy’s claims that these fighters are “volunteers” and not special forces or paid mercenaries are the clearest indication that the article, and many like it, are a cover story. Ironically, it would be one of Cass Sunstein’s “independent credible voices,” Eliot Higgins – who regularly claims Russian volunteers in Ukraine are in fact sanctioned by Moscow – who would publish a “report” supporting Foreign Policy’s “volunteer” premise.

In reality, Foreign Policy is covering up the immediate implementation of admitted and documented US foreign policy to invade and occupy Syrian territory using special forces. A growing number of US and British special forces in Syria to take and hold territory will be impossible to cover up perpetually, so alternative narratives explaining the large and growing numbers of Western fighters in Syria has been fabricated.

And while the prospect of volunteers travelling to Syria is not entirely fantastical, the transportation, funding, arming, and both tactical and political support of these fighters requires state resources. The fact that American citizens are forbidden by law to partake in foreign conflicts in this manner, yet are able to freely enter Turkey, then cross at Turkish-controlled checkpoints to fight in Syria – like the flow of weapons, supplies, and fighters to bolster ISIS at these same checkpoints – suggests stated US foreign policy to both use armed terrorist groups to overthrow the Syrian government by proxy, and now the use of US and British military forces to do so directly, is being executed before the eyes of the world.
* * *
The strategy would begin by establishing one or two zones in relatively promising locations, such as the Kurdish northeast and perhaps in the country’s south near Jordan, to see how well the concept could work and how fast momentum could be built up. Over time, more might be created, if possible. Ultimately, and ideally, some of the safe zones might merge together as key elements in a future confederal arrangement for the Syrian state. Assad, ISIL, and al-Nusra could have no role in such a future state, but for now, American policymakers could otherwise remain agnostic about the future character and governing structures of such an entity.

September 9th, 2015, 1:35 pm


Poul said:

Alan, A good thing the Russians moved into Syria then. They can bomb with impunity as anyone shooting at them in Syrian air space risks the response of a nuclear power.

Sad faces in Ankara, Riyadh, Jerusalem, and Washington.

September 9th, 2015, 4:27 pm


Passerby said:

Nah, Russia getting involved is great for the US and the sane world. It becomes their problem, and who cares about Mid-East oil, fracking has made it of no importance. The main problem is the mad dog terrorists flowing out of the Middle East from the perspective of the sane world, and Russia isn’t scoring any points. The international terrorists all seem to be on the anti-Assad side.

September 9th, 2015, 9:10 pm


rose damas said:

Druze population in Syria is less than 1.8% of total population. 

Because there is lack of statistical scientific information and because of Assad propaganda the general public believes that the Druze population is larger than what it actually is, and that because it large it participates considerably in supporting the regime militarily. 

The other problem we have in Syria is that self proclaimed progressives are vehemently against discussing population statistical numbers. Because of their ignorance and flawed common sense the progressives believe that discussing population percentages of Syrian population is equal to being sectarian. 

Progressives are missing the fact that knowledge is power and enlightening. If all are aware of their own number limitations, and if exremists knew the facts they would understand that the Druze are not responsible for the survival of the regime simply because of their numbers.

September 10th, 2015, 11:19 am


Majedkhaldoun said:

Druze religion is unfortunately not understood by most Syrians, I have explained that they are NOT Kuffar, they are respected highly because they are patriotic , Sultan Basha Al Atrash is good example, they are very honest people ,contrary to Shiite whose religion is 90% is taqyyeh , which means they never tell the truth, they Druze, believe in God , who has no son , no Waliموحدون, they believe in the prophet Muhammad , they believe in Quraan,, they differentiate between Islam and Eeman, they have nothing in common with Shiite, they are not off shoot of Shiite as some here claim , it is however true that they believe if some one dies he is born again somewhere, and they do not believe we should pray or fast or go Hajj, their origin started with a Jewish man came out of Yemen and start preaching his way, he was kicked out of Mecca, he moved to North Africa, one Persian guy who was a Taylor followed him and spread his message , that is where the term Derzi came from.
Druze now are in very difficult position as more likely Assad will abandone them gradually, Sueida is not important to defend Damascus, and their number is very small relatively, their support of Assad goes back to they were persecuted by Adip Shishekli who was hard on Alawis too.

September 10th, 2015, 8:07 pm


Passerby said:

Reasons Russia Joining the Syrian War is a Good Thing

1. If there is a happy ending to this story, (to sane people), it’s the Assad Crime Syndicate having an unfortunate accident or retiring to Crimea. If there is any hope of being able to cut a deal, (and good luck on that), it’s a minimum requirement. And after all, Russia isn’t in love with the Assads, they don’t want to be a loser. And the Assads are losers. Lots of Russian spooks working with the colonels in the army.

2. Looks like the Assad Crime Syndicate and ISIS have and use chemical weapons. Crude so far. Truth is elusive, but one model that fits is that it’s been ISIS all along. It’s Saddam’s generals, his intelligence agents, why wouldn’t they have access to his chemists? To my knowledge, it’s never happened to ISIS. Now, they are in cahoots with the Assads, so that doesn’t mean a lot. But it’s always been crude stuff, and the Assads are capable of far far worse. The point is those that think they are about to succeed in exterminating/subjugating the Alawites would have an unpleasant surprise. Not good for anyone to any sane person. The Russians are the adults in the room.

3. No one wants to put boots on the ground to fight ISIS except the Kurds and no one will give them any weapons. Considering #1, that it’s not necessarily good for the Assads, there’s some boots on the ground. Not good news for ISIS, they have no reason to cut a deal like the Assads. They are trying to round everyone up to fight them.

4. From a selfish American viewpoint, with all the best wishes for our Russian partners, (and they’re gonna’ need it), better them than us.

As for Iraq, the trick is to get the Communist Chinese involved. After all, they are the ones with the oil contracts. The US and Russia are energy exporters, we could care less about Iraq’s oil, it’s a very big deal to Communist China.

September 10th, 2015, 11:41 pm



Putin, Obama and Assad are going to the recycle bin of history trash. History is counted by centuries, not by elections, and with time those mothaerfaxkars will be properly judged by books and historical perspective. Now let them enjoy killing syrians.

September 11th, 2015, 7:41 am


Sami said:

The images and stories of Syrian refugees are just horrific. When will someone put a stop to this madness?

Have we Syrians become numb to all of this?

September 11th, 2015, 9:03 am



According to information received by a good contact in Berlin, Angela Merkel is radically changins German politics and ready to accept up to 500.000 syrian, afghan and iraki refugees per year not because of a divine intervention but AS A PART OF THE IRAN DEAL:

Germany will open the european door to refugees to empty north of Syria, Irak and Afghanistan easing the occupation of these áreas by Iran who has been agreed as the new administrator of the Middle Eastern countries.

September 11th, 2015, 9:20 am



No need to be said that Germany will get a huge stake of contracts in Iran, Irak and Syria in exchange for its cooperation in executing a clean ethnic cleanse in the Middle East.

Even irrelevant personalities like the spanish president are asking for a diallogue with Assad – in his own words ¨Assad is the sole legitimate personality to diallogue with accoding to international law¨ – as they see opportunities for Spain´s economy in the dictatorship regimes of Iran, Irak and Syria.

September 11th, 2015, 11:05 am


ALAN said:

Yes, it is so!
France attempts to block Russian military deployment in Syria

September 11th, 2015, 2:28 pm


ALAN said:

the US military and government, with its vast surveillance and intelligence apparatus, knows perfectly well if a true Russian military buildup in Syria is really happening. Instead, the State Department focuses on the media reports, indicating that, rather than responding to intelligence, it is responding to a media story, one which is based entirely on information the US itself supplied.

Western Media Hype ‘Russian Aggression’ in Syria

September 11th, 2015, 3:00 pm


ALAN said:

Washington nabbed Incirlik? they feel obligated to press on? That means our friend Putin will have to deploy the Migs to prevent a no-fly zone from being put into place.
Russia will have to fight to stop the regime change crazies.
it doesn’t want a war, but it’ll be ready.
The US hasn’t gotten a bloody nose in a while. Now it is a better time for.

September 11th, 2015, 5:51 pm


Poul said:

Alan, if the Russian have sent SA-22’s to Syria. S-300’s could also be on their way. The SA-22 system has as one of it’s task to protect the long range S-300’s.

Also why do you assume that the USA would risk escalation to nuclear war by shooting at Russian fighters? That’s insanely dangerous. What I think will happen is that the USA will talk with Assad and Putin about what the US air force can do in Syria and they will sign an agreement.

Have you considered that the reason the Patriot batteries were removed from Turkey was because the US knew the Russians were on the way and it was judged too risky to have these batteries in Turkey in case mistakes happened and a Russian fighter was shot at.

September 12th, 2015, 1:54 am


Majedkhaldoun said:

Yes , Russia is sending Very advanced anti aircraft missiles SA22 to Tartous to be used by Russian forces to defend against air attack, it is a major strategic move, but this action increases the chance of confrontations with US aircrafts attacking IS, specially that military to military communications has been stopped after Russia invaded Ukraine, Obama said Russians action is doomed to fail,

Assad forces are losing grounds a little by little , Abu Al Zuhour airport is now in Rebels hands, several check points in Hama are gained by Rebels , Jaish Al Islam advanced east of Douma and took over Tal Kurdi, however in Deraa there is no advance to the Rebels, if and when Deraa falls, this will be a major change, , it is expected this will happen next spring ,

September 12th, 2015, 7:33 am


ALAN said:

21. POUL
/What I think will happen is that the USA will talk with Assad and Putin about what the US air force can do in Syria and they will sign an agreement./

You are an intelligent person in the analysis. The Russians will remain open-eyes on all the events taking place on the globe tirelessly. The world needs to reconsider its old wooden alliances, especially in Europe
US need an important transformation processes, otherwise will receive the fate of the Soviet Union.

September 12th, 2015, 11:50 am



Sheikh Balous was killed by ISIS (Assad Branch), now Assad Isis is exposed 100 %.

Sheikh Balous was killed by ISIS (Assad Branch), now Assad Isis is exposed 100 %.

Sheikh Balous was killed by ISIS (Assad Branch), now Assad Isis is exposed 100 %.

September 12th, 2015, 12:25 pm


ALAN said:

The end result of all the US attacks and flooding the Middle East with the weapons of war, is the chaos that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people trying to flee to safety. America did this, and turned the Middle East into a free for all, and reduced Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and in the near future Afghanistan, to anarchy; but media of course will not discuss the ramifications of the US bringing death and destruction to the entire Middle East. The footprint of the US in the Middle East is quite pronounced. Everywhere we go there is destruction, chaos, and failed states, which has resulted in millions trying to escape the total devastation of their country. You need not be a “rocket Scientist” to conclude that the intended policy of the US is anarchy, and that millions are fleeing from it due to US policy, you just need to admit to a very severe and harsh truth.

September 12th, 2015, 2:41 pm


Poul said:

Global intelligence company Stratfor takes a look at the Russian air base.

September 14th, 2015, 1:51 am


Douglas Martin said:

Don’t worry excessively for MARSOC and JSOC will try proactively to prevent the demise of the Sweida Druze.

September 23rd, 2015, 12:10 am


ALAN said:

26. POUL
/Global intelligence company Stratfor takes a look at the Russian air base./

For the implementation of emergency tasks Russians do not need airports because they can drop the forces from the air in any region of the world

September 23rd, 2015, 3:52 pm


Post a comment

Neoprofit AI Immediate Venture