Will Bashar Assad establish an Alawite State?

The Alawite State [1920–1936] that existed under the rule French Mandate of Syria which Bashar Assad grandfather Suleiman Assad, who was one of the main Alawite community leaders in the period eagerly wanted to preserve rather than seeking unity with the rest of Syria, but this State didn’t live so long until the Alawite state was re-incorporated into Syria as a concession by the French to the Syrian Nationalist Bloc, a political party which fought for Independence from the French rule.

Since Hafez Assad took power in 1970, he was trying to set his regime depending on individuals from his family and from his Alawite sect despite they are a minority among the Syrian people. Hafez Assad have placed the Alawites on high positions in his regime like ministers, political officials and military generals.

pro assad

Pro Assad demonstration / Twitter

Who are the Alawites?

Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, they are the biggest minority in the Syria were they represent around 12% of the Syrian people and they mostly live in Syrian coast [Latakia and Tartus] which is considered to be their homeland, then later when Hafez Assad became the president of Syria they started to settle in different cities across the country like Homs and, Damascus.

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Alawite distribution in the Levant / Wikipedia

The word “Alawite” means in Arabic language follower of Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb, and they believe that successors of Prophet Mohammed PBUH should be only from his family members, some of the Alawites believe that Ali Ibn Abi Taleb has the same or higher status then Prophet Mohammed PBUH which made many other Muslim sects especially the Sunnis view them as non-Muslims.

During the Ottoman era, Alawites were from the lower classes and they were poor economically but their status changed during French Mandate of Syria which is marked a turning point in Alawite history. The French allowed them into their armed forces for an indefinite period and created an exclusive areas for minorities, including an Alawite State in the Syrian coast.

Celebrating_Alawites

Alawite villagers celebrating / Wikipedia

Assad’s last option!

On 26 July, Syrian President Bashar Assad has pledged to win his long war against the Syrian revolutionaries while acknowledging his troops and militiaman are struggling to maintain control over territories amid lack of manpower.

He said it was due to military priorities.

“It was necessary to specify critical areas for our armed forces to hang on to. Concern for our soldiers forces us to let go of some areas,” he said.

He also added.

“But that doesn’t mean we can talk about collapse… We will resist… The armed forces are capable of defending the motherland.”

The Syrian army has faced a series of battlefield setbacks since March, It lost most of Idlib province to the Army of Conquest an Islamist opposition faction, and important areas of the southern region to FSA’s Southern Front.

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Bashar Assad giving a speech / Guardian

Syria has become closer to de facto partition closer then anytime ever, an exhausted Syrian army and pro regime militias, retreats in the face of a war of attrition that has exhausted its manpower. But the manpower shortage remains the Assad regime’s most vital problem, withdrawals is likely preserved the lives of thousands of soldiers and officers, allowing them to re-group closer to the regime’s western heartland [Syrian Coast] and nearby cities, where it controls major population cities like Hama, Homs, Damascus and Latakia.

The fall of Idlib city in the northwest by Islamist factions, followed by Jisr al-Shughour, a strategic town that opens the road straight to Latakia and the coast, heartland of the family of Assad and the Alawites. Growing power of the militias and the high number of draft dodgers was a sign of the weakness and exhaustion of the Syrian Army. The loss of Aleppo and Deraa would restrict the Syrian regime to a strip of territory in the west, stretching from Damascus through Homs, Hama and Latakia, and the Qalamoun mountains.

What would an Alawite state look like?

An Alawite state will have a tough challenges to tackle if the international community and regional powers agree to a political solution that could end in partitioning the country or if the Syrian revolutionaries are still divided or in war the with the Jihadists over power. The State name would not be called as an Alawite state like it used be called during the French Mandate, it would probably be called as the Republic of the Syrian Coast or Arab Coastal State.

For borders an Alawite State would be located in Syrian coast, including the nearby rural mountains. Including, the port cities of Latakia, whose population is still largely Sunni Arabs, and Tartous would be included, because its vital for economical purposes. Homs, Damascus and Qalamoun will be included because of their strategic locations also it’s close to Lebanon which could be used as an important supply route for Hezbollah which Iran needs it also. The capital would be moved from Damascus to Latakia.

Bashar Assad will have to do a lot of work when establishing an Alawite state. There is no national infrastructure in the coastal region to sustain a state like for example there is no international airport, no electric power plans, no industry, and nothing on which to build a national economy apart from small-medium businesses and agriculture. It will have to establish diplomatic relations with countries of the world, it will definitely have relations and be recognized by Iran, Russia, China, Lebanon, North Korea and other authoritarian regimes. Also it depends if the International community recognizes it or not.

References:

Al Jazeera, Syria’s Assad admits army struggling for manpower (English) –   [http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/07/syria-assad-speech-150726091936884.html]

Yahoo, Syria regime ‘to accept de facto partition’ of country (English) – [http://news.yahoo.com/syria-regime-accept-facto-partition-country-192517381.html]

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