Monday, July 23, 2012

If Alawites are turning against Assad then his fate is sealed

The Long View: There seems to be a Baathist pattern of destroying Sunni villages on the edge of the Alawite heartland

By Robert Fisk

"....And that's the point. While the drama of last week's assault on Bashar al-Assad's regime in Damascus stunned the Arab world, the sudden outbreak of violence in Aleppo this weekend was in one way far more important. For Aleppo is the richest city in Syria – infinitely more so than Damascus – and if the revolution has now touched this centre of wealth, then the tacit agreement between the Alawite-controlled government and the Sunni middle classes must truly be cracking.....

Across all of Syria, the revolution has spread. Tragically, there now seems to be a Baathist pattern of destroying Sunni villages on the edge of the Alawite heartland, the "frontier" of Alawi-stan in the great agricultural plain of Hama province, below the mountains where the Assad home town of Qardaha stands.

Last Wednesday, for example, two Syrian helicopters attacked the small Sunni town of Haouch, forcing its 7,000 population to run for their lives. For two weeks, Haouch and other small Sunni towns have been shelled; they do indeed contain rebels but there is a growing suspicion – no evidence, mark you – that this is a deliberate policy of the Baath to prepare Syria for partition if Damascus falls. Ominously, this "frontier" of fire matches almost precisely the "State of the Alawites" temporarily created by the post-First World War French mandate which chopped Syria up into mini-nations partly on sectarian lines.....

..... Now Jumblatt is calling upon all Alawites to join the rebellion instead of allowing themselves to remain a minority dependent on Assad for their survival. "I say to them that they must say they are Syrians before they are Alawites."

And a final statistic to explain the revolution outside Damascus. Latest figures show that 58 per cent of Syrian's population under 24 years old are unemployed (higher, even, than Egypt), while 48 per cent of the 18-29 year-old age range – a statistic only beaten by Yemen – have no jobs. They do now, of course. Most have joined the Syrian revolt."

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