Syria continues its civil war, with some 20,000 deaths so far. The idea of separating Alawi and Sunni is tempting. But is it feasible?
Nir Rosen traveled among the Alawi. Some of what he reports supports separation, some not.
There is de facto separation of the Sunnis from Alawis:
As we drove through areas he didn’t know he would ask people how to avoid Sunni towns. In some areas locals had plotted circuitous routes through Alawite and Christian towns, with arrows spraypainted on walls in one village pointing to the next so that bus drivers and others could avoid opposition strongholds.
Plus, ethnic militas are growing:
Alawites aren’t wrong to feel that for all the fury of its repression, the state is at a loss to know how to protect them. It is this feeling, above all, that has led to the growth of the increasingly powerful independent loyalist militias [called shabiha] who act with impunity and often embarrass the regime.
Still, there are some big blockages to separation. Though the opposition is all Sunni, the regime still has support from all groups.
Sunni officers and soldiers belong to some of the most elite army units such as the 4th Division and the Republican Guard, and many opposition intellectuals have admitted that if the government’s base was confined to Alawites, it would have fallen long ago.
Do the Alawi want separation? Apparently not, at least currently.
one hears of no such thing [a separate state] from the Alawites themselves. Syria has long been their central project, and their mode of involvement has been to leave their villages and move towards a version of modernity. It is conceivable that they will end up in some form of autonomous enclave as a result of a civil war in which the opposition gains the upper hand, but it is not their wish. They believe they are fighting for the old Ba’athist ideals of Syrian and Arab nationalism.
Yet that could change.
Maybe an Alawite entity would not be viable.
the old Alawite heartlands have never had much in the way of utilities or employment opportunities and the community would be dependent on outside backers such as Russia or Iran. A Lebanese solution for Syria, in which different areas have different outside backers, may be the end result, but it is nobody’s goal.
Not so sure why having “outside backers” is considered so bad.
The bottom line: separation is not perfect (nothing is) and faces many obstacles but may be worth considering.