Dividing Syria: Sectarian Violence Fuels Concern of ‘Cleansing’

Assad Approached Israel on Prospect of 'Alawite State'

As Syria’s Civil War goes from months to years, the sectarian nature of the conflict becomes ever more clear. The Islamist factions that dominate the rebellion depend on the support (or at least acquiescence) of Syria’s Sunni majority, whereas the Assad government relies on the Shi’ite (and mostly Alawite) minority.

As the war drags on and stalemates, however, it is setting the stage for similar sectarian bloodletting as was seen in Iraq. The rebels are clearing Alawite villages in the north, while the Assad government is setting the stage for similar “cleansing” to ensure an Alawite majority around the southwest.

It’s not just idle speculation about the eventual division of Syria. President Assad has reportedly even approached Israeli officials in the past year to ask them not to intervene if the government attempts to form an “Alawite state” by relocating the displaced villagers into the Golan Heights.

From the southern part of the Homs Province down into Golan, a contiguous Alawite state with a border to Lebanon could be a fall-back point, giving Syria’s Alawite majority ties to the Shi’ites in neighboring Lebanon. While the war is a long way from over, a division of Syria into Sunni and Alawite states could end up being the endgame.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.