Among the Alawites

Among the Alawites

Nir Rosen in LRB, with another angle on the question of sectarianism in Syria's civil war:

What becomes of the Alawites if the regime falls, and what becomes of Bashar’s support base as a whole, are not the same question. Bashar’s following includes other minorities besides the Alawites, not to mention Sunnis. From the outset the government has described the opposition as motivated by sectarianism – an accusation that encourages the very tendency it claims to deplore – but it has carefully refrained from any show of sectarianism itself, even if its Alawite supporters are less fastidious. Loyalists say that they are diverse while the opposition is almost entirely Sunni. Yet 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. Were this struggle to be reduced to a bald conflict between Sunnis and Alawites the government would lose its Sunni support and be left with only 10 per cent of the population behind it, plus a few stragglers from the other minorities.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.