Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Report: Syria's Assad Seeks Israeli Neutrality On Formation Of Alawite Enclave
You might remember that last year when the Syrian civil war was getting into high gear I predicted in a couple of stories that Basher Assad might very well seek to establish an enclave in northwest Syria made up of Alawites, Shi'ites and Christians, all of whom know very well what Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda rule would mean for them.
Today, the UK Guardian has a report that Assad is seeking to do just that, and approached Israel to request their neutrality while he puts it together:
A mediator – a well-known diplomatic figure – is understood to have been asked by Assad to approach the former Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, late last year with a request that Israel not stand in the way of attempts to form an Alawite state, which could have meant moving some displaced communities into the Golan Heights area.
A source aware of the talks said that Lieberman had not rebuffed the approach but had first sought information on the whereabouts of a missing Israeli airman shot down over Lebanon, Ron Arad, as well as three Israeli soldiers captured in the Lebanese village of Sultan Yacoub in 1982, and the remains of Eli Cohen, an Israeli spy intelligence officer who was caught and executed in Damascus.
The Syrian military's recent advances on the battlefield appear to have reduced the urgency in preparations for the collapse of the Syrian state. But nonetheless, some Alawites fear the war has already irreversibly changed Syria – and that some communities can no longer co-exist.
Ron Arad was an Israeli navigator who was likely sold to the Iranians, while Eli Cohen is a legendary figure who penetrated the highest ranks of Syrian civil and military society
as a spy prior to the Six Day War in 1967. He was hung in the central square in Damascus. (His story is absolutely amazing, and an excellent book on the subject is The Shattered Silence by Zwy Aldouby and Jerrold Ballinger)
An Assad-ruled state with the above borders would provide him with numerous advantages.Now that Assad is clearly wining the battle for Homs and the rebels are unlikely to take Aleppo without direct western intervention, Assad can maintains control of Syria's commercial hub an dmost populated areas. His western border would be secured by Lebanon and Hezbollah (the small Sunni rebel enclave between Assad's forces and Hezbollah's Bek'aa Valley would be crushed) and the ports of Latakia and Tartus would enable the Russians to keep their naval squadrons there and continue to supply him with arms. Assad could hold on to this area almost indefinitely, and perhaps even add to it over time.
Syria's Kurds will probably form a de facto alliance with Iraqi Kurdistan right next door.
The Israelis would be unlikely to be concerned unless Assad tried moving military assets into the areas adjacent to the Golan, shown as 'disputed', of course on the Guardian's map but actually part of Israel.
Syria was never actually a country. Like most of the Arab states, it's a collection of provinces and disparate ethnic groups lumped together when the Ottoman Empire collapsed after World War I and the western allies drew lines in the sand.
To see it split along sectarian and ethnic lines is no surprise.