Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Report: Syria's Assad Seeks Israeli Neutrality On Formation Of Alawite Enclave

Main areas of control in Syria as of 3 June 2013

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.


louielouie said...

this means beans to me.
what i see that ASSad should take care of is the euphrates corridor. this is a conduit connecting iraq and turkey.
if ASSad doesn't break/block this it will come back to bite him big time.
i read somewhere else that hussein is ready and the pentagon has plans to put american soldiers on the ground to defeat ASSad.
also, what would be the makeup of those relocated to the golan. muslim brotherhood rebels?

Rob said...

Hi Louie,
First off, Dempsey is just putting up a trial balloon here. At this point the rebels are actually fighting among themselves, so it's very up in the air about us going in. Even Obama has his doubts at this point.

The Euphrates corridor is largely populated by Kurds and Sunnis.The Kurds are maintaining a 'plague on both your houses' in this Sunni -Shi'ite war so far, and Assad doesn't need more enemies. And he lacks the troops now to thin out his forces by trying to occupy an economically insignificant area populated by a hostile population of Sunnis.

I don't see that coming back to bite him unless Turkey gets actively involved, and I doubt they will. They have other problems to contend with. And among other things, the Russians, whom Erdogan has been trying to improve relations with to try and get into the Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SCO) would not take kindly to any aggression against their client Assad.

Given the state of the Turkish economy, Erdogan needs that a lot more than he needs to get rid of Assad.

As for your last question, the MB are Sunnis, so if they were under Assad's control I doubt there'd be much left to relocate. More likely he had Druse or Christians in mind.

In any event, Israel would not allow it, although they might be willing to resettle some of them on a selective basis as refugees in Druse or Christian communities in Israel.


B.Poster said...

Are you certain this is only a "trial balloon?" USA Today is reporting that Congress has reached a deal to aid the rebels. Furthermore worthynews.com recently reported the rebels have had some gains recently, although it does not appear it offsets their recent losses. With that said, the media has been trying to write off the rebels for almost two years. Is there situation really as dire as is reported?

Even so, I don't see how they can win without massive support from America or someone else. As Russia is arming Assad's forces, this runs the risk of leading to WWIII. While I'm not arguing that Russia is as powerful as the US, I think everyone can agree that war with Russia would be EXTREMELY costly in terms of lives lost and treasure depleted.

Even if we support the rebels, oust Assad, and manage to avoid WWIII, if we end up with Al Qaeda, its sympathizers, or its affiliates running Syria, we're in a worse shape than we would be if we simply stayed out of it all together!! This seems to be a VERY RISKY endeavor. Risks can be acceptable, if there is something to gain from the risks. In this case, it seems there is nothing to gain. I see no way that having an Al Qaeda sympathizer governing Syria helps us in any way. In fact, it very likely harms us.

In all this discussion, I have not seen anyone in America's leadership circles asking a very pertinent question. This question is, "is Syrian military intervention worth starting WWWIII?"

So far this seems to be the most ham fisted operation in history. We have intervention that risks starting WWWIII, the intervention being proposed consists primarily of "small arms" which are VERY unlikely to turn the tide any way and risk further inflaming Russia which leads to an even greater risk of WWWIII, and finally even if the intervention successfully deposes Mr. Assad and WWWIII is avoided the new government is at best unknown to us and very likely an enemy!! This is either very stupid leadership or some folks have ideological blinders on. Not good. God help us all.

B.Poster said...

If this really is only a "trial balloon," it's likely made things worse. Russia recently conducted snap drills of its conventional forces and is in the process of conducting snap drills of its missile forces. Trial balloons such as this aren't working well.

A better trial balloon might be for the general to have stated the following. "The United States will not get involved in Syria in any way shape or form and any support the rebels are currently receiving or have received will be withdrawn forthwith and no more will be coming."

Maybe this is not the best "trial balloon" but it is immensely better than the one that Mr. Dempsey put forth. At least the trial balloon I suggest might actually improve our relations with other nations including those in the Middle East. The one the general put forth only makes things worse!!

Is Syria worth starting WWIII? American and "Western" leaders need to ask themselves this very important question. It appears to not just be the US that wants such involvement. If other "Western" leaders want to take this risk, then they can do so. Just kindly leave us out and maybe just maybe if the trial balloon I put forth was parroted by American leaders and followed up with the appropriate action maybe we would not be on the receiving end of WWIII.