Is Israel slyly inciting genocide against Alawites as prelude to creation of Kosovo-style enclave in Syria?
Within the past week, fellows at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies have used rather unfortunate analogies to describe the plight of Syria’s besieged Alawite minority. The comparison of the Alawites to two of the region’s least popular interlopers in Arab and Muslim memory was hardly calculated to endear them to an already resentful Sunni majority.
Writing in the neoconservative flagship Weekly Standard on July 6, Tony Badran claimed:
Bashar al-Assad’s campaign against his Sunni adversaries recalls the strategy employed by the Crusaders, as invading European armies fortified themselves against various Muslim coalitions in the Levant, from the 12th to the 13th century. Indeed, the Crusader castles dotting the Western part of Syria may give us some sort of insight into the regime’s military thinking, and perhaps a preview of its future.
Three days later, Jonathan Kay wrote an oddly sympathetic piece in Canada’s staunchly pro-Israel National Post:
A small, marginalized people, kicked around the Middle East for centuries by Muslim empires, finally carves out an independent home for itself on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. But life remains precarious: Islamists seek to delegitimize the newly established homeland, declaiming the ruling sect as a gang of infidel occupiers. Now, the simmering hatred of the occupied people finally has transformed into an unstoppable political and military intifada — cheered on by Western human-rights advocates.
The country I have just described is Syria. For all the pathological hatred that President Bashar Assad and his father Hafez have focused on Israel, the histories of the two countries betray some striking similarities. And those similarities help explain why the Assad clan and its hangers-on refuse to be dislodged from Damascus.
Like Israel’s Jews, members of the Alawi sect in Syria regard their control of the nation as an existential issue. There is only one Alawi state, just as there is only one Jewish state, and its destruction would mean the end of the Alawis as a political entity on the world stage — probably forever. With the passage of generations, it might even mean their gradual assimilation into other nations, as with Zoroastrians, Samaritans and a hundred other now-obscure Middle Eastern peoples.
It may be just a coincidence that in the space of a few days two fellows from the same pro-Israel think tank that has been in the forefront of calls for regime change in Damascus compared the ruling Alawites to Crusaders and Jews. However, given Israel’s record of fomenting strife in the region along ethnic and religious lines, the possibility that these articles are part of a deliberate campaign of incitement should not be discounted.
Over the past year, there have been a number of intriguing references in the Israeli press to the Jewish state’s purported concern for the plight of the Alawites. In an August 3, 2011 op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, John Myhill wrote:
At some point, as the civil war in Syria develops, the Alawites will have no choice but to retreat to their mountain stronghold in the northwest and appeal for military assistance to protect them and help them establish their own state there (as they unsuccessfully petitioned the French in the interwar period).
From personal contact with Alawites, I know that they are already beginning to discuss the possibility of appealing to Israel for help. If they do – and they probably will at some point – and the international community does not help them, Israel should step in to aid the Alawites, which would also mean helping their Shi’ite allies, who will by that point be similarly embattled.
According to Myhill, this humanitarian act would also have strategic benefits for Tel Aviv:
The result would be the formation of a bloc of states in the western Levant which would share the common interest of avoiding Sunni domination. For the first time, Israel would have actual state allies in the region, as opposed to temporary peace treaties.
Then in early January this year, Haaretz reported the same humanitarian impulse from an even more unlikely source:
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Tuesday that Israel is preparing to absorb Alawite refugees once Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime collapses, which he expects to happen in the coming months.
Analyzing the IDF’s improbable humanitarianism, the Beirut-based political analyst Ghassan Dahhan observed:
Let’s assume that Israel’s analysis is correct in which Assad would fall after which a civil war erupts in Syria between Sunnis and Alawites. Given the sectarian composition of Syrian society the Alawites would find themselves at the end of the gun barrel, and an exodus could take place in similar vein with the Christians of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Looking for safe refuge, many Alawites might feel forced to accept Israel’s offer to be resettled in the Golan and subsequently seek its protection from the Syrian Sunni majority.
The current population of the Golan currently stands at less than a hundred thousand, consisting mostly of Druze. Even a minor flow of Alawite refugees to the Golan would thus have significant demographic consequences for the configuration of the territory’s society. The Israeli occupied Golan would in effect be turned into de-facto Alawite enclave. For Israel to grant Alawite refugees legal status would be unacceptable to most Israelis, especially if the size of refugees is tangible.
The option that would render Israel the best position is to encourage the creation of a Kosovo-style Alawite state.
The reference to Kosovo brings to mind an article in the Atlantic from almost two decades ago, in which Robert D. Kaplan predicted the inevitable Balkanization of Syria:
Syria will not remain the same. It could become bigger or smaller, but the chance that any territorial solution will prove truly workable is slim indeed. Some Middle East specialists mutter about the possibility that a future Alawite state will be carved out of Syria. Based in mountainous Latakia, it would be a refuge for Alawites after Assad passes from the scene and Muslim fundamentalists—Sunnis, that is—take over the government. This state would be supported not only by Lebanese Maronites but also by the Israeli Secret Service, which would see no contradiction in aiding former members of Assad’s regime against a Sunni Arab government in Damascus.
Could it be that Tel Aviv and its American lobby are slyly inciting genocide against the Alawites as a prelude to the creation of an Israel-dependent Kosovo-style enclave somewhere in Syria? This would certainly be in keeping with the strategy for the Middle East outlined in the early 1980s by Oded Yinon, as summarized by Khalil Nakhleh:
The plan operates on two essential premises. To survive, Israel must 1) become an imperial regional power, and 2) must effect the division of the whole area into small states by the dissolution of all existing Arab states. Small here will depend on the ethnic or sectarian composition of each state. Consequently, the Zionist hope is that sectarian-based states become Israel’s satellites and, ironically, its source of moral legitimation.
Friday, we read in the New York Times and elsewhere about one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most important supporters and allies having defected. The impression one gets is that Assad’s government is in a state of collapse— and this gives credibility to those pushing for Assad to turn over power.
But what the media are not mentioning is that Brigadier General Manaf Tlass did not defect directly from the Assad inner circle. He had already fallen into disfavor early in the uprising and lost his command in May 2011—14 months ago. If you had that additional piece of information, you would interpret the news reports in a totally different way.
When a piece of evidence that contradicts the overall impression is absent from the reportage, the reportage itself is almost worthless.
As are reports of horrific events without adequate fact-checking and follow-up. Remember the Houla massacre? Who carried that out?
The media told us that more than 100 people, including women and children, were brutally slaughtered at close range in the village of Houla in late May. The bloodshed, reported around the world, was ascribed to a militia, the Shabiha, which is loyal to Assad. Here’s an example, from the BBC website:
Survivors of the massacre in Syria’s Houla region have told the BBC of their shock and fear as regime forces entered their homes and killed their families. [...]
Most witnesses who spoke to the BBC said they believed that the army and shabiha militiamen were responsible.
“We were in the house, they went in, the shabiha and security, they went in with Kalashnikovs and automatic rifles,” said survivor Rasha Abdul Razaq.
Later, a dribble of accounts cast doubt on this, since the people killed were, by and large, themselves supporters of Assad. But few heard about these. The BBC report did not say who Rasha was, or provide any evidence that she actually was there, or that if she was, she had any basis for saying that the killers were identifiable as to their affiliation. BBC quoted one other source, who did not provide a name. Despite the thinness of this material, the BBC story was picked up all over the world, and became perhaps the definitive account.
Hence, you probably were unaware of an article from the Frankfurter Allgemeine-Zeitung, a traditional and serious German newspaper for whom I’ve written in the past. It published a report a month ago from a correspondent who got eyewitness accounts from people who he says had visited the Houla area. The correspondent, Rainer Hermann, says that these eyewitnesses were Assad opponents, yet discovered that government backers were not responsible for the massacre.
Hermann’s sources described the events as follows: anti-Assad rebels attacked army roadblocks just outside Houla, which had been intended to protect villages, where the majority are members of Assad’s Alawi sect, from Sunni militias. The soldiers at the roadblocks, overwhelmed, called for backup, which led to a 90-minute battle, in which both sides sustained extensive fatalities.
It was in this time frame that the unidentified militias entered Houla.
As Hermann wrote June 7:
“According to eyewitness accounts…those killed were almost exclusively from families belonging to Houla’s Alawi and Shia minorities. Over 90% of Houla’s population are Sunnis. Several dozen members of a family were slaughtered, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. Members of the Shomaliya, an Alawi family, were also killed, as was the family of a Sunni member of the Syrian parliament who is regarded as a collaborator. Immediately following the massacre, the perpetrators are supposed to have filmed their victims and then presented them as Sunni victims in videos posted on the internet.
…”Their findings contradict allegations of the rebels, who had blamed the Shabiha militias which are close to the regime.”
Thus, Hermann seemingly was able to do something that most of the Western reporters have been unable to do: find opponents of Assad who nevertheless may be willing to provide accounts that do not serve their own interests.
Of course, we could do with more information on Hermann’s sources. How do we know they were really in Houla? How do we know they are really opponents of Assad, not just pretending to be? Their story of inter-communal strikes makes more sense than the one that went around the world and turned so many people who had not been paying attention into supporters of toppling Assad. But nevertheless, everyone needs to provide more detail so we can try to ascertain what is true.
Almost all of the accounts in major news organization stories are characterized as being from the opposition, almost all portray everything as caused solely by the regime, and almost all add the disclaimer that the information “could not be independently verified.”
Though conventional journalism likes to advertise that it is “objective” and doesn’t take sides, I don’t recall hearing much from the Syrian regime’s point of view, beyond general and unconvincing denials following reports of regime wrongdoing. One almost gets the impression that the Syrian government does not wish to be heard.
But that turns out not to be the case.
With Syria’s neighbor Turkey increasingly the leading edge for NATO on toppling Assad, it’s interesting that a Turkish newspaper was willing to hear what the Syrian leader had to say:
In an interview with the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, Bashar Assad went after Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with an extraordinarily interesting critique. A version translated into English by the Syrian news agency, SANA, shows Assad stressing his goodwill toward the Turkish people in the first part of the interview, then raising questions about the motives of the alliance seeking to overthrow him:
Assad: …. Today, Erdogan is shedding the tears of hypocrites for the Syrian people. Why hasn’t he cried for those killed in some Gulf countries, although they are innocent, peaceful and unarmed? Why isn’t he speaking about democracy in some Gulf countries?
Journalist: Which country?
Assad: Qatar, for instance. Why didn’t he do anything after the Marmara ship incident except shouting? Why did he challenge Israel, and then suddenly agreed to deploy the missile shield in Turkey? Did he deploy it in order to protect Turkey from the attack of a hostile country? Did America build these bases in order to protect itself against this region? Which country in the region has the capability to threaten America? No country. [...]
You don’t have to be a fan of Assad (and who is?) to find it worthwhile to read his comments. Hearing, almost for the first time, from the other side in a conflict gives one a rush—reminds me of a rule we were taught in journalism school but which never seemed to come up again, except in the most superficial ways :To find out what is really going on, make a real effort to speak to both sides.
All Hillary, All the Time
While the Western media simply ignores statements from the Syrian establishment, it functions as the flip side of the Syrian government press agency, publishing a relentless stream of declarations from the establishment trying to bring Assad down. For example, again from The Times, Hillary Clinton’s well-covered remarks on Tlass:
Later at a news conference, Mrs. Clinton said that General Tlass’s reported defection and those of other senior military officials had sent a powerful message that Mr. Assad’s government was on its way out. She described General Tlass as “a very close and longtime ally” of Mr. Assad and his father.
So what you have is Hillary Clinton being willing to distort the Tlass development, and the media only too happy to go along.
There’s a growing body of evidence/ that we Americans are being lied to by our government, with nary a peep from the people’s representatives in the press. That’s one development, sadly, that really is not news.
- Avaaz’s war on Syria: Soros sponsored sorrow pleads for foreign intervention (worldmathaba.net)
- Implosion of The Houla Massacre Story — Is Anyone Paying Attention? (lewrockwell.com)
Today, more than 14 million voters in Syria will have the chance to select among several thousand candidates for 250 parliamentary seats.
Cities across the country are plastered with posters of the candidates, with many adopting an Obama-sque “Change we can believe in” slogan.
However, the armed groups that have been backed by the NATO powers for the past 15 months have rejected the polls, and are showing their hostility by targeting candidates for assassination, usually by the use of explosives.
Since the armed uprising began, several thousand members of the security forces and their family members have been killed by the insurgents, who themselves have lost thousands of their own.
However, those relying on Western media are told that every such death has been caused by the security forces, ignoring the deadly violence that is being unleashed in the country by groups of armed mobs.
We have seen this before, in Libya, where tens of thousands of people have died so far as the result of externally backed civil war. In that country, those willing to kill regime elements were given training, cash and weapons.
Today, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing the same assistance to those seeking to use deadly force against the government in Damascus.
Although Syria President Bashar al-Assad has announced a raft of reforms, including new media laws and the right to form political parties, each such announcement has been met by an escalation in violence, which has rendered null the ceasefire brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan.
Since mid-April, there have been numerous ceasefire violations by the insurgents, with the Alawi, the Muslim sect to which the Assad family belongs, and the Christian community the main target of the insurgents. Syria is the home of the Patriarchate of Antioch, the oldest church in Christendom.
For reasons not clear, the triumvirate of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have joined hands with the NATO powers to back the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has been the greatest beneficiary of the Arab Spring.
Today in Syria, one can see women across the country dressed as they please. Were the Brotherhood to take control, this freedom might soon be replaced with the obligation to wear the chador (full veil). Already in Egypt and in Tunisia, the secular ethos of the country is rapidly giving way to Saudi-style conservatism.
While European members of NATO are opposed to Islamic conservatives in their own countries, in the Arab world, they favor such elements over those who are secular. The result is a galloping conservatism across the Arab world.
Clearly, the NATO powers are aware that the more hardline local regimes are, the less chance that they will be able to compete with the US and the EU.
Rather than support the process of democratization in Syria, the NATO powers have joined hands with regional powers to train, arm and provide cash to the armed opposition, thereby fomenting a violent civil war in the country.
The 11 percent of the population that are Alawi and the 9 percent of Syria’s 24 million people that are Christian are terrified that they will become the target of ethnic cleansing. As for the majority Sunni community, more than two-thirds are moderate, with less than a third favoring the conservative Wahabbi-Salafi faith.
We have seen this before, in Afghanistan in the 1980s, where the US backed religious extremists to fight the USSR. The effects of that mistake are still creating harmful ripples across the region.
Today, rather than support secular elements and encourage the transition to democracy, NATO is backing armed groups that create mayhem across the country, groups that overwhelmingly follow an extremist ideology.
Of course, there are exiled Syrians who have congregated in Paris to provide a moderate face to the armed struggle. However, these people control nothing, only those with guns do.
And these days, more and more guns are flowing into Syria, as NATO seeks regime change not through the ballot but through the bomb.
The author is director and professor of the School of Geopolitics at Manipal University in India. He visited Syria last month as part of an Indian delegation.
- Syria border guards foil infiltration attempt from Turkey: Report (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Sarkozy and Hollande on Middle East: La Même Chose (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Annan Spokesman Says Syria Peace Plan on Track, White House Claims Opposite (alethonews.wordpress.com)