International conference to take place June 30, in Geneva, may get creative…
This Saturday, June 30, 2012, the UN is hosting an international conference in Geneva in another attempt to find a peaceful solution to what is already defined by all as a fully fledged war in Syria. The ongoing military tie between the sides may continue for years; thus, the UN Security Council is trying to be creative in finding a solution that will grant Bashar al-Assad’s regime a safe exit. Until now, there is an agreement between the council members on the creation of a transition government in Syria, but that’s not enough. Bashar al-Assad will not sacrifice himself for the sake of the American military interests. The recent downing of a Turkish F-4 by the Syrian army shows the latter is in good shape and ready for a long conflict. Under these circumstances, the Alawi Republic of Latakia may be revived to rescue Assad.
The complex situation in Syria includes two main struggles. The most obvious one is between the Syrian Army and the West-backed Free Syrian Army. In parallel, there is a violent conflict between the Alawi minority-closely related to Shia Islam-and Sunni Arabs. The Alawi comprise roughly 12% of the population and hold the power; the Assad dynasty is Alawi. The Sunni are 74% of the population and are attempting to use the ongoing mayhem in order to gain power. The ethnic conflict is conducted by paramilitary organizations trying to evict each other from their respective territories. The most visible result of this conflict is the gathering of Syrian refugees in Turkey, and the incessant reports on massacres of civilians. The Syrian Army-where Alawis enjoy a privileged position-favors the Alawi population, thus the ethnic struggle is a tie despite the unequal forces involved.
Syrian Casualties Graph | Fully Fledged War
Also the military conflict is in a draw. The Syrian Army gets support from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, while the rebels are financially supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, and get military help from Western sources smuggling weapons via Turkey. Reliable sources claim that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are paying the salaries of the rebel army. The Syrian regime is presenting this conflict to the Syrian people as a war between Shia and Sunni Arabs. Yet, there is more than a religious and ethnic conflict in this war. Tarsus is one of Syria’s two main ports; it is also the only Russian navy base in the Mediterranean Sea. Russia is unlikely to give up this strategic asset for the sake of the creation of a Western puppet-regime. To complete this complex picture, Turkey is helping the Syrian Kurds-which seek the creation of a Kurdish state-in an attempt to sabotage the creation of Kurdistan in regions now belonging to Turkey, Syria and Iraq.
Under these conditions, the fighting could persist for years. The downing of the Turkish F-4 proved to NATO that Syria is not Libya. Any Western country attempting to violently oust the Syrian regime will pay dearly. During an elections year in the USA, there is no chance that will happen. Coffins of USA soldiers arriving on the eve of the elections will spoil President Obama’s celebration. Thus, this Saturday, the international conference will try to find a different solution.
Alawi Republic of Latakia
Bashar al-Assad may be forced out of power if he loses the support of the Alawi people. This may happen in three different ways. All Syrian pilots and most senior officers in the army are Alawi; if they turn against him, he’ll have no armed forces left. Then, the Alawi mid-class running the Syrian administration may reject him and bring the country to a standstill. Finally, the Alawi-majority coastal areas may decide to support a different leader. These scenarios are unlikely to happen since the Alawi reasonably fear a Sunni-ruled Syria. This is a clear tie.
Syrian Map| Latakia is along the coast
A creative solution to the conflict may look back at events that took place in the previous century. An Alawi State already existed between 1920 and 1946, under the French Mandate of the League of Nations. The city of Latakia was its capital, and it occupied territories that nowadays form the Syrian Latakia and Tarsus governorates. The Alawis may agree to the destitution of Assad in exchange for the revival of their republic. In this scenario, Syria will be split in at least two parts. The Alawis clearly gain despite their losing control over most of the country. The West will gain since a major country opposing it will be split. The Kurds will gain; a weaker Syria increases their chance to obtain an independent state. In the short term, the Russians will get to keep their military port. Iran will have a stronger position in this state than it has in current Syria, gaining influence along the coastal areas next to the vast gas fields of the Eastern Mediterranean. In the short term most players will gain, thus it is a feasible political solution.
Syria has already been sliced in the past. In 1938, Hatay—a small territory on the Mediterranean coast—became independent from the French mandate of Syria as the Republic of Hatay. Following a referendum in 1939, Hatay decided to join Turkey, forming the singular panhandle shape that can be seen on the maps of Turkey. Syria still doesn’t recognize that event as legitimate. An important aspect of that event is that the Alawis are one of two main ethnic groups inhabiting Hatay. Essentially, the breakup of Latakia may be seen by Turkey as a repetition of the past. After a few years, a referendum may be held on the issue of the gathering of the Alawis with their brothers in Turkey, under a single political entity. Latakia will join Turkey, giving the latter better access to the strategic gas-fields. This scenario is so tempting to most players that stopping it may be impossible. One more country-which is keeping silent until now-will profit.
If Syria is split, Zion and its elders will applaud. Israel will cement its illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights, and be closer than ever to create a regional empire based on destitution and violence. The survival of a strong and democratic Syria is essential for ensuring regional peace and stability; no region accepting Western occupation has ever known peace. Syria is unlikely to be the exception.