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The Chances Of 'Alawite & Kurdish Mini-States In Syria.

IRGC's Shi'ite Lebanese unit Hizbullah and Assad's elite 4th Brigade are leading an offensive to take the rebel-held town of Zabadani near Damascus. This is said to be consistent with an IRGC-backed plan for the Alawite regime to withdraw its forces to a more defendable line in the west of Syria. On the Mediterranean coast, the western province of Latakia and its mountain range form the strong-hold of Syria's Alawite minority. For months, military analysts have seen a pull back to a "rump Alawite state" as inevitable given the exhaustion of Assad's army, the critical shortage of loyalist fighters, limits on IRGC/QF's resources, and territorial gains made this year by rebel forces in Syria's north and south.

Reportedly, the IRGC/QF plan is for the Alawite state to be linked with Hizbullah-controlled territories in Lebanon running from the Beqa' plateau's north and southern parts down to the armistice line with Israel. But for that to happen, Hizbullah will have to take areas inhabited by Lebanese Sunnis and Christians. And from the Syrian side, Assad's and IRGC/QF forces including Hizbullah will have to create a defensible corridor from the province of Latakia to Lebanon's northern border areas, running through parts of Syria's province of Hums where there are pockets of Alawite, Sunni and Christian inhabitants. In short, the plan heralds a long list of human massacres.

Assad's regime so far is showing little sign of re-trenching to its mooted enclave in western Syria, with his vulnerable troops continuing to fight isolated battles in far-flung out-posts across Syria. Syria expert Joshua Landis, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of the Syrian Comment blog, was last week quoted as saying: "More than a month ago, analysts seemed unanimous in believing that Assad was in full retreat to a more defensible regime enclave running from Latakia to Damascus. But as with most Assad policies, this one seems to be replete with half-measures and prevarication. Assad has clearly not given up his belief that he can retrieve lost ground and remain master of Syria, or at least most of it".

Assad now only controls about 20% of Syrian territory. The rest is held by a number of groups ranging from moderates like the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and non-sectarian Kurds to Sunni terror networks such as ISIS (which has a "caliphate" stretching to Iraq) and Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN). Nearly all these groups, except for the Kurds, now are moving to the province of Damascus. Much of Syria's south-west now lies in the hands of anti-Assad/anti-IRGC groups. And ISIS continues to move from its north-east Syrian strong-hold of Raqa province towards the vital Damascus-Hums high-way, the route which connects Damascus the capital to the Mediterranean coast.

After four years of continuous fighting, Assad's army is exhausted and the regime is increasingly having to rely on other combat groups, such as Hizbullah and QF-guided Shi'ite militias from such countries as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, and Pakistan - as well as this country's IRGC-officered National Defence Force (NDF) militia. Even the Alawites have balked at joining the Assad army. Many members of this minority are still insisting they will only join the Assad army after he has established the long-promised Alawite state.

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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Date:Jul 13, 2015
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