Syria’s Assad seeks Israeli permission to set up sectarian rump state
For years it’s been an open secret that one of the Syrian regime’s contingencies – under both Bashar Assad and his father, Hafiz – in the event of an imminent collapse of their rule is to create a separate Alawite state, much as the Maronite Christians had intended to do in Lebanon.
Now there’s evidence that the regime has been putting out feelers to gauge the likelihood of Israel helping the Alawites do this.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports that
Over the past six months, diplomats in the region have claimed that contingency planning for a rump state to protect Syrian Alawites has involved diplomatic contact being made by senior Syrian officials with enemy states.
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.
There is much that is ugly about the Syrian armed opposition – Salafis, Wahhabis, jihadists, Muslim Brotherhood. It is an ugliness that has been allowed to grow thanks to the United States and Europe whose prevarication has permitted the Islamists to build up their dominance and whom one suspects are not averse to the Syrian civil war lingering on endlessly, as long as it doesn’t spill over into neighbouring states or threaten Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights.
But at the same time we must not lose sight of the supreme ugliness of the Assad regime, a murderous regime that stands guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and high treason.