One of the most impressive features of the current uprising is the cohesion of the Syrian military and its continued willingness to kill its fellow Syrians. The principal reason is that the officer corps is composed primarily of Assad’s fellow Alawites and the most elite of its military units, commanded by the president’s brother, is made up almost exclusively of Alawites. They can justify their killing by the thought that they are preventing a civil war.
Ever since Bashar’s father, Hafez al Assad, staged his coup in 1970, the country has been dominated by Alawites. One of the benefits of domination, as every dominator knows, is economic gain. The Alawites learned that lesson early and have been at the forefront of economic gain in Syria – from licenses, monopolies, smuggling, and corruption.
Ninety percent of the Syrian population are not Alawites. Sunni Muslims make up some 80% with the rest Jews and Christians. The Sunnis want power and the end of Alawite domination. They want access to power. They want their dignity and they want access to economic success.
The Alawites fear not just for their wealth under Sunni power. They fear for their lives. Forty-one years of Alawite domination and Sunni degradation is a powerful motivation for retribution. The Alawites will fight on.