Iraq: Maliki’s Government Once Again on the Brink

Shiite cleric Muqtata al-Sadr (Jafria)

Shiite cleric Muqtata al-Sadr (Jafria)

A year after America’s withdrawal from Iraq, the country’s struggle for stability persists. Sunni protests are continuing following a government raid against Finance Minister Rafie al-Esawi’s home and the reported arrest of many of his bodyguards and staff on December 20. The protests, which have recently acquired the backing of some of Prime Minister Maliki’s main Shiite rivals – the Sadrists – come as the Shiite-led Iraqi government is already facing increased pressure from a persistent border standoff with Iraqi Kurdistan (KRG). Regardless of whether Maliki survives the current campaign against him, the concept of a unified Iraq, shared among its many sects, will continue to suffer.

The protests are sectarian in nature, propagated mainly from Sunni Islamists, and aiming to reduce Maliki’s influence and that of the Shiites over Iraq.  Among the Sunni protesters’ many demands are reforms, releasing prisoners, regional secession, an end to corruption and Iranian influence, and the downfall of Maliki’s Shiite-led government. Those demands are unlikely to be met. While Iraq’s government, security forces, and Shiites have faced years of deadly Sunni insurgent attacks, the protests underscore an increased effort by the country’s Sunnis to replicate mass protests held elsewhere in the region and pressure Maliki’s Shiite-led government.

Protest leaders are likely aiming to capitalize upon perceived justification for mass protests following the government’s decision to act against al-Esawi. In addition to rallying Sunni voters prior to elections planned for the spring, the timing also coincides with increasing pressure against Baghdad from the ongoing Kurdish dispute over territory in northern Iraq;, a dispute that threatens to bring both Iraq and the KRG into another round of armed conflict. The Kurdish gains and continued opposition to Baghdad’s policies, in addition to the Sunni revolt in Syria, are likely giving many Iraqi Sunnis increased motivation to call for regional autonomy.

Things have worsened for Maliki. On December 27, one of Maliki’s main Shiite political and religious rivals, Muqtata al-Sadr, called for more Sunni demonstrations, while members of the Shiite ISCI bloc met with leaders from President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party. Although the ISCI did not attend a failed anti-Maliki emergency session in parliament led by Sadrists, Kurds, and Sunnis, Kurdish and Sunni factions of Maliki’s government have since boycotted a cabinet session. Meanwhile, Maliki’s deputy forwarded a letter to parliament indicating that the government will be lifting judicial immunity for parliamentarians accused of libel against government figures and politicians. Sadr has since again asserted that Maliki is attempting to silence his rivals and stated that he will join Sunni-led protests if Maliki continues to consolidate power.

Shiite opposition towards Maliki’s religious-nationalist faction underscores continued competition for intra-Shiite ideological and political supremacy. In the past, this struggle has resulted in armed conflict, highlighted by the Battle of Basra in 2008 that saw Sadr’s Mahdi Army ousted from the city by government forces. Given the animosity between major Shiite factions and parties and the uncertainty of Maliki’s stance within Iraq at this time, it remains unlikely that Sadrists will unify behind Maliki against the Kurds and Sunnis without strong pressure from the Iranians. Those groups could contribute to new calls for Maliki to step down or a no confidence vote against him in parliament; although such efforts may have become more difficult. The acting president for the now ill President Talabani, is a known ally of Maliki.

Although Maliki’s recent hard-line stances against his rivals and especially al-Esawi were likely timed for political and strategic benefit, the actions of Muqtata al-Sadr indicate that his faction is acting to boost its clout ahead of provincial elections in the spring.  Although Sadr now portrays himself as a leader of all Iraqis, his support for the Sunni protests is mainly political, to boost his ideological movement’s influence in parliament. Sadr has just as much interest in maintaining Shiite rule over Iraq as Maliki. Sadr could likely continue to tolerate much of the sectarianism emanating from Sunni protests, as long as Maliki’s political situation continues to suffer. Sadr’s continued support for Sunni protests could have an adverse effect however, boosting ever growing support for his pro-Khomeinist Shiite-Islamist rivals in the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq.

Maliki has cards to play as well. A more unified opposition to Maliki, backed by Sadrists, could propel more authoritarian measures against his opponents. Such a development could witness the intimidation of rival Shiite leaders, assassinations, raids, and judicial actions against opponents from all sects. Maliki’s reported efforts to remove immunity for parliamentarians may be an indicator of such a policy. Furthermore, Maliki may utilize the ongoing military standoff with the KRG to cover such actions or deflect attention away from the increasing pressure against him. This could provide the Iraqi leader with a much needed political boost from Iraqi Arab nationalists who oppose Kurdish statehood.

The numerous religious, ethnic, and political divides will continue to hinder Iraq’s transition into a normal state, let alone a Shiite Arab power. It remains unlikely that Maliki will step down in the process absent severe pressure from fellow Shiites and Iran. Like most states in the Middle East, Iraq’s future as a unified political entity devoid of destabilizing sectarian and political conflicts appears grim.

 

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Arab-Kurdish war drums roar in northern Iraq – Written for Turkish Daily Hurriyet

One of the Middle East’s longest running conflicts is on the verge of a dangerous escalation. While many perceive the Palestinians as the epitome of a people without a state, the Kurds remain the world’s largest ethnic group devoid of a state of their own. Few nations in the region, aside from Israel, have an interest in seeing an independent Kurdish state. This historic reality has led to a series of confrontations between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq’s Shiite-led government. Consequently, Arab Iraq’s recent attempts to boost its military presence in disputed areas have sounded the drums of war. With Kurdish and Iraqi forces now in a standoff and engaged in a dangerous game of brinkmanship, any incident could set-off another round of Arab-Kurdish wars in Iraq.

Full article below.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/arab-kurdish-war-drums-roar-in-northern-iraq.aspx?pageID=449&nID=35521&NewsCatID=396

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Will Syria’s Rebels Face a Kurdish Front?

Will Syria’s Rebels Face a Kurdish Front?.

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Will Syria’s Rebels Face a Kurdish Front?

 

Kurdish PKK female militant

Four decades of unabated Assad rule are testament to the Syrian regime’s mastery of sectarianism in the Middle East. Once again, the Assads have utilized this talent to throw another wrench into the Sunni-Western campaign to oust them from Damascus. The regime recognizes the historic tensions between Arabs and Kurds, the incompatibility of pan-Islamism and Kurdish nationalism, in addition to Turkey’s escalating ongoing conflict with Kurdish separatists. This enabled Bashar al-Assad to manipulate these realities for his strategic advantage. By withdrawing from the mainly Kurdish northeast this past summer, the regime opened the gates for a Kurdish escalation. With Assad’s enemies now struggling to liberate areas from his tanks, fresh fighting between Kurdish militias and Syrian rebels around Aleppo threatens a second front for the already bruised Syrian opposition.

That fighting serves as a reminder of the Kurds’ long standing aspirations for further rights and autonomy, a quest almost always opposed by their sectarian rivals throughout the region. While the Assads – much like Saddam Hussein – have suppressed Kurds with decades of ‘Arabization, ‘Bashar calculated early on that his Kurdish subjects, as a whole, were unlikely to fight alongside the opposition. Not out of any loyalty, but for historic and strategic reasons.

So far, Assad’s gambit has paid off. Kurdish interests vary but often contradict those of their ethnic neighbors. We may call them Syrian or Iraqi Kurds, but their interests are anything but Syrian or Iraqi. That, however, did not stop the opposition from seeking Kurdish fighters to join their ranks. Unfortunately for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian National Council (SNC), these negotiations failed. The Kurds were reluctant to shed blood for a mainly Arab-Islamist opposition that was unable to offer autonomy in post-bellum Syria. Since then, Syrian Kurds are charting their own course.

Not surprisingly, Assad has manipulated Kurdish neutrality for his own benefit. His army’s coordinated withdrawal from Kurdish areas last summer was a serious development. That redeployment purposefully left hard-line Kurdish militias in control, thereby posing serious strategic problems not only for Syrian rebels, but for Assad’s new Turkish enemy to the north. Turkey as a rule is opposed to any Kurdish gains in Syria given concerns over its own restive Kurdish population.

The problems for Syria’s rebels are as follows: the far-leftist Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) has barred Sunni Arab fighters from Kurdish areas and periodically cooperated with Assad’s forces in and around Aleppo, all the while expanding its control over strategic checkpoints and smuggling routes near the vital Turkish border. Over time, these actions and Kurdish neutrality have not only discredited the opposition’s narrative as a country united against Assad, they have put both sides on a collision course.

That collision took place on October 26. Heavy fighting erupted between the Peoples’ Defense Unit (YPG), a PYD militia and Syrian rebels in Aleppo’s Kurdish neighborhood of Ashrafieh. Sunni Arab gunmen from the Tawhid Brigade entered the neighborhood as a show of strength before the Muslim holiday of Eid. Unfortunately for them, Kurdish militias were not so keen on their presence. After dozens of rebel fighters lay dead, they withdrew but not before they abducted, and then executed, the local leader of the PYD – who happened to be a woman.

Hours after the fighting in Ashrafieh, additional clashes between Kurds and Arabs broke out over checkpoints in the vicinity of the Turkish border. As reports of the fighting emerged, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkey’s arch enemy and PYD ally, consequently threatened to intervene against Syria’s rebels. While fighting remains largely localized, the PKK threat could be a game changer.

Both the rebels and PYD for the most part would like to avoid a Kurdish war at this time. A new front could jeopardize what is perceived to be a historic opportunity for Kurdish nation building in Syria. The rebels moreover, can hardly afford to fight the Kurds, especially if the battle-tested PKK becomes involved. Still, the Kurds and the rebels remain highly decentralized, with many rebel units operating pursuant to their own agenda – often to further the Arab-Islamist cause in the Middle East. While both sides are talking ceasefire, tensions and diverging goals could complicate those efforts over the long run.

Kurdish Syria is above all a highly strategic region. Straddling Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, numerous players have an interest in thwarting Kurdish gains here. Such interests coupled with tensions on the ground will make further Kurdish-rebel fighting a real possibility. Beyond Syria, the PKK also has an interest in using Syria as a launching pad for operations against Turkey. This is not a remote possibility, as it is already being reported that PKK gunmen, in addition to their PYD allies, are already stationed along the Turkish-Syrian border.

That presence ultimately contributes to the rebels’ struggle to take Aleppo. This along with diverging interests and a history of Arab-Kurdish fighting could lead to a second sectarian war in Syria. In the end this works best for Assad. The regime recognized that Kurdish nationalism and pan-Islamism are two largely incompatible ideologies. The opposition’s inability to promise the Kurds autonomy was the ultimate deciding factor. As a result, Assad has simply laid the groundwork for a second front in the Syrian civil war. It remains to be seen if the rebels will take the bait.

Daniel Brode is an intelligence manager and senior analyst at Max Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm in Israel. He specializes in Middle East and North Africa affairs. 

 

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Israel Eyeing the Islamic Republic?

(Israeli warplane – From Trend.az)

Tensions are soaring in the Middle East. But as the world awaits and debates the possibility of a highly speculated unilateral Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program, the reality is that the Iranian threat to Israel goes far beyond a nuclear device.

Decades of proxy wars with Iran, attacks, genocidal rhetoric and Tehran’s dangerous obsession with the “Zionist entity”, highlight that the primary perceived threat to Israel stems not from a nuclear device, but from the Islamic regime and the revolutionary ideology behind it. Therefore, as long as the Iranian state remains committed to Israel’s destruction, Israelis will feel continually threatened and the conflict between Iran and Israel will persist – with or without a nuclear bomb.

State-sanctioned anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish ideology has been a staple of the Islamic regime since its founding in 1979. Thus, Ahmadinejad’s most recent calls for Israel’s destruction and more importantly Ayatollah Khameini’s prediction of it are not new developments. But for Israelis, such threats are not easy to dismiss, despite Iran’s ability or inability to make good on them. Israel’s critics often respond to its concerns over Iran with allegations of warmongering, but for better or for worse, the collective history of Israel’s Jewish population and their peculiar situation in the volatile Middle East, underline why Israel  takes Iran’s threats seriously and even considers acting against it in the first place.

In line with the “Begin Doctrine”, Israel has proven throughout its history that it is willing to undertake daring operations far beyond its borders, even against opposition from its closest ally – the US. In 1981, Israel attacked Iraq’s nuclear reactor in Osirak, while destroying Syria’s reactor in 2007. Both times, Washington was either not involved or adamantly against any unilateral Israeli attack.  At present, Israelis are highly divided on how to act against Iran, but they do not disagree that Iran is a dangerous and determined enemy and one that must be curtailed. Israel does have options. It is just a question of what should be done, when, or how.

The center of gravity inside Iran is not its nuclear program, rather it is the fiery brand of revolutionary Islam that brought the Islamist regime to power in the first place. Therefore, one should not be surprised if Israel opts not to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities but rather chooses to do something more daunting. Striking only Iran’s nuclear program would be a tactical solution to a grand strategic problem.

While Israel could theoretically live with delaying Iran’s atomic program in the short term, the aim of any concerted action, should it happen, would likely be to facilitate strategic consequences that would ultimately serve to end or severely alter the Islamic Republic in the long term. Without addressing and acting against this primary threat, Iran will continue to hound Israel wherever it can and when it can.

An Iranian nuclear arsenal is undoubtedly a threat to Israel, but that threat is only as dangerous as the Mullahs who wield the ideology that guides it. This is evident in that unlike other nuclear states, the Islamic Republic views its nuclear program as a source of national pride; a testament to the successes of revolutionary Islam. Very few nations hold mass-rallies and grand celebrations to highlight achievements in “peaceful” nuclear technology; all the while chanting “Death to Israel.”  Thus the question arises: would Israel simply settle for striking Iran’s nuclear facilities, only to witness the same breed of Iranian leaders rebuild and continue to target them in the near future? Israel’s leaders are likely aware that the Iranian threat is much broader than that.

Like Saudi Arabia, the Iranian regime considers the Islamic Republic as the premier Islamic authority.  Therefore, it is committed to spreading the Islamic revolution throughout the Middle East – by violence if need be. But standing in Iran’s way is a host of Sunni states and an economically, militarily, and sovereign – Jewish state.

Israel and Iran have been in a proxy war for decades. Iran has been a sworn enemy of Israel, devoted to destroying it, regardless of its ability or inability to do so. Such sentiment is obsessive and Israelis see it as dangerous. The Islamic Republic remains Israel’s ultimate target, all else, including their nuclear program, is secondary. With Iran’s Shiite-led axis now on the defensive throughout the Middle East, Iran may be in for some surprises.

Pointedly, Israelis remember the times when Iran was an ally in the region, a fellow ancient nation that acted to counter Arab hegemony in the Middle East. While many Israelis often speak fondly of such cooperation and of Persian culture, Israel must now contend with a state that professes to want its obliteration with or without a nuclear weapon. Nonetheless, Israel will ultimately act on its own perception of what enhances its interests and security, with or without the consent of policymakers in Brussels, Washington, and other foreign capitals. As Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon recently said: “We mustn’t sweep the reality under the carpet. We should impose harsher sanctions and not be under the illusion that we are dealing with a conventional regime. We mustn’t take any option off the table. And, before it is too late, we must force the violent, tyrannical Iranian regime to face a dilemma: A bomb or survival.”

Whether right or wrong, as long as the Iranian regime considers Israel an ideological threat and cannot countenance a Jewish state amidst a sea of Islamic states, the Islamic Republic will remain in Israel’s sights.

Daniel Brode is an Intelligence Manager with Max Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm in Israel.

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Curbing the Rise of Kurdistan

 

Kuridsh Peshmerga Fighter (http://2.bp.blogspot.com)

While a billion watched the festive display of internationalism and multiculturalism at the Olympic opening ceremony in London; the reality was much different in the Middle East, where one of the region’s oldest conflicts threatened to erupt into all-out-war.

On July 27, thousands of Iraqi troops, tanks, and artillery set out to seize the FishKhabur border crossing with Syria in Iraq’s northern Zumar district. But the days when Iraq could impose its will over the scrappy and restive Kurdish north are over. Blocking them were some 3,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, along with artillery – intent on proving that Baghdad’s supremacy is no more.  A tense standoff between the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga ensued, only to alleviate with American pressure and a fragile agreement between the two sides. The standoff reflected the situation at large: Iraqi Kurdistan is determined to rid itself of Baghdad, establish itself as a regional player, and use its burgeoning clout to serve as the protector of Kurds throughout the region. Most importantly, attempts by rival states to thwart Kurdish ambitions threaten to ignite a new round of Kurdish wars in a region already in flames.

This border area is disputed by the Shiite-led Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). FishKhabur has been under Kurdish military control for years, which Iraq claims is illegal and violates the country’s constitution. The KRG disputes this and is determined not to forfeit their only border crossing with Syria, nor to allow Baghdad to reestablish its influence in an area already “Arabized” and largely depopulated of ethnic Kurds.  Despite Baghdad’s official protestations, the reality is much more strategic.

Iraq’s move on FishKhabur is a serious development, as it seeks to control the border crossing so as not to allow unchecked Kurdish continuity between northern Iraq and Syria. Also, it should not be ruled out that the incursion was a show of strength by Iraqi PM Maliki, now emboldened from surviving a no-confidence vote, and determined on teaching the KRG a lesson for seeking to oust him earlier this summer. But Iraqi Kurdistan is a rising player in the Middle East. A de facto-state, the KRG has hundreds of thousands of seasoned troops, great economic potential, and a strong desire to pragmatically increase its independence. Few players in the region, aside from Israel, are keen on seeing a Kurdish ascendancy, one whose gains are seen as contradictory to the respective national interests of many states.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Syria.

The standoff in Iraq is connected to Syrian-Kurdish developments. In recent weeks, the Syrian Army withdrew from the Kurdish-majority northeast, likely in coordination between Syrian-Kurdish parties and Damascus, and left the door wide open for Kurdish rule.  Almost immediately, the Kurds seized control over cities and towns in the area. Unlike the Arab Sunni uprising, the Kurds did not fire one shot to free their cities. Dominating the region now is the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the most powerful Syrian-Kurdish party, a periodic ally of Assad, and linked to the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK.  Needless to say, while Iraq and Turkey do not agree on much these days, they are both opposed to Kurdish control of northeastern Syria.

Turkey’s quest to oust Assad and play a leading role in a post-bellum Syria is not without consequence. Such efforts have brought Turkey’s enemy, the PKK, to yet another Turkish border. For Turkey, a country engulfed in decades of bloody warfare with the PKK in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq, a new front for PKK militants is an unwelcome development. Baghdad on the other hand is wary of increased Kurdish autonomy, unity, oil contracts, and military strength; all of which threaten efforts to maintain a unified, powerful, and stable Iraq.

Given stability in the KRG, far superior when compared to most of Iraq, Iraqi Kurdish President Barzani is working to facilitate his ethnic-kin’s gains in Syria. As Iraq’s Kurdish de-facto state continues to ascend, other Kurdish sectors are energized and will likely seek to follow suit, thereby making the KRG even more influential as it remains the region’s only Kurdish entity. Moreover, an increasingly strengthened and robust KRG is likely to prevent the use of the Kurdish-cause as a game of chess between competing regional powers, a notable past-time for Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq. In the long-term, reducing interference from regional powers will likely erode the main hindrance to Kurdish aspirations, their lack of unity. With all Kurdish parties unified against Iraq’s incursion, it seems Baghdad’s actions are only enhancing that long-awaited unity.

The current tension is a classic Middle East tussle, wound up by transnational disputes, aspirations for power, and revenge. Clearly, regional states are scrambling to deal with the unforeseen Kurdish ascent, perceived as threatening their interests of machtpolitik. In the end, geopolitical realities are different in 2012 than in previous decades, which is evident in the KRG’s development into an increasingly influential Middle East player. Unfortunately for their rivals, they have little ability to stop it.

Daniel Brode is an intelligence analyst with Max Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm based in Israel

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The Rise of the Shabiha

Image

(From News Maker Today)

By: Daniel Brode

In late May, Alawitee men reportedly swarmed the Sunni villages of Taldou and al-Shoumarieh following heavy shelling from the Syrian military. Going house by house into the night, the men killed and pillaged everything in their path.  By dawn, over one-hundred, mostly women and children, had been killed. Some of the dead were reportedly stabbed or shot to death, while others, including children, had their throats slit or skulls smashed. While both the Syrian government and opposition traded blame for the massacre, the writing on the wall was clear: the Shabiha had done this.

As Syria’s civil war drags on – rising death tolls, organized massacres, and the growing enlistment of Alawites into local militias indicate Assad’s increasing use of the Shabiha. The Shabiha, meaning “ghosts” or “thugs” in Arabic slang, are militias comprised primarily of Alawite men, hailing from the same obscure religious offshoot of Shiite Islam as the Assad dynasty. Defined by their camouflage trousers, white sneakers, and unquestionable willingness to viciously protect the Assad regime, their influence has grown to challenge that of the Syrian military itself.

The Shabiha trace their roots back to the 1970’s, where they functioned primarily as an Alawite mafia. Operating under the auspices of Rifaat Ali Al Assad, the uncle of the current president, they smuggled contraband, all the while earning a reputation of unrelenting violence. Following the outbreak of the Sunni-led uprising in 2011, the Shabiha took on a different role. In mixed cities, they set out to form groups of “neighborhood watchmen,” acting to break up protests while protecting Alawite areas from Sunni attacks. Their role was still secondary to Syria’s well-stocked military, but persistent warfare and sectarianism changed this.

Strategically, Damascus is aware that strategies involving the military have not succeeded in quelling the unrest; however, they still have not yielded from a strategy of attrition warfare in the hope of eventually defeating rebel forces. While hard to believe, the regime has yet to deploy its heaviest firepower. But all the while, continued guerrilla attacks have weakened the Syrian military – one of Assad’s key pillars of survival.

Persistently hounded by defections, thousands of casualties, and fatigue – Syria’s military is bleeding. But the military has not bled to death, and it remains a potent fighting force. Heavy combat continues to be the calling for more loyal and elite units within the Syrian military. Chiefly, the feared 4th Armored Division – commanded by the president’s brother – continues to leapfrog from city to city, crushing rebel bastions wherever they surface. These units bear a heavy burden, as many soldiers within Assad’s military, mainly Sunni conscripts, remain hesitant to violently assault fellow Sunni strongholds. This mentality ultimately delegates many Syrian soldiers to roles of long-range shelling and other, less personal, combatant situations.

The same cannot be said for the Shabiha.

Herein is the key. With Syria’s military increasingly unable to end the uprising, a more isolated and embattled Assad is increasingly looking to his fellow Alawites and the new Shabiha to end the uprising once and for all.

With their new role, the Shabiha of outcasts and gangsters is no more. Alawites from all walks of life are joining Shabiha ranks, rather than the army, emphasizing that they increasingly view the militia as their primary protector. This separates the Shabiha from other regime-loyalist militias throughout the region, like Iran’s Basig militia – used to crush the Green Movement in 2009. Unlike the Basig, the Shabiha perceive their fight as one not only to preserve an embattled regime, but also the broader Alawite community. One thing has not changed however, the Shabiha’s ability to inflict horrific violence.

With their ranks swollen, Homs, the epicenter of anti-Assad activism, is said to be swarming with Shabiha men from the Alawite neighborhood of Zahra. From there, they set up checkpoints and carry out military raids against anti-regime rebels elsewhere in the city. On the streets, they are proving that no one is above them.

On the other hand, their new found strength has deteriorated relations between them and the military. The army is wary, likely jealous, of their preferred treatment and combat successes. The Shabiha increasingly perceive the army as disloyal and incapable of inflicting the necessary bloodshed that needs to be done to win such a war. One Shabiha commander went so far as to refer to army commanders as “rats.” Yes, cooperation still exists; however, many Alawites no longer believe the military can be trusted. This is further highlighted by the recent defection of a former leading general, Manlaf Tlass, one of the few Sunnis in Assad’s inner circle.

As the uprising deteriorates into an intractable sectarian war, Shabiha militias will take a central role in hostilities. Their unmerciful methods emphasize the brutal nature of the conflict in Syria, because for them; there is no winning over hearts and minds. This reality will lead to further atrocities, making any future reconciliation in Syria between Sunnis and Alawites especially difficult, whether Assad remains in power or not.

The author is an Intelligence Analyst with Max-Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm based in Israel

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