After four years of civil war and stalemate in Syria, many Western observers treat the Assad regime as secure in its hold of at least part of Syria. But is its position really that defensible? A new report in The Telegraph reveals the dramatic, perhaps unsustainable, scale of losses among the Alawites, the Assads’ own sect and most loyal source of support:
The scale of the sect’s losses is staggering: with a population of around two million, a tenth of Syria’s population, the Alawites boast perhaps 250,000 men of fighting age. Today as many as one third are dead, local residents and Western diplomats say.
Though they receive help from Iran and its ally Hezbollah, the Alawites are only 10 percent of Syria’s population—and it’s hard for such small numbers to win a long war. Beyond that, the regime can count on a degree of help from the Christians and Druze, who also fear what a Sunni majority, lashed into a frenzy of rage and revenge by decades of dictatorship and repression capped off by a brutal civil war, might do—to say nothing of the foreign fighters and psychopaths drawn into the conflict.
Given its small and shrinking base of support, the survival of the Assad government is very much an open question—especially now that the Saudis and other Sunnis, no longer confident that the U.S. has their backs, are focusing on ways of dealing with Iran and the Shi’a on their own.