It has been over a decade since a civil rebellion started in Syria throughout the top of the Arab Spring. What began in March 2011 quickly developed right into a civil struggle between the federal government of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian opposition, made up of varied factions with totally different ideologies. All through the continuing battle, the opposition have been supported by worldwide actors with pursuits not solely in Syria, however within the wider area too.

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After years of battle which have triggered one of many largest migration crises since World Struggle II, it’s clear that the Assad authorities, with the help of Russia and Iran, will keep its grip on energy. The query now’s what a post-war Syria will appear like with President Assad and his regime nonetheless in workplace.

So as to perceive what might lie forward, it’s vital to grasp the origins of the Assad household, their Alawite background and their affect on Syrian id over the previous 50 years.

The Alawite Group

The 2 largest sects in Islam are Sunni and Shia. Each sects overlap in most elementary beliefs and practices, however their foremost distinction facilities on the dispute over who ought to have succeeded the Prophet Muhammad as chief after his dying in 632. Right now, between 85% to 90% of Muslims are Sunni and round 10% are Shia. Sunnis stay in international locations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia and Pakistan. Shias are largely positioned in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and Azerbaijan, with important minorities in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

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Alawites, though not doctrinally Shia, particularly venerate Ali ibn Abi Talib, one of many earliest Muslims and the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet. Shias take into account Ali to be the primary imam and rightful successor to Prophet Muhammad, whereas Sunnis see him because the fourth rightly-guided caliph who made up the Rashidun Caliphate. Earlier than the French took management of Syria in 1920, members of the Alawite group thought of themselves to be Nusayris. The French “imposed the identify ‘Alawite,’ which means the followers of Ali,” to emphasise the sect’s similarities with Shia Islam.

Syria is dominated by Alawites, however the group itself is a minority making up round 12% to fifteen% of the pre-war Syrian inhabitants. Sunnis account for almost all of the nation.

The Rise of the Alawites

After Syria attained independence in 1946, the Alawite group started to play an energetic function in two key areas: political events and the armed forces. On the one hand, the Baath social gathering, based in 1947 by Arab politicians and intellectuals to combine Arab nationalism, socialism, secularism and anti-imperialism, was “extra enticing to Alawites than the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni spiritual group” based in Egypt with a big base in Syria.

Moreover, Alawites and different minorities continued to be overrepresented within the navy as a result of two foremost components. First, middle-class Sunni households tended to despise the navy as a occupation. Alawites, alternatively, noticed the military as a possibility for a greater life. Second, many Alawites, as a result of their tough financial scenario, couldn’t afford to pay the price to exempt their kids from navy service.

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The Alawite presence within the military culminated in a collection of coups within the Nineteen Sixties. Supporters of the rising Baath social gathering have been a minority in Syria on the time. As scholar Rahaf Aldoughli explains, the regime launched into a course of “rigorous state-nationalist indoctrination to consolidate Baathist rule and set up” its widespread legitimacy. Amongst different efforts, “the Baathists sought to control tribal and sectarian identities, searching for patronage by” upgrading the standing of beforehand marginalized teams. This included the Alawite group.

The final coup d’état in Syria was carried out by Normal Hafez al-Assad, who had been serving as protection minister and was an Alawite. His actions introduced the minority to energy in November 1970. Three months later, Assad grew to become the primary Alawite president of Syria.

As soon as in workplace, “his venture centered on homogenizing these various [marginalized] Syrians right into a single imagined Ba’athist id.” Extra broadly, Aldoughli provides, the general purpose of “nationalist building was to subsume native identities right into a broader idea of the ‘Syrian folks,’ outlined based on the state’s territorial” boundaries.

The Sectarianism of the Syrian Civil Struggle

Shortly earlier than the outset of the US-led struggle on terror, Hafez al-Assad died in 2000. His son, Bashar, took over the reins and continued in his father’s footsteps. This included insurance policies of coopting the spiritual house and portraying a average Islam beneath the guise of a secular state that sought to curb Islamism and blur spiritual variations. Regardless of these efforts, the confessional fragmentation of Syrian society supplied an element of stress and instability for a state that finally by no means succeeded in addressing these variations within the political area.

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The Arab Spring consequently arrived in Syria at a time marked by a disaster of legitimacy of secular ruling events such because the Baath. The disaster of governability meant the secular steadiness imposed by the regime in society started to crack, exposing anger across the Alawite minority’s overrepresentation within the state equipment and the Sunni majority’s underrepresentation. The consequence was anti-government protests that started in March 2011.

Finally, the following sectarianism of the Syrian battle solely is smart if we additionally incorporate the geopolitical rivalries affecting the area. On the one hand, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran are the Assad authorities’s foremost supporters and are thinking about propping it up. However, Sunni actors such because the Islamic State group, the al-Nusra Entrance and Saudi Arabia need the federal government to fall.

That has failed. After 10 years of struggle, navy forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad have retaken the overwhelming majority of Syrian territory with the help of Iran and Hezbollah. Consequently, each repression of the Sunni-dominated opposition and the strengthening of the Alawite group within the state equipment are more likely to stay a part of a post-war Syria. How the Sunni majority reacts to the truth that Assad and the Alawites stay on the heart of Syrian politics is unknown.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Truthful Observer’s editorial coverage.