Latakia will become Focus of Alawi-Sunni Contest; Scorched Earth; Hama in Flames; 27% of US Public Say… 7 Joshua Landis Blog

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 – Vote on new poll, displayed in left hand column of Syria Comment: “Will Assad have lost Damascus by June 1, 2013?”

In Hama, all the battalions and brigades of the city’s countryside are now participating in the battle for liberation, according the the Hama Revolutionists Command Council, including those from Kafranbooda, Kernaz, Kafarzeita, Helfaya, Tayebt al-Imam, Qal’at al-Madeeq, al-Ghab Plain, al-Latamne and Khattab. Government helicopters and artillery are bombarding rebel held towns.

Scorched Earth Policy

“Will Damascus be destroyed?” a friend asked. The regime increasingly seems to be pursuing a scorched earth policy.  Assad will dig in to retain Damascus as rebels try to take the city, leading to its destruction, much as happened in Aleppo. Assad may believe that Damascus must be reduced to rubble before he abandons it, otherwise the rebels will have gained a goose capable of laying the proverbial golden egg. He cannot abandon to the rebels anything that produces money or is able to sustain a large population. If he does, defeat of his army becomes more likely. Because Alawis fear they may be destroyed, they are likely to weaken their opponents in every way possible, even if it means pursuing a scorched earth policy. Fortunately, Syrians are not known for executing plans or policies in any systematic way. Latakia will surely become the focal-point of the Sunni-Alawi contest for power. It is hard to imagine that there will not be ethnic cleansing. At least %60 of the city’s inhabitants are Sunni, but it is the capital of the predominately Alawi coastal region. Today it is calm, but the storm is gathering. Latakia is a key port for the Syrian Hinterland and Aleppo. It is necessary for exporting the farm and industrial output of the city and its hinterland. The port of Alexandretta used to be the main port for Aleppo, but it was replaced by Latakia once the Turks took Antioch and Alexandretta in 1938. For this reason, Sunnis will need to make a drive for it. They will also understand that it is the key to any future Alawite enclave and must be denied to Assad and his army.The Alawites see Latakia to be essential to their future in Syria. It is the political capital of the Alawite region. Qurdaha, the Assads’ hometown, is a village of Latakia, dependent on it in every way. Latakia is the home of most of the Shabiha elites as well as leading Alawite families.


It is the political capital of the Alawite coastal region and thus essential to the future of the coastal region that the Alawites will fall back on. It was the capital of the Alawite State under the French Mandate and remains psychologically central to the Alawite community, which is based along the coast.


Syrian rebels cut off Bashar al-Assad’s escape route

By Ruth Sherlock, Latakia province, 17 Dec 2012, Telegraph

    Abu Yassin, resident in one of the dozens of Sunni villages in Jebel Akrad drove his vehicle, the only one on the road, passed the carcases of burnt out tanks, abandoned government checkpoints and row upon row of empty villages….

    It is here; in this mountainous Mediterranean coastline of Syria’s Latakia province that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may well hope to make his last stand….

    Slipping across the border from Turkey insurgents have waged an, largely unreported, war. Inching forward, village by village and town by town the rebels now hold the two large mountain ranges of Jebel Akrad and Jebel Turkman that make up most of the north of the province.

    As they moved forward, Alawite families have hastily grabbed their possession and fled. An abandoned kitchen in Salma village situated in the Latakia Province (Warren Allott)    “We have six Alawite villages under our control now, but there are no Alawites left here. They believe that if Bashar al-Assad goes, they will all be killed so they all fled to areas the regime controls,” said Abu Yassin.

    Those Alawite villages visited by the Daily Telegraph now stand abandoned and desolate. Many showed signs there had been a hasty exit. Front doors were left swinging open on their hinges, personal possessions – shoes, clothes, books were trailed on the floor. Bullet holes and shelling damage dented outer walls and many shops looked as they though they had been set on fire.

    Most of the Alawite families fled to Latakia, Tartous or to the nearby ‘Alawite Mountain,’ the place that is also Bashar al-Assad’s home of al-Qardaha. From across Syria too, Alawite families who fear they will become the victims of sectarian attacks – whether they support the government or not – have begun building homes in these high retreats.

    But even these are now within the rebel’s sights. Lying less than two miles away the ‘Alawite Mountain’ is clearly visible from the front line town of Salma. Government helicopters and jets bombard the town day and night, and near continuous shelling has reduced most of the buildings to rubble and potholed the roads. But they have been unable to stop the rebel advance, and soon, it seems there may be nowhere for the President to go.

    “We are planning to take the Alawite Mountain and move on Latakia. If we allow the Alawite state to be a fact on the ground then all the minority groups will say ‘we want our state’ and the country will be torn apart,” said Abu Taher, a rebel commander in Salma….

    An elderly couple, both over 80, Mr and Mrs Ahmed Barakat refused to leave when the rebels came to their rural Alawite village of Ain al-Ashara. Led by local man Sheikh Ayman Othman, rebels had promised villagers they wouldn’t be harmed. But when later Sheikh Othman was killed in battle, a second more sectarian minded militia stormed the village and the villager’s lives became a living nightmare:

    “They stole everything: They took all the cars and broke into all of our homes. After that residents said they thought they would be killed so they fled to Latakia,” said Mr Barakat.

    As he spoke fat tears rolled down Mrs Barakat’s cheeks: “Three months ago they came and arrested my son. He had not done anything wrong.

    “A man came back and demanded ransom money of 1.5 million Syrian pounds [approx £13,000]. They gave me three days to get the money, or else, they said, they would kill my son. I begged and borrowed from my friends and family. When he came again, at night, he took the money but they haven’t returned our son.”…

    “I am sure there will be massacres of Alawites and bad revenge killings when we reach Latakia. The Syrian regime made us enemies over the past two years.     “I and the other Sheikhs are trying to stop this. But we are not sure that we will succeed”.