Syria occupies a special place in the geopolitics of the Middle East. Run by the Alawi community (a Shiite sect) and allied to Tehran, it is Iran’s point of entry into the Arab world. Its proximity to Israel makes any destabilization a threat.
Now, Damascus finds itself facing an unprecedented popular uprising. Whole sections of society (especially the young generation, the jil el jadid) are rejecting the violent and corrupt regime that has been in power for five decades. But the President, Bashar al-Assad, who “inherited the Republic“ on the death of his father in 2000, doesn’t want to let go, and is supported by an extremely efficient security service.
His secular, military, Baath regime positions itself as a bastion against Islamism, which is very strong in Syria’s predominantly Sunni Muslim society. In this context, the position of the minorities, notably Alawi, Druze and Christian, is ambiguous. As part of its strategy of divide and rule, the Syrian regime has often favoured them over the Sunnis.