The Syrian government, Russia, and Iran are trying to change the demographic make-up of Syria by depopulating Syria of Arab Sunnis. The largest religious group in Syria are the Sunni Muslims which make up around 74% of the population.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to join the fight, he and his generals soon recognized that this manner of fighting ensured perpetual war. So they changed tactics. The new strategy involves speeding up the depopulation and ethnic cleansing of rebel-held areas. The massive refugee flows from Syria over the past year are a testament to the success of the barbaric war plan. The idea is to defeat the rebel forces by destroying the sheltering civilian populations.
By adopting a strategy of total war, Putin has ensured that far from becoming the quagmire that President Barack Obama warned him Syria would become, the war in Syria has instead become a means to transform Russia into the dominant superpower in the Mediterranean, at the US’s expense.
In exchange for saving Assad’s neck and enabling Iran and Hezbollah to control Syria, Russia has received the capacity to successfully challenge US power. JPost
Bashar Assad’s regime is Alawite, a sect that was recognized by the Lebanese Shiite religious establishment as a branch of Shi’ism. But Syria’s Arab Sunnis never recognized the Alawite rulers as Muslims. By Islamic law, only a Muslim can rule a Muslim country. The Sunnis acquiesced to Alawite rule because of their inability to forcefully remove the Assad family from power. Nevertheless, until today, the upper class Arab Sunnis families who employed Alawites as servants in their households refer disparagingly to their Alawite servants as abid (“slaves” in Arabic).
Prior to the Arab Spring, the Alawites constituted roughly 12 percent of Syria’s population. Alawite rule over Syria was always tenuous at best – because Syria’s Alawite military leadership kept order in the country through coercion, not consent.
When the Arab Spring took hold in Syria, it was the Arab Sunnis, first and foremost, who revolted against the Alawite regime. They were aided in their efforts by fellow Sunnis in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni powers, which provided arms and funding.
From the perspective of the Alawites and other non-Sunni Arabs, the Sunni revolt constituted a clear and present danger to the non-Sunni regime. After all, the Middle East is a rough neighborhood, and people nurse grudges and perceived insults to their honor until they have the opportunity to avenge perceived “wrongs.” Nothing is ever forgotten; nothing is ever forgiven. For these Sunnis, it is an offense against Allah that these non-Muslim Alawites were ruling Syria.
The Iranians, Russians, and Syrian governments joined together to fight against the Sunni fundamentalists because all three see themselves in an existential battle against the radical Sunnis. They joined together to “rectify” this problem by ridding Syria of its Sunni Arabs and thereby change the demographic make-up of Syria forever.
They are forcing the Arab Sunnis to leave the country through bombing, terror, and other methods. It is therefore not surprising that the overwhelming numbers of Syrian refugees are Arab Sunnis from the Damascus-Aleppo corridor which has been the traditional heartland of the Arab Sunni community. Indeed, the majority of migrants currently living in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey are largely Arab Sunni, as are the refugees who made it to Europe.
The Iranians are Shiites, and they harbor a huge fear that the Sunnis will destroy them, as the Sunnis have done over the centuries since the death of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
Ditto Russia: The Russians too have an existential problem with the Sunnis, as about 98 percent of the former Soviet Muslims are Sunni. Today, Moscow’s Muslim population is estimated at over one-quarter (and higher), including legal residents and illegal workers, according to some analysts. Almost all – except most Moscow-resident Azeris – are Sunni. Russia too feels an existential threat from these Sunnis like their Iranian and Syrian Alawite allies. Therefore, the Russian government has undertaken a program – with some success – to entice Russian Sunnis to convert to Shiism. jcpa