That is why large defections from the army and the rapid breakdown of the mixed (although dominated by the Alawite minority) ruling power block did not take place. But observers see signs of Sunni groups that were part of the state machinery slowly breaking away.
As this scenario unravels, the regime may get more ruthless and the meltdown may accelerate as a consequence. As bigger chunks tear away from the “center,” it is likely that an “insider coup” may take place.
The Sunni card
What if the Assad regime collapses to give way to Sunni rule? Such a probability may affect the whole Middle Eastern political landscape. In fact, the reason Syria is put under so much pressure is because Syria is more than itself. It resembles the Matryoshka dolls. So let us be honest and drop the “human rights” abuses excuse as a reason for intervention, which is used by many countries that act as though their intervention has nothing to do with internal affairs. The real target is Iran. Syria’s close alliance and cooperation with Iran enables the latter to form a zone of influence from Afghanistan to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Getting closer to nuclear capability, Iran has already established its dominance over Iraq, marginalizing the Sunnis. Through Syria it creates a Shiite line into the Sunni territory running all the way to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Iran’s spawning influence and ideological manipulative power has affected the current balance of power in the region. The Sunni axis composed of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey has quietly formed an alliance backed up by the US to counterbalance Iran’s growing regional influence. The civil disorder in Syria offered the opportune moment to this alliance to sever Syria from Iran and undercut its influence in the east Mediterranean region.
While it is easier to understand why Saudi Arabia is in the coalition to quench the unending Shiite-led protest movements within and in the surrounding region, Turkey’s motivations are less pronounced. Turkey wants to be a playmaker in a Middle East that it sees as a part of its imperial Ottoman past. While trying to build a religious-nationalist coalition within the party, the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government wants to put its connection to Sunni Islam to work in order to expand its influence in the region. However, Shiite Iran and Alawite-led Syria are in the way. Playing sectarian politics may have a boomerang effect, but Turkey is already intensely involved in Syrian affairs, and so the effects of a possible regime change on Turkish-Syrian relations could go either way.
1. The Alawites and their heterodox domestic allies that would oppose a radical Sunni rule will resist any power that comes after them for they have the means and craft to utilize arms and psychological warfare. They may occupy the Mediterranean coastline and establish a state of their making. They may find Russia on their side. Another supporter will be Iran for sure. It is important for Iran to have a foothold in the Levant through the Alawite of Syria, a longtime ally.
2. The conflict is expected to start bush fires in Lebanon. This country has always been a battleground of proxy wars and sectarian rivalry. Iranian and Syrian Shiite influence may kindle sectarian conflicts that may affect neighboring countries.
3. There is substantial evidence that jihadists who have no allegiance to their national origin but rather only to their religious cause of jihad (establishing an Islamic caliphate) are pouring into Syria through Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. What is ironic is that the Syrian Baathist intelligence has perfected a jihadist transit and supply line into Iraq and Lebanon for years in order to serve its foreign policy interests. Now the same line is reversed with dubious consequences. What will become of these fanatical elements after the downfall of the Syrian regime is unknown. What has happened in Afghanistan may happen in Syria. Al-Qaeda and Taliban experiences are nightmarish. Syria is even closer to home and may upset the expectations that a cooperative, Western-friendly regime may replace that of the unruly Assad regime. A dangerous game is played out.