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Turkey: Ankara’s nightmare, post-Assad partition of Syria 8 mai 2012

Posted by Acturca in Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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ANSAmed (Italia)                                                                             Italiano

May 8, 2012, Rome

With Alawi state on Mediterranean, risking domino effect. The nightmare scenario for Turkish diplomacy takes the following form: an exploding of Syria that has up to now been held together in the iron grasp of the Assad dynasty, leading to the risk of a partition of the country along lines of ‘ethnicity’, leading to an Alawi state bordering the Mediterranean, a Kurdish state between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan and a Sunni state on the remainder of the territory.
 
This is not officially talked about in Ankara, but according to political analyst Abdullah Bozkurt, the idea gives rise to  »true concerns » along Turkey’s corridors of power. There is indeed an impression that the moves of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad over the past months have been in this direction. Faced with a revolt by a Sunni majority, among which there is a strongly influential Alawi minority – that of the al-Assad clan – the regime appears to be working towards a kind of ‘community-based cleansing,’ preparing the way for a partitioning of the country. The rocky Mediterranean shore, a traditional territory of the Alawites who make up 12-15% of Syria’s population, around the cities of Latakya, Banyas and Tartous (which is the base for the Russian Mediterranean fleet), would form the nucleus of an Alawi state that would remain under Assad’s control. In this state the minority would be safe from pressures of the Sunni majority. Under the French protectorate following the First World War, there already was an Alawi state of Latakia between 1922 and 1936, which was allied with the French against the Sunnis. According to Bozkurt, Assad would try to enlarge this ‘state of Latakya’ to take in a slice of traditionally Sunni territory, especially at Homs, a key position on the Damascus-Aleppo axis. This is why the city has been the fulcrum of the heaviest clashes with the armed opposition. Another preparation for creating the Alawi state was the alleged bombing by the regime of Sunni areas of Latakya during Ramadan. This led to a mass exodus of thousands of refugees into Turkey. There is nothing new about tensions between Sunnis and Alawis or Alawites, followers of the sect founded by Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, who are considered to be liberal and pro-Western Muslims.
 
Tensions have been seen not only in Syria but in Turkey, too, where Alawis represent a fifth of the population. If the Syrian crisis were to lead to partition, Turkey and for other Middle Eastern states would risk seeing the opening of a Pandora’s box of minorities. According to daily paper Zaman, the Sunni part of Syria, close to the Erdogan government, would be cut off from the Mediterranean. An Alawi state would also upset Iran, cutting of communication lines with Lebanon’s Hezbollah. A possible division into three of Iraq, into Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites would then become more probable. The Alawi community in Lebanon might be tempted to join up with their Syrian brethren, and Turkey could be exposed to seeing the balance of power upset between the Sunni majority and Alawi minority, whose presence is especially strong in Istanbul and along the 300-mile-long border with Syria. This is an area where Turkish policies hostile to the Damascus government fall on stony ground. Among Turkish Alawis in Hatay and in Istanbul, pro-Assad demonstrations have taken place and the government has been forced to move the Sunni refugees from Syria further to the North in order to avoid incidents. The creation of a Kurdish state in Syria between ar-Raqqah and al-Qamishli would also aggravate the situation in Turkish Kurdistan.

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