Why stop at Alawistan?

If the regime’s siege of Aleppo does not break the rebels and clashes continue across Damascus, the al-Assad’s military capability may be depleted to the point where the regime must to flee its capital. If Syrians are given the free elections they deserve after al-Assad’s removal from power, the ensuing democratically elected government would host a large proportion of Sunnis; Sunni Muslims are 74% of Syria’s population. However, even if the predominantly Sunni areas abide to the jurisdiction of elected government, a central government would have difficulty imposing its laws on regions with minority populations.

To avoid a sectarian civil war, as happened after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, population consolidation might be the option that provides the most long term stability for Syria. The formation of autonomous ethnic territories has already been one consequence of the revolution, but that is not necessarily a bad thing; if these regions can unite under a Syrian federal republic, the country could maintain its pluralist identity and join Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia as democratic success stories.

Syria’s Alawites have been bracing for the fall of the al-Assad regime since the revolution began seventeen months ago. Increasingly, these communities have been fleeing from Syria’s largest cities to the western coast, particularly the Mediterranean havens of Latakia and Tartus. A large portion of Syria’s Christians live south of Damascus, on Lebanon’s eastern border. Support from autonomous Christians in Syria would be a boon for Lebanon’s Christians; they have been engaged in conflict with al-Assad backed, Islamist groups since the 1980’s Lebanese Civil War. Without a powerful Syrian army presence on Lebanon’s eastern border trafficking weapons, Hezbollah, the terrorist ruling party in Southern Lebanon loses critical support that has sustained their tyranny. This would be a turnout of the Syrian Civil War that would be especially welcomed by the West, Sunni states, and Israel.

Map of Syria

Kurds have maintained a continuous presence in north Syria, north Iraq, Iran, and southeast Turkey for thousands of years. There are between 25 and 30 million Kurds living in the territory known as Kurdistan. Though they are not recognized as a state, Iraq has reaffirmed their status as an autonomous territory as recently as 2005. In northeast Syria, Kurds have established themselves as the predominant group in the Al-Hasakah Governate.

If Al-Hasakah’s Kurdish leadership unites themselves with Kurdish factions in Iraq and Turkey, they could make strides towards becoming a more united Kurdistan. Maybe Iran’s Kurdish northwest would follow suit? Although Turkey, Iraq, and Iran would likely be up in arms at the thought of a Kurdish state, a Sunni Syrian government might offer a compromise for Ankara, particularly from the conservative AKP party of Prime Minister Erdogan.

Southeast of Damascus, are a number of Palestinian refugee camps that form a corridor through northwest Jordan and into the West Bank. The territory is expansive and is already home to the majority of the Palestinian population. Could Palestine be formed from the current land Palestinians live on and additional parts of the West Bank? Such a plan would certainly be preferred by Israel, rather than unilateral, complete withdrawal from the territories without any convincing assurances of security.

Israel would benefit immensely from the creation of autonomous regions of minority ethnicities throughout the Arab world. Without critical shipments from the al-Assad regime, the Hezbollah weapons magazines will weaken; one campaign against the Iranian proxy could permanently damage the organization’s military infrastructure beyond repair. Palestinian stability would have to become a shared responsibility between Jordan, Israel, and Syria. Perhaps without feeling threatened by Syria to antagonize Israel, Lebanon might be more willing to normalize relations with Israel. Not to mention the expansion of Israeli and Kurdish relations. Iran would also be on the losing end of this scenario, weakening supply routes with their proxy militia in Hezbollah as well as a Shiite Muslim ally in Syra.

If Syrian democracy fails, autonomous regions might be the best way to preserve the diverse identity of the state. Syria’s geography makes aspects of this plan very realistic; it remains to be seen whether the historical sense of Syrian nationalism is amongst the casualties of this current civil war.  It is the sovereign right of the Syrian people to determine their own future, but the revolutionaries must uphold the pluralist identity of the state; if they fail, they will be no better than Bashar.


About the Author
Ben Sheridan is a political science major at Binghamton University. He formerly studied Jewish Diaspora history and Middle East Politics at the Oxford Center for Jewish and Hebrew Studies. Ben lived in Jerusalem for a year and traveled to Europe, North Africa, and India with Kivunim; there he developed a strong interest in international relations. At school, Ben is actively involved with pro-Israel advocacy and was a 2012 Goldman Fellow at the AJC. When not working, Ben loves to cook, play basketball, travel, read, and take artsy photos on his phone.