The Bygone Days
Gone were the days where Ali Suleiman, a leading member of the Kalbiyya Alawite clan from Qardaha, signed that petition on June 15th, 1936, with another 5 Alawite notables. The petition was addressed to the French Prime Minister Léon Blum, and requested that the Sanjak of Lattakia remain independent, or at the very least be joined to the new state of Lebanon, because “Alawite people were different from the Sunni Muslims”, and “refused to be annexed to Muslim Syria because the official religion of the Syrian state is Islam, and according to Islam, the Alawites are considered infidels”.
Gone were the days of struggle when Ali Suleiman’s son, the brilliant Hafez, had become an Arab Nationalist, and grew up in the ranks of the Syrian military to become Hafez el-Assad, thanks to his exceptional mind.
Gone was March 8th, 1963, when the “Baath revolution” terminated the Union with
Incidentally, the Assad's tried, on another March 8th in Lebanon, in 2005, a counter revolution directed against the Cedar Revoltion, an event well spun by a complacent Western Media. This date fetish served them poorly; then March 14th came along, and all was good untill the stupid electoral deal and the "ittifaq ruba3i"; a fine example of snatching defeat from the Jaws of Victory... Anyway, I digress...
The Rise of the Lion
Thanks to his exceptional mind, the cautious Hafez was able to see off the other members of the “committee”. The Druze were sidelined first, with Salim Hatum, the head of the Golan sector, running off to Jordan, then lured back and executed… Umran’s turn came in 1965, and he was later dispatched on March 4th, 1972, in
Once in power, Assad secured his rule by consolidating the control of his Alawite powerbase over the levers of power. They were in competing “Security” services; Adnan Badr Hasan (Political), Ibrahim Huwayji (Air Force), Ali Duba (Military). There were in key ministries; Muhammad Hirba (Interior), Muhammad Salman (Information), Ahmad Dighram… And his own brother Rifaat in charge of elite military units…
It almost all came down crashing in the 1980’s with the Sunni-extremist challenge, and with Rifaat attempted putsch against Hafez. With the extremists gone (together with many more innocents), with Rifaat exiled into retirement, the reign appeared secure.
His son, Bassel, was being groomed for succession, and
Bump on the Road
It almost all came down crashing (litterally) again on January 21st, 1994, when Bassel was killed in an “automobile accident”. Hafez then had to groom his other son Bashar in short order; old age was setting in…
Bachar’s rise to power was assured after he gained control of the lucrative “Lebanese dossier”, but he had to contend with powerful interests that had risen there. The Christian clan leaders did not understand the rules of the new game, and had all been sidelined… The leaders of the other communities, Hariri, Joumblat, and Berri, were able to play by the new rules, and got a share of the pie.
Except for Berri, they were proving too adept at this game; the Syrians Ghazi Kanaan, Hekmat Shehabi, and even Abdel-Halim Khaddam. As Bashar secured his rise to power, he had to dispatch those pesky challengers.
The first to go was the Prime Minister, Mahmud Zoghbi, who “committed suicide” by “shooting himself in the head twice”. Such commitment has since only been seen with Abou Nidal… Hikmat Shehabi was out of Syria, in retirement in
Abdel-Halim Khaddam would follow him, but his allies had to be dealt with first; compounding his close alliance with Lebanese politicians was his closeness to some rising stars in
1- Support for the Iraqi insurgency. Not as stupid a move as it appears; in the wake of Saddam’s ouster, an often overlooked factor is the rising power in
2- The Hariri Assassination. Regardless of his personal merits, and he had a few, Bashar could not tolerate to allow Rafic Hariri to survive if
Lâchez du Lest!
At worse, they would have been forced out of
But in the perspective of ensuring a Alawite succession, the regime is only circling the wagons. The only Alawite challenger, Ghazi Kanaan had already been sidelined, he later “committed suicide”, though it is not clear whether he managed to shoot himself twice.
All those with short memories or limited intellect are bound to misunderstand this struggle (with deadly consequences); if Syria is not allowed back inLebanon, the Syrian regime is, as we say in Lebanon, “spending its bullets”.