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Syria expert Joshua Landis told Voice of America journalist Cecily Hilleary that he thinks Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will eventually flee to the coastal mountains of his ancestral Alawite homeland.Landis, whose wife is Alawite, said Assad will allow Damascus to be destroyed before relinquishing it to rebels. When he does “the Syrian Army, which has now largely been turned into an Alawite militia, will be forced back into the coastal mountains.”
Assad and his troops will be able to survive there, according to Landis, if Iran and Russia continue to provide support in the form of weapons and money while the Sunni Arabs that make up the opposition fail to unify.
Landis said the rebels will likely remain divided since they have never worked out their differences regarding “ideology, country versus city, class, and also north and south, Aleppo versus Damascus … Islam versus secularism, the role of minorities, and so forth” because “Syria went straight from French rule to, really, dictatorship.”
There have been indications of the tensions between religious and secular rebels as the extremist elements such as the al-Nusra front —which makes up nine per cent of the opposition— say they aim to create an Islamic state in Syria ruled by strict Sunni Islam and will fight any secular government after Assad.
“After the fall of Bashar there will be so many battles between these groups,” an Iraqi who joined the regular Free Syrian Army told the New York Times. “All the groups will unite against al-Nusra.”
The assessment sounds like what Israeli expert on Arab affairs Dr. Mordechai Kedar told The Times of Israel in July: “If Assad’s Alawite sect, considered infidels by Sunni Muslims, withdraws from Damascus and hunkers down in western Syria where it holds a majority … and the non-Arab Kurds break off into their own mini-state, as they have done in Iraq, then the remaining Druze, Christian, Sunni and Salafist sects will battle for what remains.”
Landis sees a “a long, long battle” ahead because “both sides are radicalizing, and the radicals are taking over – not only among the Sunni Arabs but also within the Alawite community, and that means bad things because it’s going to destroy – it is destroying Syria,” Landis, who is the director of the centre for Middle East Studies and associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, told Hilleary.