Lebanon Now reported July 7 that Syrian regime forces backed by Iranian troops clashed with residents of two Alawite villages outside Hama following a wave of mass arrests in the area. Residents of al-Bared and al-Qahira villages—populated by members of the Alawite and the Alawi-offshoot Murshidi sect—staged a local uprising, in which one government solider was killed. The villages have since been surrounded by regime and Iranian forces. The sweeps that set off the clashes were reportedly ordered by an Iranian field commander. The arrests of residents suspected of hoarding or selling black-markey fuel were carried out by Iranian Revolutionary Guards backed up by regime military intelligence troops.
Even if the roots of the clash were not explicitly "political," it is still encouraging to see Alawites breaking with the regime. We can imagine that, despite Assad's alliance with Tehran, the doctrinaire Iranian elite ultimately view with Alawites as heretical Shi'ites—much as the Houthis of Yemen, also being backed by Iran. Neocon pundit Elliott Abrams notes this development on the Council on Foreign Relations website, of course viewing the Alawites as fodder for Washington's own imperial agenda. He hopes for "stronger American action…to see if the Alawite population can be turned against the regime." The Alawites seem to be doing just fine on their own, Elliott. And as we've warned before, rhetoric like this from Beltway hawks of the Abrams ilk actually weakens the position of the dissident Alawites, playing into Assad's cynical efforts to paint all opposition as a Washington intrigue.
So just shut up, Elliott.
This is another example of how the Great Power convergence against ISIS has put the neocons in a bit of a pickle. The US is in a de facto alliance with Iran against ISIS in Iraq. And a significant chunk even of the neocons have now got their money on Bashar Assad as the Devil the know—and the White House is pretty clearly tilting to Assad in the face of ISIS. But Abrams, as we all know, has long had a special hard-on for Iran…