Asian Muslims represent the vast majority of Muslims in the world. With global terrorist threats like the Islamic State trying to extend their reach into Asia and exasperate pre-existing threats from extremists, Asians have a major stake in the outcome of the Syrian Civil War and the UN effort, which is far too centered Western and Russian interests, to broker a peace deal between warring factions. Unfortunately, the American, Russian-led effort is likely to either fail due to a lack of opposition participation or result in a “no-solution” doomed to failure.
With Western-backed rebels losing their hold on territory, and their ability to block Islamic State takeovers, thanks to Russian intervention, it appears the Assad regime is winning the civil war. In reality, Assad’s gains are simply forcing rebels to embrace guerilla warfare. Unless Russia and Iran are willing to commit hundreds of thousands of troops for decades to bolster Assad’s minority-rule with an anti-insurgency campaign, which the US had to do in Iraq, Assad’s forces will be stretched too thin to defend against IS encroachment. As an unchecked safe haven for jihadists, Syria will become a far more devastating source of instability and violence than it is today.
Unless the Syrian Civil War can be resolved through political reconciliation, the threat of the Islamic State and globalized terrorism cannot be addressed. The far less rigid adherence of the Alawites to religious doctrine allow Assad the Alawite to offer outside influences, such as Russia and the US, the near-secular governance Western Civilization would prefer to see in the region. Like Russia, the West is highly uncomfortable with the sectarian governments. The West cannot, however, support the Assad regime due to its violent suppression of its people based on principle.
That said, neither the West nor Russia can support Assad for the practical reason that his minority base is not powerful enough to subdue a revolting majority. If the minority-backed Assad regime remains in power, the rebel factions will continue to pursue his ouster instead of uniting against the threat of terrorism. Militant Alawites and other Shia, however, also pose a threat. Just as extremists within the Sunni minority eventually capitalized on the weaknesses of the Iraqi military and the withdrawal of US forces to seize large swaths of Iraq, i.e. the rise of the Islamic State, the Alawites will be a threat in a post-Assad Syrian unless a mutually beneficially peace deal can be embraced.
The Sunni minority backed the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq as a means of protecting their minority community from majority persecution, which is partially why the minority Alawite-faction backs the Assad regime. For much of their history, the Alawites were segregated and embraced civil disengagement. Lacking constructive experience with civil engagement, it was their persecution that eventually forced individual Alawites to seek and maintain power at all costs. Struggling to overcome the cultural trauma that stems from a history of persecution, the Alawites now fiercely grope onto the security of power to the detriment of their country and their own future.
Where the Sunni minority in Iraq had the US Armed Forces to help shield them from sectarian violence during the Iraq War, the Alawites have only the Assad regime and Iran. For Syrian Shiites and the Shia-leaning Alawites, Assad, Iran, and Russia offer the Alawite minority protection through force and the oppression of the majority; whereas, the Saudi Coalition and the West offer no guarantees of security. Driven by fear of reprisal from a majority that has been violently suppressed by the minority-backed government, the Alawites of Syria need provisions to ensure their security before they will assistance in the removal of Assad.
Although Iran has the largest numbers of Shiites, India and Pakistan have the second and third largest populations of Shiites while three-quarters of the Shia population lives in Asia. Where India has untapped influence over Iran and the Saudis have unsuccessfully pursued Pakistan for military assistance in Syria, Asian influence is needed in the Syrian peace process and the war on the Islamic State. Because both Shia and Sunni are strongly represented in Asia, countries like India, Pakistan, Indonesia, China, and the Philippines have the ability to serve as honest brokers of peace in the Syrian Civil War and to protect their own nations against terrorism.
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