[Marxism] Syria: The sectarian regime is the cause of sectarianism among the opposition

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Sun Feb 16 06:08:43 MST 2014



Recently, in some discussion, Assad apologists have tried to tell me
that the sectarian nature of the regime has been exaggerated, or is
merely a reference to the religion of Assad himself. They point to the
fact that there are a number of top positions occupied by Sunni (eg,
Vice-President, Foreign Minister). For anyone in doubt, you ought to
take a look at this map of the regime:


All the dark green are positions held by Alawites, light green Sunni,
and yellow “Others.” First, don’t be confused by most of the yellow –
nearly all of this is only yellow because it refers to businesses
connected to the regime and so is only “other” in the sense that they
are not individuals, and therefore cannot be given a sect. The only
regime individuals I can see which are “other” (presumably Christian,
Druze or Shia?) are four positions.

For the same reason, we can for the moment omit several dark green and
light green squares which refer to regime-connected Alawite or Sunni
businessmen, but who are not in the regime as such.

Counting just the regime individuals, we find there are 23 Alawites, 5
Sunni and 4 Others. That is, Alawites, some 10-15 percent of the
population, occupy some 72 percent of the regime. Sunni, some 75-80
percent of the population, occupy under 16 percent of the regime. The
“others”, with 4 positions, about 12 percent, would be slightly, but not
enormously, over-represented (though given the regime discourse that it
is the protector of “minorities,” we could thus say that “minorities”
make up 20-25 percent of the population but 84 percent of the regime,
and the vast Sunni majority only 16 percent of the regime).

Then we need to look at other aspects.

First, a large part of the Alawite regime people are connected to Assad
by family, so the regime is both sectarian and family-run.

Second, Alawite elements are absolutely dominant within the military and
security elements of the regime – including head of the Republican
Guard, chief of staff of the Armed Forces, head of Military
Intelligence, head of Air Force Intelligence, director of National
Security Bureau, head of Presidential Security etc. What this means is
that the appointment of a few loyal Sunnis to the officially top
positions – Defence Minister and Interior Minister – takes on the nature
of being largely cosmetic, ceremonial.

Third, looking now at all the yellow-coloured regime-connected
businesses. These are of course the Syrian bourgeoisie – the big
bourgeoisie, who absolutely dominate the economy. They are connected via
two main branches. First, all the top right of the chart shows large
companies (eg oil, banking, telecom etc) connected via Alawite, and
Assad-family-connected, members of the regime. This includes Assad’s
cousins, the Makhlouf family, who reportedly control some 40-60 percent
of the Syrian economy.

But of course, if the regime is absolutely Alawite-dominated, where it
can claim to be a little more “multi-cultural” in relation to the
capitalist class – you wouldn’t want to exclude traditionally dominant
big Sunni capital. So the whole bottom-right of the chart shows big
businesses connected via the “Sunni business elite” who are in turn
connected by marriage to Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother and
head of the Republican Guard (wow, talk about the state as the “bodies
of armed men” defending the capitalist class – hard to get it more open
that that).

So to the extent that the regime isn’t entirely Alawite, it is the Sunni
mega-capitalist class that is its chief non-Alawite support base.

So now let’s further summarise, the regime is:

1. Alawite sectarian
2. Assad family-run
3. The executive committee par-excellence of the Syrian mega-capitalist


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