Syria, an Arab country also in the conflict, is located on very particular place in Western Asia; north of Arabian subcontinent, south of Anatolia, west of Mesopotamia, and at the easternmost point of Mediterranean Sea. Given its geopolitical significance, Syria has been a crossroad of cultures for a long time which means there have been lots of languages; Arabic, Aramic and Cherkess, peoples; Arab, Kurd, and other non-Arabs, and religions; Sunnite, Shia, Christian also Jewish. For that reason, Syria has numerous factors of stirring its inner strife up.
French Mandate Era and Alawi
For a long time, Syria had been under the domination of Ottoman Empire. At that time, there was a system called ‘Millet’ which led to a quite peaceful coexistence between each religious group. After the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), Ottoman Empire lost control of Syria and an independent Arab Kingdom of Syria was established under King Faisal I, planning for pan-Arabian kingdom. However, his reign over Syria ended after only a few months, following the clash between his Syrian Arab forces and French forces at the Battle of Maysalun. French troops occupied Syria later that year after the League of Nations put Syria under French mandate.
The administrative system of the region under the French mandate was conducted through a few different territories; State of Aleppo, State of Damascus, Alawite State, Jabal al-Druze State, and Greater Lebanon, divided by the heterogeneous population; externally to give them local autonomy to demographic regions; internally to limit the spread of contagion of nationalist ferment. The population of Greater Lebanon was positively pro-French, and that of Syrian area was anti-French with a pan-Arab nationalist penchant. Alawi—minor religious group also known as Nusayris which is branch of Shia Islam—claimed to want to be grouped with the territories of Greater Lebanon, contradicting those Sunni and Christian populations demanding the unity of Syria. Especially, Alawite State meant to protect the Alawites from more powerful majorities, the Sunnites. However, differed from its name, there were many Sunnites dwelling in the urban area such as Latakia and Tartus. At any rate, there were many rebellions against the French all over the Syria including Alawite State as a center of pan-Arab sentiment.
Nevertheless, Alawite State was run by French Governors and pro-French faction won election on Representative Councils. The Sunni landowners living in the urban area were supporters of Syrian unity; however, the French were supported by the numerous rural Alawite communities, to whom they catered. Besides, the French considered the Alawites, along with the Druze, as the only bellicose people within the mandate territories, as excellent soldiers, and the communities from where they could recruit their best troops. Also, there was numerous Alawi separatist sentiment in the region, as evidenced by a letter dating to 1936 and signed by 80 Alawi notables and was addressed to the French Prime Minister stating that "Alawi people rejected attachment to Syria and wished to stay under French protection." One of the signatories is Sulayman Ali al-Assad, the grandfather of Bashar al-Assad, the current president of Syria. Furthermore, pan-Arab sentiment in Syria supported to Palestine while 1936 Arab revolt, the French found it detrimental to allow Syria to continue as a base for radical pan-Arab activities. After National Bloc party’s failure, the French filled political...