Remember Asaad the bar owner? Well, he’s neither. He is Alawite, a Muslim minority group that accounts for around 12% of Syria’s patronage. Alawites are closely aligned with Shiite beliefs, which is at odds with the patrons in his bar who are overwhelmingly Sunni. His track record of managing this speaks for itself. He actually inherited the bar from his father, Hafez al-Assad, when he died in 2000. His dad did not want him to inherit the bar since he had no political or leadership experience and instead looked to his brother (tried to overthrow him) and older son (died in a car accident) first.
Finally, there is Kurdistan. It is yet another sports team but they don’t have a bar to call home: they have several. They occupy southern Turkey, northern Syria and Iraq, and western Iran. When Syria’s bar fight spilled over into Iraq and they realized Iraq’s bouncers were not up to the task, they seized the opportunity to increase their independence and possibly become an independent state. Hence, the Peshmerga neighborhood watch’s involvement. This also somewhat explains Turkey’s persistence in attacking the PKK, as it wants to preserve its own bar against a brewing internal fight.
That brings us up to the present. On 23 April 2016, the United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria put out an estimate of 400,000 people that had died in Syria’s civil war—roughly the size of the entire population of Miami Florida.
The roughest bar in a rough neighborhood, a bar called Syria has problems…
Maj. Mike “Pako” Benitez is an F-15E Strike Eagle Weapons Systems Officer with over 250 combat missions spanning multiple deployments in the Air Force and Marine Corps. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School and a former Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) fellow. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force or the U.S. government.
Image: U.S. Navy