Are Syria’s rebels about to win?

GlobalPost reports: With coffins stacking up at the airport in Syria’s Alawite heartland, and funerals now a daily routine for its mountain villagers, support is fraying among the community on which the Syrian regime depends.

“Day by day the military operations are getting harder and harder,” said Abu Haider, 40, a member of the Syrian security forces, near Qerdaha, the home village of President Bashar al-Assad.

“The Alawites will fight to the end to defend President Bashar but are paying a big price. Most of our men are serving in the army or security forces,” he told GlobalPost.

Ali, a 28-year-old Alawite living in Lattakia, the regional capital, said Alawite villages he recently visited had been nearly emptied of men after the regime enforced conscription for any member of the Alawite sect aged between 18 and 50.

Alawites are the minority off-shoot of Shiite Islam to which the president’s family belongs. The conflict in Syria has increasingly become a sectarian war between the Alawites and the Sunni majority rebels.

“Every day there are 50 to 60 wooden coffins brought through Lattakia’s Bassel al-Assad Airport. There are funerals in most villages every day,” he said. “The regime’s media used to cover the martyrs’ funerals but in the last few months they stopped broadcasting news of dead soldiers.”

And with good reason: More than 40,000 people have now been killed in the 20-month uprising, according to human rights groups. And in recent months, the numbers of soldiers and security men dying has reached, or at times surpassed, the rebel death toll.

Civilians continue to pay a high price with about 20,000 killed, including more than 3,000 children. But at least 10,000 of Assad’s men have also been killed.

With ever more coffins flown home from a war now being fought in almost every province, the Alawites — whose support the regime relies on most — are beginning to question their sacrifice. [Continue reading...]

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