Assessment: Assad Controls Only One-Fifth of Syria

TEL AVIV (Reuters) -

A senior Israeli defense official said President Bashar al-Assad controlled just a fifth of Syria and may end up in charge of a rump state dominated by his minority Alawite sect.

Israel and its neighbor Syria are long-term enemies, but the remarks by Amos Gilad, strategic adviser to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, reflect concerns by states across the region that Syria is undergoing a de facto partition after four years of civil war.

“Syria is gone. Syria is dying. The funeral will be declared in due time. This Bashar Assad, he will be remembered in history textbooks as the one who lost Syria,” Gilad told an intelligence conference organized by the Israel Defense journal on Monday.

“Until now he has lost 75 percent of Syria … He is, practically, governor of 20 percent of Syria. And his future, if I may predict it, is shrinking all of the time. And maybe we will have him as the president of ‘Alawistan’,” Gilad added.

Many analysts believe pro-government forces are focusing their efforts on shoring up control over a western area of Syria stretching north from Damascus through Homs and Hama to the Mediterranean coast, including the heartland of the Alawites.

However, the Syrian government is still fighting to maintain outposts in other parts of the country, including the cities of Hasaka and Qamishli in the northeast, Deir al-Zor city in the east, Deraa in the south and Aleppo in the north.

Gilad’s comments followed that of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who told reporters just the day before that he would not try to predict the outcome of the Syrian civil war.