‘Useful Syria’, division and demographic change
Military realities imposed by the opposition forces on the ground, along with the full exit of regime forces from the province of Idlib, obliged Syrian regime President Bashar al-Assad to recognize publicly the ‘useful Syria’ project (i.e., Assad-controlled Syria), which had previously remained under wraps. The conversations that spin around ‘useful Syria’ take the form of a field analysis; as he mentioned in another of his speeches, the imperatives on the ground impose a reality in which the Syrian government must focus on some areas more than others.
The ‘useful Syria’ that the regime is trying to create stretches from Zabadani on the Lebanese border, passing through the capital, Damascus, and the province of Homs to the west of the Al-Aasi River, the Syrian coastal cities of Tartous and Latakia, right up to the city of Kasab on the Turkish border.
What seems clear is that the regime’s ‘useful Syria’ plan will continue, with the Assad regime aiming to maintain control of useful parts and ceding control of the parts it considers non-useful. He handed over, for nearly three months, the Palmyra area for organizing ISIS, keeping some points in eastern and northeastern Syria, such as Qamishli and Deir Ezzor airports, to be a pressure point on the parties allied with him under the table, while leaving the cities of Hasakeh and Qamishli under the control of the Kurdish security forces and their militias.
What is new today is the intervention of Russian air forces. It is expected that Russian fighters will participate in military operations on the ground against the opposition forces in the coming days.
Followers of the Syrian situation believe that Russia is trying to impose a number of strategies, all of which are in the interest of the regime and the preservation of Assad as its head, even in a small area of the country.
Contrary to the Russian announcement that the reason for their arrival is to fight terrorism, human rights organizations have confirmed that more than 90% of the Russian air force targets focused on areas controlled by moderate armed forces and civilian populations that support the moderate Free Syrian Army. Experts indicate that if the opposition forces managed to absorb the first phase, which is the hardest in wars, Russia will try to triumph in specific strategic zones, such as northern Homs and Hama, which enhances the regime's negotiating position in any future meetings for a political solution. Others believe that Russia's goal goes beyond targeting Homs and Hama provinces, and is to secure the neighboring areas which are near the areas of an Alawite majority, through the destruction and displacement of the rest of the people, thus achieving a new geographical structure that constitutes demographic security for any upcoming division project, or the planning for occupation-zones/domains in Syria’s future.
Old French Plan
The Syrian regime derives the ‘useful Syria’ plan from the French occupation, which was applied to facilitate the control and rule of Syria, taking advantage of sectarian strife and lack of crystallization of an evolving national identity for the region, which has suffered under occupation for centuries. French Mandate authorities initiated their plan by dividing Syria into four states: the state of the Druze in the Suwaida region, the state of the Alawites on the Syrian coast, and the states of Damascus and Aleppo. After popular protests that lasted for two years, the Mandate authorities formed what is known as the Union of Syria, made up of the states of Aleppo and Damascus, and the state of the Alawites, in 1922.
But in 1924 the Mandate decided to cancel the Union and the unification of the states of Aleppo and Damascus in one state carrying Syria's name, and returned the Alawite state to independence, until the outbreak of the Great Syrian Revolution, which was the most important result of the reunification of Syria, and the struggle until independence was achieved, with the borders identified as they were known to everyone before March 2011, the date of initial protests in Syria.