Assad's base of support is starting to visibly go wobbly on him:
Analysts, activists and local media speak about intensified efforts in regime-held areas to arrest the increasing numbers of men who avoid service in the military and its supporting units, such as the National Defense Force, a local-volunteer force consisting mainly of Alawites. They say the regime efforts are to compensate for huge losses in manpower and to escalate attacks on rebel areas.
As many as 5,000 men in Tartus alone had reportedly failed to report for military duty by January of this year, while activists and analysts have noticed a trend of Alawites moving abroad.
“I’m getting a sense from a number of sources and anecdotal evidence that people on the regime side are looking for asylum, to get out of Syria and go abroad,” said Yezid Sayigh, a senior associate at the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center.
Louay Hussein, the Alawite activist who lives in Damascus, said more of his Alawite friends, including a family of six, began last year to relocate to Europe and Arab countries.
“Alawites feel they have to choose the regime, no matter how badly they hate it. So with this choice, many want to leave,” he said.
That's one problem with the idea that Alawites have no choice but to support Assad. The alternative isn't only to accept defeat by the jihadis and suffer under their rule and potential mass slaughter. A third choice of fleeing is there.
Right now the elites with money are heading for the exits in some small numbers. More could follow.
And if the foot soldier class--already growing unwilling to serve because of the tremendous casualties--sees the leadership wavering--they will stop fighting for them and seek to escape to Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, or even Israel.
Or maybe the Alawites pull back into their local areas and hang on for dear life.
Some may even just be so tired that they give up, figuring that they will either die fighting for a losing cause or die at the hands of jihadi victors.
Let me just add that if we'd spent the last three years supporting the non-jihadi rebels it would be easier for Alawites to switch sides rather than flee. But no, we stayed out because we wouldn't want to "militarize" the conflict, as Hillary Clinton put it when she was Secretary of State.
(Note that the video in that post was removed--I imagine Clinton's people have been busy. But they missed this one.)
The one place where we have managed to support the rebels--along with the Jordanians--is the one place where non-jihadis are still holding out:
With moderate rebels facing defeat by al Qaeda in Syria's north, groups holding a corner of the south are seeking a higher profile and more help, as the last Western-backed forces holding out against both President Bashar al-Assad and the jihadists.
The southern rebels, described by Western officials as the best organised of the mainstream opposition, say they are the last hope for a revolution hijacked by jihadists. In recent days they have laid out a transition plan for a Syria without Assad, taking on a political role that in the past they left to others.
Although to be fair to the Obama administration, Turkey has been less than helpful in the north (the administration's faith in increasingly Islamist Turkey as an ally is another matter, of course).
Interestingly enough, the rebels in the south call themselves the "Southern Front."
If Alawites head south, this might be the humanitarian safety zone that they can seek.
I just don't assume that the Alawites have no choice but to fight and die for Assad.
Heck, the way we've gotten a reputation for screwing friends and helping enemies, maybe if we announced we would like to see Assad survive, that policy statement would be the thing to push the Alawites into despair and flight.