There are signs that the Assad regime is caring out ethnic cleansing in the coastal area between Tartus and Latakia, Syria. According to Syria specialist Joshua Landis this is strategic ethnic cleansing similar in purpose to that carried out by Israelis against Palestinians in 1948. But I contend that Israeli ethnic cleansing was carrying over a European norm from World War II, where only two years before massive ethnic cleansing was carried out by Central Europeans against Germans as revenge and protection against future depredations by German aggressors. The Jews thought that they were protecting themselves against future Palestinian attempts to snuff out the newborn state. Thus, ethnic cleansing in 1948 was not only defensive in nature but conformed with contemporary European, if not quite Western, norms.
But others suggest that the Assad regime is now winning the war. There has been a shift in power in recent weeks away from the rebels in favor of the regime. Since the start of the war, massacres of rebel-leaning populations or suspected rebel-supporting populations have been the norm. Bashar al-Assad, like Saddam Hussein, is like a Mafia don who uses violence to intimidate. Even as the tide of war seems to turn in his favor, he is making contingency plans for the event that power shifts again. He is preparing alternative scenarios: remain in power in Damascus or create a statelet on the Alawite coast of the Mediterranean.