As Arab League monitors fail in their mission to curb brutal regime violence in Syria and the ten-month popular defiance continues to rage, President Bashar Assad is digging in for a full-scale civil war: debkafile reports exclusively that a fortress is under construction for the Syrian ruler, family, his loyal generals and ruling elite in the northwestern Alawite (Al-Ansariyyah) Mountains – should Damascus become too hot for them.
From there, the Assads will continue to fight for their survival.
These mountains have the only dense forests in the vicinity of Syria's Mediterranean coast. The Al-Ansariyyah range averages 32 kilometers (20 miles) in breadth and a peak elevation of just over 1,200 meters. The tallest mountain, Nabi Yunis east of Latakia, is 1,562 meters (5,125 feet) high. The range slopes down from its northern tip to an average altitude of 900 meters (3,000 feet) and 600 meters in the south.
Our military and intelligence sources report Syrian engineering corps crews working at speed to build a fortified encampment, partly inside caves and tunnels, on the wooded slopes. Its perimeter is enclosed with anti-tank defenses armed with anti-air batteries.
When finished, the camp will be one of the most heavily fortified strongholds in the Middle East.
In support of the Syrian dictator, large groups of Alawite families began moving in the last week of November from the mixed towns of Latakia, Hama and Homs to new homes in the encampment – apparently on a signal from Assad's intelligence and security services.
Fortified facilities stocked with supplies are being provided for Alawite families unable to leave their towns and villages.
This mass relocation encompasses around a million Alawites, or a third of the 3.5 million members of this deviant offspring of this ruling Shiite Muslim faith, which numbers just over one-tenth of Syria's total population.
By reestablishing his headquarters in a mountain fortress, Bashar Assad hopes to achieve two goals:
1. To keep his Alawite following out of harm's way in a full-scale civil war. They face bitter Sunni revenge for the brutal persecution its adherents have suffered from Assad father and son for 37 years.
2. Clustering Alawite families in protected cantons will guarantee their loyalty to Bashar Assad and his clan.
Our Middle East sources report that not all Alawite clan leaders are willing to following the ruler into his mountain bastion. Some communities have gone over to the other side, for the first time in the ten-month popular uprising against his regime.
In the flashpoint Homs and Hama regions, a dozen Alawite village chiefs have struck deals with local rebel militia chiefs including the Free Syrian Army for guaranteed immunity from attack provided their sons refuse to join Assad's state-backed private paramilitary Shabiha.
The inability of Assad and his henchmen to prevent these desertions from his own clan betokens the president's declining authority beneath the bloody surface of the contest in the strife-torn country.