This article reads like it was written by someone who knows a lot of facts, but also misses a lot and more specially the big picture. To name just a few:
— Calling Alawites Shiites is like calling Jehovah Witnesses Protestant. Technically it is true but the connection is very thin.
— Not a word about the low status — and accompanying poverty - that Alawites for centuries had inside the region because of their religion that was considered as semi-heathen. The rise of Assad Sr. is generally attributed to the fact that the elite factions in the country didn’t see him as a threat.
— Syria did almost conclude a peace treaty with Israel. The breaking point was that Israel didn’t want to give back a piece of land adjacent to the Sea of Galilee.
— Not a word about the foreign support for the uprisings both around 1980 and now. These were not spontaneous uprisings and they did not represent the majority of the people. On the contrary, by polarizing the country and starting genocides against Alawites and others those uprisings made real democratization impossible.
— If you go to Syria you will find quite a few people defending the “Hama massacre”. Their reasoning: the violence may have been excessive but without crushing this uprising it would have spread and Syria would have descended in something similar to the Lebanese civil war that raged at that time. So this was the lesser evil. Similar reasonings apply to the present uprising: its leadership was never democratic or inclusive and its goal was always to grab all the power and establish an Islamist dictatorship. So one could argue that Assad Jr.’s main error is that he took too long to recognize their true nature — what gave them the possibility to start a major uprising.
— When the uprising started in 2011 Assad was popular. Many believe he could have won elections. Even many people who now support the opposition were Assad supporters until the uprising started. Usually they attribute their conversion to the violence that Assad used against “non-violent” protesters. What they fail to note is that they are falling for propaganda: the uprising was a classical color revolution operation where “peaceful” protests aim to evoke a “violent” government reaction that is then highlighted in the propaganda of the protesters and used as an excuse for their own violence.