The Druze of Suwayda: The Embers of Dissent

 

Since the eruption of the Syrian Revolution in March 2011, Syrian Druze managed to avoid the war and kept a sort of relative tranquility in a burning region. However, as of the beginning of 2015, the Syrian crisis seems to have reached the Druze, and war seems impending in their regions in Syria.

Recently, the Druze in Syria have represented a decisive element in the conflict in Syria. The struggle to win them over is obvious. The regime wants to keep them on his side within “the alliance of the minorities” to face the so-called “Takfirist Terrorist Hazard”. The opposition, on the other hand, is interested in winning the Druze over to break the general aspect of the uprising in Syria, “a Sunni revolution against an Alevite regime.”

However, the Druze community exhibited different attitudes towards the challenges according the regions of their distribution and the support they received. Practically, there were three different responses to the events in Syria. They showed total submission to the Islamist opposition in the countryside of Idlib Governorate where their population does not exceed a few thousands, without any external support. In other areas  such as Mount Hermon, , which is a natural extension of the Druze areas in the occupied Golan Heights, they showed total rejection of the Islamist opposition, and their attitude was fully supported by Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Druze community in Palestine and the Golan Heights. Meanwhile, there is a hesitant and divided atmosphere in Suwayda, the largest Druze bloc, with a population of about 500 thousand.

The advance of the Syrian armed opposition against the Syrian regime forces, in Daraa – in the South of Syria and at the Western borders of Suwayda, put the Druze in Suwayda face to face with a new neighbor who has some demands that they may not be able to satisfy. The major military force among the opposition in Hauran, a.k.a. the Southern Front, started to view Suwayda Governorate as a supporting region for the regime forces, an area from which Hauran is being bombarded. The successive victories of the opposition in Bosra and the Brigade 52 drove the regime forces from most parts of Daraa’s countryside. The withdrawing regime forces relocated into several regions in the Druze Mountain and started to use these spots as platforms for rocket attacks on Daraa’s countryside. Meanwhile, there are news about the regime withdrawing heavy weapons from Suwayda Governorate, and relocating them in the Kisweh in the Southern countryside of Damascus as a first line of defense for the Syrian Capital.

The Southern Front in its recent attack in June/July on the Thaalah military airport, in the Eastern countryside of Suwayda, gave the Druze in Suwayda two options: to take the airport from the regime forces, and undertake not to use it to bombard the Eastern countryside of Daraa, or to keep neutral during the battle with the regime forces. The repeated guarantees of the Southern Front, which includes moderate Islamist forces, not to target civilian Druze did not have a positive effect in Suwayda. In addition to the absence of a Druze force capable of neutralizing the regime forces in the airport and stopping them from using the airport to end the battle, there were 400 Druze fighters from three militias. One of these militias is “Humat ad-Diyar” which is led by the son of a former Sheikh who receives support and funding from the regime and from Druze groups in Lebanon. The militia of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party militia also participated strongly in the battle for the airport and lost some of its members. This militia is supported by the regime and by the Lebanese branch of this party.

At the same time, it became obvious that the group called Dignity Sheikhs grew into a group with a military force not to be taken lightly. This group, led by Wahid Balaous, managed to prevent the regime from withdrawing some heavy weapons from the Governorate. It also published statements by Sheikh Balaous canceling obligatory conscription. The official regime institutions had started a strong campaign for conscription at the same time of the battle for the Thaalah airport. This was achieved in an atmosphere of rumors about al-Nusra Front leading the opposition operations in the battle for the airport.

This comes in the context of strong boycott for conscription among Druze youth, with 27 thousand objectioners. This made the head of the Spiritual Committee of Unitarian Druze Muslims, the prime Sheikh Hikmat Hajiri, who is a regime loyalist, issue a statement during the Battle for the Thaalah airport calling the youth to comply with the draft and promising them to do their military service within the governorate of Suwayda. Only hundreds of youth responded to the calls of the Sheikh Aql, which were conveyed through loudspeakers mounted on cars driving through the streets Suwayda city and its countryside. These youth were surprised, however, in their concentration camps that their military service includes fighting on frontlines in military units belonging to the brigade 52 in Daraa. This led to defection of tens of them, who returned to Suwayda and joined the Dignity Sheikhs forces.

The battle for the airport was accompanied by a salvo of mortar shells fired at Suwayda city. A regime loyalist Druze militia arrested a group of Bedouins accusing them of firing the mortars. A few days later, three of the arrested Bedouins were murdered, which caused panic among the Bedouin tribes residing to the Northern and Eastern outskirts of Suwayda City and led to a mass emigration to the countryside of Daraa. Meanwhile, the dignity Sheikhs accused the security forces of the regime, particularly the Military Security Force, of staging the mortar bombardment and then killing the Bedouins to instill tension and distrust in the city and to damage the social structure of the city. Although the dignity Sheikh attacked the Bedouins repeatedly in their statement, accusing them of collaborating with Military Security Forces, and of perpetrating the cases of kidnapping among Druze on the front lines with Daraa. However, Balaous denounced ousting the Bedouins after killing three of them. He met their leaders and asked them to return. The Dignity Sheikhs issued a scathing statement, during the battle for the Thaalah airport, asking Druze to arrest the head of the Military Security Force in the Southern Sector, the Brigadier General Wafiq Nasser,  because of what they claimed to be his repeated attempts to seed dissent among Druze and the their neighbors in Daraa and among Druze themselves.

A week before the Thaalah battle, some members of al-Nusra Front, committed a massacre against unarmed residents of Qalb Lozeh, a Druze village in the Northern Countryside of Idlib Governorate in the North of Syria, which led to angry backlash against al-Nusra Front, which controls the Druze areas in Mount Sumac in the countryside of Idlib. Al-Nusra Front claimed to have arrested the group of the Tunisian emir Abu-Abdurrahman, which killed 24 Druze residents from that village. Nusra claimed that the incident represented an unusual behavior without the approval of the Nusra emirs. It promised to investigate the incident and prosecute the perpetrators according to Sharia Law. Ahrar Ash-Sham replaced Nusra in Mount Sumac, promising not to harass Druze again. The wide backlash against the incident among the Syrian opposition did not alleviate the Druze concerns regarding potential harm that may be caused to them by extremist organizations, particularly that the Nusra Front, represented by its leader Abu Muhammad al-Jolany. Al-Nusra Front proclaimed recently that it wants “to rectify the creed mistakes in the Druze faith” and had sent to them preachers to direct them to true Islam.

The Druze in Idlib succumbed to the Islamist extremist factions, and proclaimed their “repentance” of their Druze faith. They proclaimed their Islam under the threat of weapons while the Druze in Suwayda are virtually divided into three groups. One of them is loyal to the regime, and the other is against it while the isolationist majority demands neutrality in the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, and does not probably mind autonomy.

On the contrary, the Druze in Qunaytera, in the villages of Mount Hermon on the Syrian/Israeli borders, seem more fearful of the Islamist opposition. Loyalty to the Syrian regime is dominant among them and they have armed militias funded and trained by the Lebanese Hezbollah. The Druze in Mount Hermon have their channels of communication with the Druze in Palestine and Lebanon, particularly with their fellows in the Syrian Golan Heights occupied by Israel. In this area, there is a strong fear of the Sunni Islamist opposition, which did not manage to relieve their fears. This failure may be due the structure of this Islamist opposition, which follows Jihadist Salafism and views Druze as apostates that must be fought.

There were some concerns that the Druze in Hadhar, a town on Mount Hermon, which is besieged by the opposition factions, might suffer from a massacre like the one in Qalb Lozeh. These concerns partially led some Druze groups from Palestine and the Syrian occupied Golan Heights to attack an Israeli ambulance carrying injured Syrian opposition members. The Syrian Golan Heights, with its 20 Druze villages inhabited by 20000 people, were occupied by Israel in 1967. However, its population refused the Israeli ID card project since 1981. They have a strong sense of Syrian patriotism. The Druze of Golan, who always viewed Syria as their lost homeland, awakened to a new reality where the central state is decaying and the Syrian opposition controls vast areas in Daraa and Qunaytera Governorates on the borders of the Golan Heights. In this changing situation, the Druze in Golan Heights watched Hadhar being besieged by the Syrian opposition faction called the Hermon Army, or the Southern Front, and the Israeli Government helping the injured members of the Syrian opposition. Their fear for the members of their faith made them escalate their protests against the Israeli government urging it towards a military intervention against the Syrian armed opposition.

On the other hand the Druze in Palestine who had acquired the Israeli nationality found in the events in Syria a real opportunity to restore, on the popular level, their relationships with their brothers, the relationship that was ended with the establishment of Israel in 1948. The Druze in Palestine, 110 thousand, found in the revival of this relationship on sectarian basis an opportunity for support in the face of their isolation in the Israeli community.

The escalating fear among the Golan and Palestinian Druze is partially attributable to the propaganda spread among them by loyalists to the Syrian regime. It is also partially attributable to the Southern Front’s failure to assure the Druze that Hadhar is not a target in the battle with the regime forces in the countryside of Qunaytera. This was accompanied by a strong threatening discourse from Hermon Army, which warned the population of Hadhar against pitching their sons in the battle on the side of the regime forces. In fact, all these warning were in vain as the Druze militia from Hadhar is actively fighting on the side of the regime.

Difficult Alternatives

The Syrian Druze are facing three difficult alternatives: to integrate with their pan-Arabist Sunni ambience and face the regime, which is what the Druze Lebanese leader Walid Jumblatt is calling for; to side with the regime in its battle against the Syrian majority, thus joining the alliance of the minorities, which is what the Prime Sheikh in Suwayda Hikmat al-Hajiri is calling for; or to stand neutral and refrain from joining the battle between the Sunna Shia, to turn Suwayda to an oasis in the burning Orient, which is what the leader of the Dignity Sheikhs Wahid Balaous is calling for.

Probably, none of the three options seems feasible under the influence of conflicting interests and international and regional intervention. Although the Druze have kept a safe distance from the flames of war in Syria as their sons refused to join the military service with the regime forces, they will not be able to stop the regime forces from using their land to target the countryside of Daraa. They cannot remove the regime’s presence from Suwayda as this regime funds and arms a large number of Druze militia, the most important of which is the National Defense, or Dir al-Jabal, a 1000 strong militia whose members carry military ID cards and permissions to carry arms, issued by the Syrian Ministry of Defense. Furthermore, Suwayda is almost completely reliant on the Government of Damascus in terms of food, fuel, and main services, all of which come to Suwayda through the Damascus Suwayda road.

The options are becoming more difficult with the intervention from the Druze in Palestine and Golan on one hand and the Druze in Lebanon on the other hand as they help with funding the weapon procurement. This intervention renders the internal decisions impossible due to the interference of funders. In addition, Iran’s sectarian flirtation with Druze, describing them as defectors from a branch of the Shia sect, have a positive response through the arming and training campaigns organized by Hezbollah under titles such as “Syrian Hezbollah” and “Here we are ,Salman”

The Syrian opposition is also flirting with Druze through the Southern Front. It has issued many statements of assurance. It even announced that it is ready to defend the Druze against ISIS, which is attacking the governorate from Bir al-Qasab and al-Qasr in the North East. It must be kept in mind that groups belonging to ISIS have sneaked into Lajat area between Daraa and Suwayda and launched attacks on the areas controlled by the Southern Front in Lajat from areas inhabited by Bedouin tribes who had secretly pledged allegiance to ISIS. The armed Syrian opposition has attacked ISIS in Lajat and refused to work with al-Nusra Front or any Islamist faction with extremist thought. However, it did not manage to form a supporting basis in Suwayda. Supporters of the Southern Front are mostly from the remnants of the Druze peaceful opposition of the Syrian regime, who view the Southern Front as the best example of the armed opposition armed factions to co-exist with.

Many militias exist in Suwayda, about eight of them, and they do not seem to get along well sometimes while they coordinate their work at other times. During the Battle of Haqf, all the Druze militia, of all loyalties stood together against ISIS. However, there was high tension during the battle of Thaalah, as Dignity Sheikhs tried to stop other militias from intervening for the benefit of the regime forces, but they did not manage to do so, especially due to the sectarian mobilization practiced by the former Lebanese minister Wiam Wahhab, and the Lebanese M.P. Talal Arsalan, two Druze figures with loyalty to the Syrian regime and to Iran.

Sources of the Inner Crisis of Suwayda Druze

To an outsider, the Druze seem like a homogeneous bloc. Over the last four years, however, they have been dragged into a state of dissent and absence of a united stance. Even though the Druze represent an instinctively homogeneous sect, they have undergone strong polarization based on the changes that transformed the popular revolution against the Syrian regime into a civil war.

A part of this internal division is due to deep reasons that go back to the political marginalization they have been subjected to after the Baath Party rose to power, after their golden age during the Syrian Revolution against the French occupation and during the newly independent Syria.

Druze fought long wars since they resided in the mountain, against the armies of Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt, Ottomans, and the French. They managed, despite their small numbers, depending on the position of the mountain and on its rough topography on the one hand and on their tribal unity on the other hand, to preserve their existence and prove themselves as a power to be reckoned with.

The Druze in Suwayda, led by Sultan Pasha al-Atrash, refused “Jabal al-Druze State” founded by the French Mandate authority, and they started the revolution against the French, refusing the division of Syria. The Great Syrian Revolt, 1925 – 1927, contributed to the eventual independence of Syria, and the greatest achievement of this sect, despite the great loss in lives, was the integration into the independent state through Syrian patriotism. The Druze contributed to the political map of post-independence Syria, and joined the political life and, despite their small numbers, less than 3% of Syria’s population, they became a major political force in modern Syria.

During the totalitarian state formation by the Baath party, the Druze underwent a process of marginalization starting from within the Baath party itself. After eliminating the “leftist” influence in the “Regional Command”, which had a Druze majority between 1964 and 1965. The Druze-Alawite polarization dominated the organization of the Baath party starting from the year 1966, and soon a conflict broke out as the Druze Major Saleem Hatoum led a failing coup in September 1966. The Regional Command’s refusal of the coup leaders’ demands and sent some military units including a rocket battalion, threatening to bombard the capital Suwayda Governorate. Shortly after the failing coup and well into the mid 1970’s, the Druze presence in the military and civilian leadership positions in the Baath party was almost non-existent. There was an en-masse discharge process against Druze officers in the army. Five Druze leading officers were sentenced to death, and Hatoum was actually executed in June 1967.

During the reign of President Hafiz al-Assad, Suwayda, like the rest of Syrian governorates, went through a long stage of marginalization. Time virtually stopped for political activity. The influence of traditional leaders diminished and the voice of the civil society was muffled. People started to join the Baath party in large numbers, but these large numbers did not have any actual representation in the top leadership positions in the regime.

The assassination of the national Druze leader in Lebanon, Kamal Jumblatt, in 1977, and the death of the historical Syrian Druze leader Sultan Pasha al-Atrash deprived the sect of the collective leader. The Druze seemed to be without any clear leadership.

In November 2000, shortly after the easy ascension of Bashar al-Assad to power, there was a conflict between the Druze and the Bedouins due to large encroachment from Bedouins in grazing lands. The armed Bedouins killed a Druze young man and subsequently protests broke out in Suwayda. The army was deployed and shot the unarmed demonstrators, killing tens of them. The security forces arrested hundreds and surrounded Suwayda, preventing people from leaving or entering the city.

Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, the opposition in Suwayda participated strongly in the peaceful protests against the regime, but these protests in Suwayda failed to develop into a popular activity. It remained restricted to educated individuals and the political opposition. The regime refrained deliberately from using excessive force, which was used in governorates with Sunni majority. The number of Druze activists who died under torture did not exceed tens. This policy succeeded in keeping the protests limited and in frightening the enthusiastic youth, who left the governorate.

Since the beginning of 2013, it seemed that the major concern for the Druze community was to stop “the obligatory military service” or to restrict the military service of Druze youth to the Governorate of Suwayda. The military service in Syria is obligatory for every 18-year-old male. Under normal conditions, it lasts 18 months, but since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, the regime forces have been keeping their conscripts and has refrained from discharging them after they had finished the term their military service. The army reserve has also been called to service to compensate for the excessive decrease in the numbers of the armed forces due to heavy losses in battles, the high rate of military service evasion, and the great defection rate. The regime tried to compensate for its losses, majorly defecting Sunni soldiers, by increased conscription among the minorities. With the advent of 2015, the number of Druze losses in lives exceeded 1500.

The Druze community had a negative attitude towards conscription since they inhabited the Arab Mountain near the beginning of the 16th century. They fought violently against the governor of the Levant and Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha in 1837 as they refused conscription. They fought also against the Ottomans in the 1850’s  and between 1895 and 1897 until the Ottoman authorities acquiesced and exempted the Druze community from conscription. Only the Unity and Progress government managed, after violent resistance, in 1910 to enlist about 1250 Druze young men to military service, which caused great resentment among the Druze who soon found an opportunity during WWI, as Turkey joined the Axis powers, to join the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Sultanate, the revolt that started in Hijaz.

The collective memory of the Druze never forgot these events and they have been widely recalled. The conscription has become the governorate’s greatest crisis, and a constant source of threats to its stability. In the beginning of 2015, the locals attacked the conscription centers in Shahba and Salkhad and released the young men arrested for conscription. Days later, an Air Intelligence checkpoint tried to arrest a passenger from a bus under the allegation that he was late for conscription. When the locals protested, one soldier from the checkpoint shot at the bus.

The Dignity Sheikhs attacked the checkpoint, drove away its members and destroyed it. The regime set a new checkpoint consisting of Druze members from the Military Security Force. The checkpoint was delivered later to Division 15, belonging to the “Elite Troops” of the regime army. In fact, both sides tried to avoid violence and the religious motivation was obvious for the local’s behavior while the political motivation, associated with civil opposition, was absent.

In the first half of 2015, there were many recorded cases of locals attacking Military Police stations and conscription centers, to release their sons who had been arrested on checkpoints. The regime’s security forces were for the first time in the history of the Baath Reign flexible and ready to negotiate with locals, trying to avoid escalation.

On the other hand, the structure of the “Sheikh Aql” institution, as a religious institution regulating Druze affairs, and its inability to form a dominant Druze trend were among the problems currently faced by Druze. The Prime Sheikh-Aql, Hikmat al-Hajiri, dominates the Sheikhdom in Suwayda, and he whole-heartedly supports the security and military state. This situation led to a chasm between his attitude and that of the other two sheikh-aqls: al-Hinawi and Jarboa. The  second sheikh-aql, Yusuf Jarboa, is inclined towards the regime even though he issued a fatwa denouncing all civilians who fight with the regime forces (Shabiha) outside Suwayda while the third sheikh-aql, Hamoud Hinawi, is still wavering between the regime and opposition, keeping communication channels open with both of the Syrian opposition and the regime.

The Sheikhdom problem escalated after the excommunication of Sheikh Balaous after a video was leaked showing him talking negatively about the head of the Syrian Regime in the presence of the third Sheikh Hamoud al-Hinawi. Al-Balaous accused the Syrian regime of betraying the Druze and then he continued, talking about al-Assad, “If he cannot protect us, we do not want him. We will go to the presidential palace to topple him down.”

A few days later, a statement by the three Sheikhs was issued, excommunicating al-Balaous and his followers on the background of “repeated breaches against religion and the ethics, and religious norms.” Excommunication entails depriving Dignity Sheikhs from attending the councils of religious men from performing their rites, much like Christian excommunication. The three Sheikh-aqls had issued a statement setting redlines and banning any discourse against “the homeland and the leader of the homeland, its institutions, and the Syrian Arab Army.” The fact that the three sheikh-aqls signed the decision of excommunication indicates the presence of strong pressure from the regime to get rid of al-Balaous mixed with real fear from the Sheikhdom for their religious population who are starting to move away from the Sheikhdom towards the discourse of the Dignity Sheikhs.

The “Committee of Muslim Unitarian Druze Scholars”, which is under the supervision of the “House of Worship and Culture” in Suwayda Governorate issued a statement refusing the Sheikhdom’s decision against Balaous and describing it as illegitimate religiously speking. The “Committee” stated that the decisions of the Sheikhdom are “quite similar. They have a patriotic appearance but in essence, they are politically profiteering. As for the religious factor, it does not play any role their formation.” The committee declared that it will not implement the excommunication decision, and called everyone not to implement this decision because the reason that incurred this punishment is political, not religious. It aggravated the situation when it declared that the Sheikhdom is not qualified to issue an excommunication because it is “not legitimate nor elected. It does not draw its legitimacy from the sect or its creed.”

The Druze community is historically divided into two casts: Uqqal and Juhhal. These two groups represent the mundane and the spiritual. This is due to the esoteric nature of the Druze sect; the secrets of the sect are kept in a small group, which is also divided into casts according to the level of religious observance. This division is probably the reason for the sect’s survival over centuries. The closed religious group, within the secluded Druze community, took care of the religious issues and rarely intervened into politics. The mundane domain and the worldly concerns were left to the traditional leaders of major families. This situation allowed some separation between the two groups. However, as the Druze community went through important historical events, which required critical and existential decisions, there was a sort of abridgement between the two groups. The first time the term Sheikh Aql appeared was within the Turkish millet system. The term was most probably coined from a form referring to that person as a speaker for the uqqal group. As this process progressed, now there are in Jabal al-Druze three Sheikhs from three families wherein the position is inherited. The intersection between the mundane and the spiritual among the Druze, represented by the Sheikhdom, was historically visible when there was any crisis that threatens the community and the religion in the absence of a religious leadership that rallies the community around it. However, the Sheikhdom has cracked due to the great social chasm forced by the Syrian revolution.

Sheikh Wahid Balaous called for religious reform and a council to regulate the affairs of the sect with elected sheikhs on the basis of religious rank and without intervention from others. This call to form a religious council to run the affairs of the sect surfaced for the first time after a great section of the religious body called for it in 1995. The regime, however, continuously refused it; approval was related to a special office that answers to the Presidency. The sect council takes some authority from the mundane side of the Sheikhs’. The Sheikh is left to follow up religious affairs and represents the sect with the government, as in Lebanon.

The remarkable fact about Dignity Sheikhs movement, led by Sheikh Wahid Balaous, is that it was not restricted to religious Druze, which indicates a return of active popular activity, against the will of the regime even though it is not directed completely against the regime itself. The fact that members of the National Defense Militia joined the Dignity Sheikhs movement indicated the strength and continuity of the Druze social contract despite the regime’s attempts to form other parallel bodies throughout the reign of the Baath regime. The defection of these groups from the National defense, and the fact that members of the regime forces joined the Sheikhs movement assert their strong loyalty to the Druze social forces.

There are three dominant aspects of the rebel Sheikhs groups: intellectual revivalism, youth in terms of age, and social marginalization. They managed to totally refuse the will of the security forces and of the regime, something that the spiritual authority of traditional Sheikhs did not manage to do. Even though al-Balaous movement is not completely directed against the regime, it represents a break with the official religious institution as the followers of al-Balaous started to address him as the Dignity Sheikh in obvious defiance of the sheikh-aqls.

The Future Disconcerting Scenarios

The future course of the events in Suwayda is unforeseeable, as there are many competing projects, locally and regionally, to woo the Druze or to threaten them. However, the future events can be interpreted based on the current situation. The Druze in Suwayda have not made up their minds to side with any party in this conflict. It seems that the isolationist inner voice has become the loudest one, demanding that neutrality to spare Suwayda the woes of the civil war.

The Druze in Lebanon and Palestine represent a tough obstacle hindering the crystallisation of the a clear inner voice of Suwayda Druze as they keep pressing in favor of one side or another in the Syrian conflict. As Walid Jumblatt is inclined towards investing in a good relationship with the surrounding Sunni Muslim community, the two Druze former ministers, Wiam Wahhab and Talal Arsalan, keep pushing towards a complete alliance with the Syrian regime. Their attitude often comes along with funding and weapon supply, forming Druze militia, which are tied up to the agendas of those who fund them.

Currently, the regime seems ready for negotiation with the Druze of Suwayda, and may even acquiesce a mitigated autonomy for the Druze in Suwayda. This attitude is obvious in actions such as approving Druze checkpoints with sectarian flags and insignia. The regime also supported the appearance of loyalist military and local leaders as well as political analysts. At the same time, the regime did not give in to some difficult demands requested by the “Dignity Sheikhs” such as discharging the Head of the Military Security Branch, which suggests that the regime is taking a moderate stance towards Druze, preserving his status as the main force in Suwayda. Moreover, the opposition’s failure to take over the Thaalah Airport consolidated the attitude of the Loyalist Druze militia, which advertised this defeat for the apposition as military victory for the Druze militia.

If the situation develops negatively for the regime, forcing it to withdraw towards Damascus, this situation might be disconcerting to the Druze in Suwayda. Although they do have an armed militia, they have not fought any actual battle on their own while other factions have had great practice in the past few years. In addition, an uncalculated withdrawal of the regime forces in Suwayda, may leave it open to a state of disorder and infighting among armed militias.

 In any case, the attitudes of regional states and powers may play a role in increasing the inner tension among the Druze in Suwayda. This may lead to a state of inner clashes between armed Druze militias as each one of them tries to control the inner domain of the governorate in the middle of the political stalemate in Syria.