Really great readable piece.
The problem is what comes afterward. As history has shown once before, the odds are stacked against the viability of a state in the mountains of the sea. For one, there is the coast’s restive Sunni population. Even Latakia, commonly cast as an Alawi stronghold, is more than 50 percent Sunni province-wide and more than 70 percent Sunni in the city itself. Baniyas, too, is evenly split. Overwhelming force has thus far been sufficient to quell protests in both cities, but, according to one Latakia-based activist, even mountain areas such as Jabal Akrad and Haffeh are beginning to see Free Syrian Army activity. Many Sunnis of means are leaving the city for Turkey, including the activist’s own family, fearing a final showdown there as Alawis retreat.
A fledgling “state within a state” would then face the same economic dilemmas that doomed it a century ago. Import-export businesses fuel the economies of Tartus and Latakia, and those would suffer if a de facto partition develops further, since merchants would be unable to move their goods to market in Damascus and Aleppo across a hostile border. Although there is some discussion among the Alawi elite that they might find oil and gas on the coast offshore, according to Abi Ali, sectors such as tourism and agriculture are not enough to sustain an Alawi state on their own. The entity’s regional neighbors, wary of their own domestic secessionist movements, would be loath to recognize it.