The most recent developments in Syria indicate that Bashar al-Assad is stepping up his efforts to entwine himself with other Syrian minority groups by calling up reservists from these groups and arming communal neighborhood militias. This tactic is perhaps less of a military nature than of a political one.
Assad is still playing to win, but with his already limited manpower constantly shrinking, the president is exploiting Syria's fissures to embed the regime in as many communal pockets as possible in order to ensure he remains a non-circumventable interlocutor in any future negotiation. If he cannot win the military battle, this, Assad perhaps calculates, will be the inevitable outcome of a stalemated conflict.
Assad had begun this strategy with his core base, the Alawites. He systematically implicated the Alawites in the regime's sectarian mass killings against Sunnis, thereby seeking to widen the target for the rebels' retaliation beyond the regime. Assad's policy has moved past mere employment of the shabiha paramilitaries to the establishment of new, local Alawite militias. Whether such groups-some of which call themselves the Syrian "muqawama"-are the ones Iran is helping Assad form, is unclear. What's more, the regime is even seeking recruits among the Arab Alawites of the Turkish Hatay province, using the services of an old associate by the name of Mihraç Ural, who also once worked closely with the PKK.
I have previously described Assad's attempt to draw the Kurds into an alliance. The full nature of his possible understanding with the PYD, the PKK's Syrian affiliate, is still unclear. However, Kurdish areas remain off limits to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) or to any armed Kurdish defectors (including those who fled to Iraqi Kurdistan). Moreover, in recent days, the regime has launched raids in Kurdish cities to forcefully drag military-aged male Kurds back to active service. And last week, the PYD detained Kurdish activists and conscripts as they tried to cross into Turkey, then proceeded to attack demonstrators in Amude who protested the abductions.
The regime always sought to cast as wide a net as possible to drag in the country's minority communities. Not satisfied with the tacit support of minority groups like the Christians and the Druze, Assad is trying to engineer an explicit minoritarian alignment behind him, one that actively implicates these groups against the Sunnis.
There were already various incidents indicating a measure of cooperation-voluntary or not-between the regime and some Christians in providing intelligence tips or using certain Christian villages as staging grounds for assaults against Sunni towns. In late July, The Wall Street Journal reported that the regime actively armed male loyalists in the Christian and Druze quarters of the capital. The paper also noted that a Christian family in the Wadi al-Nasara region took up arms "alongside Alawite loyalists," a trend the regime is surely encouraging.