From Isaac: "Given the latest developments surrounding the Syrian regime's move on Aleppo amid talk of its "imminent collapse," I thought you would find this study from a few months ago concerning the regime's resilience and its Sunni base of support worth a look for more context on what's happening today. Note how most Syria watchers are admitting (despite their political allegiances) that the Syrian regime's National Defense Force (NDF) militias are playing a huge role in its current Aleppo campaign even as Russia continues to bomb on Bashar's behalf. And low and behold, most of those NDF guys in cities like Aleppo seem to be Sunni thugs like the Berri clan. But I thought this war is all about am Alawite/Shiite regime killing Sunnis! Very interesting, indeed.
"Sunnis, for example, are well represented in NDF units based in Aleppo and elsewhere. Sunnis have also continued to play a prominent role in other sections of Syria’s vast security apparatus. The Ba’athist’s mobilization of shabiha (ghosts), irregular militia formations that were used to quell displays of popular dissent and perform other acts of repression, has seen notable traction among Sunnis. The participation of the predominantly Sunni Berri clan, a prominent criminal organization based in Aleppo that has close ties to the regime, in the recruitment and deployment of shabihagangs is an example. The role and influence of Sunni Arab tribes in the ongoing conflict remain topics of close scrutiny. Syria’s traditional tribal heartlands along the borders with Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey have emerged as bastions for the different ideological currents represented within the armed opposition. Yet the Bagarra tribe, which contains both Sunni and Shi’a members, has remained largely loyal to the al-Assad government. The Ba’athist regime has also bolstered the NDF’s ranks with loyal Sunni Arab tribesmen who act as crucial proxies for the regime to different degrees in provinces as diverse as Al-Raqqah, Al-Hassakah, Dara’a, and Deir al-Zour.""