The brutality of the mostly Alawite Shia regime demonstrates the extent to which both the Alawites and other minorities fear the result of a victory by the largely Sunni rebellion. The New York Times had an excellent article recently detailing these fears. Here is an excellent excert from the Times piece:
Abu Ali recalled hearing anti-Shiite slogans chanted in Homs by rebels in opposition to Syria’s alliance with Iran, which, like Iraq, is a majority-Shiite state in a region that is predominantly Sunni. He heard calls for “Christians to go to Beirut,” and “Alawites to the grave.”Christians and other minorities also fear the impact of a Sunni victory. None of this justifies the brutality of the al-Assad regime, but it does demonstrate the extent to which the regime and its supporters perceive they are literally fighting for their lives and survival.