|Assad uses the Sunni Shia split within Syria to cling to power|
"But there has also been, from the very beginning, a streak of raw sectarianism in the Syrian version of the Spring: of a disgruntled Sunni majority turning on the corrupt ruling clique based in the Alawis—an offshoot of Shiite Islam that represents just twelve percent of Syria’s population. It is sectarianism that has motivated much of the foreign intervention, from Shiite Iran to the Sunni Persian Gulf kingdoms and Turkey’s Sunni Islamist government."Diehl argues that the Syrian conflict has laid bare the Sunnia Shia conflict across the Middle East, with Shia Iran being Syria's strongest supported while the Sunni Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are most strongly involved in supporting the largely Sunni opposition.
This is one of the best articles on what is happening in Syria that I have read for a long time, discussing not only the Sunni Shia conflict within Syria, but also across other countries in the Middle East. Do take the time to read the entire article.