Reports are circulating of another Syrian regime massacre yesterday in a small town near Hama, al-Qubayr. It appears that, as with the slaughter at Houla two weeks ago, more 100 were killed, including many women and children.

Tony Badran, fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explains in his column today for NOW Lebanon that the massacres are “simply the most egregious installment in a pattern of deliberate sectarian killings. ... The Syrian dictator is seeking to irredeemably tie the fate of the Alawites to his own, in a message aimed both at his sectarian community as well as at the international community.”

As Badran argues, the massacres are not about “striking fear in the hearts of his opponents.” The point, rather, is “about sealing Alawite solidarity and widening the target of Sunni animosity.” That is, by slaughtering Sunnis, especially women and children, Assad is ensuring that the Sunnis cannot help but see it as a sectarian conflict. Therefore, he has tied the fate of the entire Alawite community to that of the ruling Alawite clique. The message Assad is sending is that, if the regime is toppled, then every Alawite will be slaughtered as well; therefore, they have no choice but to fight alongside him.

Assad is sending another message, too, writes Badran—this one for the international community. “When Assad hears daily consternation from Washington about the horrible specter of sectarian civil war in Syria, he recognizes that accentuating these anxieties is likely to deter, not trigger, international action. Indeed, judging from the underwhelming international reaction to the Houla killing, his reading was vindicated. This is why the pattern is now being repeated in other villages.”

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