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01 April 2011


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Couldn't have described how i feel about Syria now any better than the author. I fear Bashar is another Obama. Talks the talk but isn't strong enough to force his own crew to pastures anew and thereby deliver tangible change. The people would accept half measures but they will get nothing.

FB Ali

A remarkably insightful and balanced review of the situation in Syria.

I do not have any special knowledge of the area or country; it is based mainly on what I read in the media. And, perhaps, long observation of turbulent times, here and elsewhere. I would like to suggest that more weight should be attached to the scenario that Kieran merely alluded to in his closing paragraph.

It is entirely possible that Bashar al-Assad has correctly understood the significance of the tide that is sweeping the Arab world today, and accepted that his regime has to loosen up the iron control that it has exercised over its people. But he also realises that any precipitous move towards reform would be taken as a sign of weakness, and result in a greatly increased surge towards dismantling the structures of control. He has enough support in the country to proceed at his own pace. If he really has deciphered the situation, he will move fast, but in a measured way. We shall soon find out.

The rhetoric about ‘conspiracies’ is not all empty. After all, he has seen how the perjured testimony of some tainted witnesses was used by an international process to hold Syria responsible for Rafik Hariri’s murder, which resulted in such frenzy being whipped up in Lebanon that he was forced to withdraw his troops from there. (Perhaps it is that experience that now steels him not be panicked into any quick move). It is also very likely that his country is subject to a continuous barrage of plots and subversions from the many enemies that it has in the region and beyond.

To sum up, based on what Bashar al-Assad has done so far, I would not reach any definitive conclusion as to how he plans on dealing with the problems that his country and regime undoubtedly face. It is quite possible that he does ‘get it’, and that he will proceed in the right direction. It is far too soon to assume that he has chosen to dig in and crush all attempts to change the sysytem.


An excellent analysis. Too many of the descriptions of patronage also apply to the US, sadly.

“... an era of rehearsed spontaneity, leader-cults, and silence about the real issues, buttressed by an undertone of menace.” This is going to be the 2012 US presidential election campaign.

Yusuf  Al-Misry

FB Ali,
Based on his last speech, it is more likely to be a "flight backward". The kind of mentality shaped by the very nature of similar regimes makes it very difficult for the beloved leader to get it.


Maybe this was the plan Assad had previously formed, to execute in the event of some unrest.

A plan formed well before Egypt and Tunisia, and designed not to answer the populace's desire for political freedom, but to provide order during unrest caused by lack of work, stresses from political refugees, and poor harvests.

If Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Libya had not just happened, the Syrian protests and response would fit perfectly into the "poor harvest + refugees = revolt + brutal baathist response" framework. Western analysts would see events as occuring within that framework, and would not be perplexed.

William R. Cumming

Help me understand how the Aliwites (sic) fit into Islam? Is it true that that Sect is only 6% of the population in Syria? But has rules for 4 decades?

Patrick Lang


They are Muslims because they say they are, just as Mormons are Christians because they say they are. pl

Roy G

Just got back to town, so i'm behind in my reading. Col Lang, my wife, who has Syrian family, did a 'spit take' when I read her your comment vis a vis the Alawites and Mormons. Great answer, you nailed it!

William R. Cumming

Thanks PL! But like Sunni and Shia they (Alawites) are considered "others" by other MUSLIM sects? I am trying to get at the cohesion if any between MUSLIM sects as it plays out in Syria!

Patrick Lang


Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion for both sunni and Shia. The Alawi believe in a trinitarian arrangement. The Druze are another spin-off of Shia Islam that IMO cannot really e considered Islamic except for political reasons. pl

William R. Cumming

Thanks again for the explanation PL! OMG! Heresy? Let all schismatics be punished. Let the one true religion rule.

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