Will Assad survive?

As the protests in Syria continue despite continued repression (including this monstrous treatment of a 13 year old boy), commentators are beginning to question just how long Assad can hold on for. While the embattled Syrian president looks far more secure than either Qaddaffi in Libya or Saleh in Yemen, where large portions of the army have defected and the regime faces a physical threat, some have questioned how long Assad can withstand the popular, economic and international pressure that is increasing.

My interpretation is that something more still needs to change for Assad to go. This might be defections from the military, or a clear sign from the business community that it  will no longer tolerate the disruption to commerce that the protest-repression-international condemnation cycle is bringing. There are no signs of either yet but the more people join the portests and if (when?) they erupt in Damascus and Aleppo, the chances of this will increase.

Here are a few thoughts on the matter from around the web:

Haaretz: The regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad will not survive and will eventually collapse under the pressure of demonstrations in his country. This is the assessment of Israel’s military establishment – and this view is gaining strength. A senior security source told Haaretz this week that “Assad is becoming weaker. It may take a few months, or a year or more, but the regime will probably fail to recover. Forty years of rule by the Assad family are on their way to coming to an end.”

Ali al-Hajj (Guardian):  The Syrian people think the time for change has come, and they cannot go back. They do not fear the state violence machine. They will not accept reforms promised by a regime in broad daylight, then disregarded come nightfall. All credibility and legitimacy has been lost. At last, the only legitimacy acceptable to the people of Syria is that to emerge via the ballot box. When you ask Syrians about the west’s stance, they tell you there is no doubt: the civilised world will not leave them isolated; international legitimacy is the strongest path now; and the interests of the west lie in a democratic, peaceful Syria that endeavours for scientific, economic, and societal development.


3 thoughts on “Will Assad survive?

  1. The collapse of Bashar Assad’s government seems inevitable. The IDF analysis may be correct that it may take a year before the tipping point is reached. But, the danger of the rebellion turning violent upon those deemed not supportive grows as well. The recent meeting of dissidents in Turkey had the appearance of taking a vital step in defining their vision of a “new” Syria. By the very fact they addressed concerns as foreign intervention, territorial integrity and national unity reveals that they too are aware of the increasing risk of national fragmentation. With each round of confrontation, the US and EU renew calls for greater sanctions. Relying essentially upon reports from the marchers, the build up to do something more is amplified by the internet. The internet directors need these confrontations to inflame world opinion and to obtain support. They also chance external military intervention. In the case of the US, public pressure to remove American troops from Iraq and substantially reduce the deployment in Afghanistan opens up the need for the political-military-industrial complex to justify their dominate position in Washington. Syria would fit that bill.

    Even if Americans and Europeans do not begin a military campaign against Assad’s forces, financial and arms support would likely result in achieving the goal of territorial dissolution and civil war. In a recent blog on Syria Comment, an observer in Syria reveals the growing depth of sectarian tensions. Although not the images being transmitted to YouTube, the conservative Muslim element–whether Muslim Brotherhood or Salafist–is playing a central role in the uprising. As the Assad power structure depends in large part upon the Alawite community, this intensifies Alawite-Sunni tensions, and promises reprisals when the regime falls. Smaller communities such as the Christian and Druze are also open to attack as they too are viewed as supportive and/or neutral during this insurrection. Destroying Assad’s power base would entail not only his support from the Alawite community, but the army as well. Remembering what happened in Iraq, the destruction of the army would permit retaliations and probably civil war. As bad as the brutality is now, civil wars result in greater bloodshed and destruction.

    The dilemma is how to bring about regime change and avoid the pitfalls of sectarian strife, geographic division, and widespread chaos. In this endeavor, the longer it takes for the protests to achieve success, the greater the prospect for disaster. So too would outside intervention bring about this undesirable result. As unpalatable as it may seem, the best chance to avoid catastrophe must be direct negotiations between the democracy movement and Bashar Assad. The end result would be the termination of the dictatorship with as little as possible of recriminations and reprisals.

  2. Hi. I appreciate your analysis. I don’t belive that the fall of Asad is likely. If you look at the facts (and not at the inflated Western media accounts), the protests are marginal and mostly happen on the periphery of the country. One question no one seems to ask is: who are the protesters? Who is arming them? Who is financing them?
    The current narrative about an Arab spring and domino effects are misleading and show how simplisticlly the international press is dealing with the Arab world. It hides the real power interests that are behind the Syrian “revolution”. There are armeed gangs inside Syria (Salafists from the Mashriq, Wahhabi-alligned ex Muslim Brotherhood members, mercenaries) which are financed by the Saudis. This is not a popular movement, and the bigest demonstrations so far were pro-government. Qatar, Saudi’s small brother, is givign the “protesters” positive media coverage through Al-Jazeera, which is the only source that is picked up by the Western media. Meanwhil, Wikileaks cables show how a high-level US diplomat was concerend aout the Syrian Mukhabarrat discovering secret State Department chanels which provide funds to Syrian, anti-Asad ex-pat groups (such as the movement for justice nd develpopment, based in London).
    What is happening in Syria is a planned and orchestrated attempt to destablize the country. The motives of the different players vary (US wants a more pro-US regime, Salafis want a more conservative and less secular state etc), but US policy has a long history supporting internal opposition groups (Taliban, Al Qaeda, etc).

  3. Five years ago, in 2006, Syria witnessed two attacks – one in Mezzeh, one against the American Embassy in damascus – that supposedly were the work of militant Islamists. Back then the Syrian regime was living under the Bush administration’s threat of “regime change”. The names of the group responsible for the attacks quickly surfaced: Jund ash-Sham (“army of Syria”). Many experts and Syrians themselves saw these attacks as orchestrated by the Syrian mukhabarat security services, an attempt to show the US that Syria too was a victim of Jihadist terrorism, at a moment when the White House and State Department were accusing Damascus of giving logistical support to Sunni fundamentalists in Iraq. Of course then Syria was a partner in the game of “rendition” and was torturing for months people whom the USA had sent back to Damascus in order to to put themon trial at home: like the innocent doctor Mohammed Arar. The Syrian government was only too happy to torture people innocently accused by the US; because the threat of an Iraq-type invasion was all too real from Bush’s delusional, ideologically-driven and ultra Zionist administration.

    It took only one day for Syria to name the attackers. Three months after an anti-Assad uprising, the Syrian executive has not even been capable of naming the alledged “armed gangs” responsible for the violence. Every single video of demonstrators shown on You Tube shows unarmed demonstrators shouting “salmiya salmiya” (“peaceful peaceful”). This renders accusations of armed gangs causing rampage in the country and of an Islamist conspiracy completely bogus. The problem is that in Syria, a country only superficially open to the outside world but under the clutches of a clanical mafia regime, conspiracy theories works particularly well, especially with minorities such as Christians and Tcherkassis, who fear their future fate will be that of the Christians and Yazidis in Iraq.

    Even with Maher al-Assad’s murderous Fourth brigade, even with the Airforce and fara’ filastin mukhabarates arresting, torturing and killing at random, the regime’s days are numbered. The Gulf countries and Turkey prevented Syria’seconomic collapse in 2005, when Syria became isolated following UN resolution 1559. These countries will help Syria no more. Iran might be Assad’s staunchest ally, but it has huge economic problems of its own – it cannot even refine the oil it produces, hence the long cues at gas stations all over Iran. Most trade between Syria and outside involves the EU, oil, cotton and tourism. Syria is now a net importer of oil (the450,000 barrels a day are insufficient to cover national needs) and tourism, atleast 12% of GDP (in the hands of the likes of Makhlouf an dOsman Aidi) is at a grinding halt. The Sunni and Christian business class of Aleppo and Damascus will not be so adamant in their blind support of a regime that has made them prosper… So the question is not if Assad will fall, but when… The longer the revolt, the more violent the turn it will take, and the more sectarian it will become… Which is what actually assad and his clique want: to offer the prospect of himself staying in power or a civil war along religious and ethnic lines.

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