The Civil War in Syria: The Variety of Opposition to the Syrian Regime

An article I wrote (in April, so a tad out of date) for IE Med‘s new Yearbook, 2013:

The Ba’ath regime that has ruled Syria since 1963 and been dominated by Hafez (1970-2000) and Bashar al-Assad (2000-present) has tolerated little opposition. Militant opponents, such as Syria’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, were violently crushed and membership outlawed, while rival political parties were banned or co-opted by the regime. Civil society was extremely weak, with trade unions and many religious organisations hollowed out and packed with loyalists. Syrians have been actively depoliticised by government institutions for nearly fifty years, making the uprising against President Assad that broke out in March 2011 all the more unexpected. Yet the decades of repression have taken their toll and as the uprising has evolved into a civil war that now enters its third year, Syria’s opposition has failed to form a united and effective front against Assad. This article considers the state of Syria’s opposition after two years of conflict; both the political and the increasingly powerful armed elements. It examines the divisions between insiders and exiles, over the role of Islam, the use of violence and the various goals of different international backers. It will be shown that, while the Ba’ath regime has proven more resilient and ruthless than other recently toppled Arab dictatorships, the divisions of its opponents have certainly contributed to its survival until now.

For full article see here

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