Tag Archives: Syria
Cross-posted from Global Dashboard.
Aleppo’s famed souk is arguably the most vibrant and interesting in the whole Middle East.
What differentiates it from other great markets in the region (such as my other favorites in Sana’a in Yemen and Yadz in Iran) is the immense diversity of the local population, the fact that it remains the main center of local commerce, and the almost complete lack of tourists. If an Aleppine housewife needs some braid for her curtains, a taxi driver needs a new seat cover, or the school kids need satchels, it’s to the souq that they all come. Although majority Sunni, the city has the second largest Christian population in the Middle East, and includes a dozen different congregations. There are also significant number of Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Turkmens, and wide range of different Arabs. There used to be a substantial Jewish community too. (more…)
An article in the Christian Science Monitor nicely summarizes the situation in Syria:
Much of the analysis of the crisis in Syria looks at the upheaval through a binary lens: Either Bashar al-Assad manages to defeat his political opponents and his regime survives, or the regime collapses and a new political leadership takes control of the country.
But there is a third, increasingly more realistic, possibility: prolonged internal violence under a weakened and failing – but neither defeated nor failed – Assad regime. . . .
A brief analysis . . . explains why . . .
First, President Assad can count on a relatively strong and united regime and, specifically, he can count on the loyalty of the Army and coercive apparatus. Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, the Syrian military and security branches are closely identified with and connected to the regime. The potential downfall of Assad directly threatens their own status and power, giving them a strong incentive to continue backing him.
Similarly, the patronage networks created in the past decades by the minority Alawite rulers now serve as an additional incentive for security personnel and government officials alike to stand by the regime. In this sense, the regime is still strong and internally cohesive, despite some defections from the security and policy offices.
Second, in contrast to the relative unity of the regime, the opposition forces – although having risen in power and status and being able to seriously threaten the regime – still lack strong internal cohesion.
Judging from the little and not always reliable information coming out of Syria, the opposition forces have so far failed to create a truly inter-sectarian coalition (the opposition is mostly Sunni, with other groups – like the Kurds – remaining at the margins, fearing retaliation from the regime). The internal division is not surprising, considering the regime targeted and suppressed political opponents for decades.
Third, despite it’s involvement, the international community – and this definitely also applies to the Arab League – has not been willing to strongly take sides in Syria, as it did in Libya. Short of this type of intervention – which is highly unlikely right now – the future of the revolt seems to depend only on the internal balance of power between the regime and its opponents. . . .
Many Western leaders have called for regime change in Syria. As Barack Obama said in August:
We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.
Many, including Richard Gowan of GD, bemoan the inability of the United Nations to act more resolutely.
But what exactly are all the leaders, analysts, and pundits promoting change in Syria actually expecting to happen? The Assad regime to simply hand over power and walk away after four decades? (more…)