Will Bashar Survive?

One of the subtexts of the anti-Syrian protests in Lebanon, and the beginning of a Syrian military withdrawal from the country, is what this will mean for the Syrian regime in the future. Will Bashar Assad survive? In Amman and Riyadh, I hear, they recently gave the regime only a few months more, and that was before the assassination of Rafik Hariri and the start of the Lebanese crisis.

In Damascus on Thursday, some 200-300 critics of the Syrian regime (I'm taking the figure from the more detailed Arabic version of the English article linked here, published in the Beirut daily Al-Nahar) gathered at the invitation of the National Coordinating Committee for the Defense of Fundamental Freedoms and Human Rights. While the numbers were small, the protestors showed considerable courage in that they were set upon by pro-government mobs using sticks, and by police. Several people, including women, were beaten, in what was, in fact, an unusual display of violence. In the recent past the Syrian authorities had been careful to avoid the overt use of force.

The slogans thrown up by each side said a great deal. Here's what the pro-Bashar crowd chanted: "Death to America, death to Israel; Oh America, put away your dogs, the Syrian people are not scared of you." "America, out! Out!" "Oh Bush, you pig." "Oh God Almighty, protect the leader Bashar." "Oh Bush, where are you? Where are you? Bashar puts you to shame"; or its variation, "...Hassan Nasrallah puts you to shame."

The protestors, on the other hand, sang this: "No to fear and terrorism." "No to discrimination in all its forms." "No to [religious] sectarianism." "Yes to reform from inside." "Yes to freedoms and to a free country." "No to corruption, unemployment and the lack of opportunity." "In favor of a free and democratic Syria."

While liberty starts with a step, it might be a fairly large step to presume today that the Syrian regime is most threatened by its domestic liberals. Unfortunately, the likelihood is that if the regime were ousted, it would probably be ousted, at least in a first phase, by its own--alarmed at what a hash the Assads and their cousins, the Makhloufs, have made of things, both in Lebanon and internationally.

One should also observe the pragmatism of the Syrian business class. The Assads and Makhloufs are not indispensable to its survival, and any movement away from the regime will have to pass through the private sector at some stage. With the economy searching for a lifeline, and privatization and banking reforms hardly advancing at all, there is surely disgruntlement there. I'm not suggesting a coup is in the offing (who knows?), but the pillars of the Assad regime are eroding: the Alawites are worried; the business class, particularly Sunnis, were disturbed by the Hariri assassination and are, clearly, making less money today; and the political elite as a whole may soon lose a very profitable venture in Lebanon.

The months ahead will be interesting.

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  • ||

    "Oh America, put away your dogs, the Syrian people are not scared of you."
    "America, out! Out!"
    "Oh Bush, you pig."
    "Death to Israel"
    "Oh Bush, where are you? Where are you? Bashar puts you to shame"

    Hmm...sounds like Gary Gunnels. Rick Barton.
    joe, some days.

  • ||

    The real question is whether or not Bashar or the mob likes the Carmina Burana.

  • ||

    Some more subtle realities:


    http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=973

  • ||

    This is an immensely flawed study. The overwhelming majority of the criteria overlaps (in other words the criteria had different hues instead of being wholly different). When I was asking myself these questions I felled compelled to chose 3 or even 4 answers. Mr. Zogby?s biases are manifested again. He conducts these surveys after making his conclusions.

    Did you even read the ?cautionary note?? (it was even in italics) Are you f. kidding me? Who does that? Who writes an addendum like that on article and in that format? It is like this ?cautionary note? is sooooo objective, so noble, so authoritative! Truth is it is the most biased piece of garbage of the whole piece.

    Who is claiming falling dominos? The Lebanese certainly are not, so this note is directed to someone else.

    Pure Garbage!!

  • ||

    sorry for the spelling errors.

  • ||

    I would never think John Zogby is objective and I dont think he claims to be, given the cautionary note, which sounds like his interpretation of the data, but if his data is probably true, it is indicative of a more diverse response of the Lebanese body politic than has been the trend of much interpretation.

    Anyone even vaguely familiar with ALL of the Lebanese communities knows that the views of Syria, Hariri etc. are more diverse, and in greater numbers diverse, than has been the simplistic democracy-seekers versus foreign occupiers scenario. The same is true in Iraq, for now, now only a minority oppose or actively oppose a US temporary presence. But if you judged it by the sullen Sunnis of the center you'd think insurrection was universal popular will. If you judge Lebanon by the buoyant bourgeoisie of Beirut , you would think some grand universal democracy movement is going on.

    Syria's departure is a good thing, but the consensus is not as democratic as it looks, and that's a fact even if John Zogby says so and provides data to back it up. And 500,000 in the streets back it up.

  • ||

    I'm with Matthew on this. And for what it's worth, the poll does jibe with casual empiricism on my part: Family members of mine that are still in Lebanon align themselves with the opposition (as do most other Christians, in addition to the Sunnis and Druze), but they do recognize this feeling isn't uniform across all elements of the political spectrum, especially among the Shiite. We all wish it weren't so, but hey, such is life and such is democracy, and they know they'll eventually have to come to some sort of peaceful compromise with the pro-Syrian factions.

    I don't understand why is this so hard to believe, Jeff? Syria is well known to be Hizbullah's patron, and given that the current formal political arrangements don't allow the Shiites to attain a level of influence that reflects their share of the population, it's not suprising they'd seek an informal influence channel via a Syrian alignment.

  • ||

    Andrew,

    *yawn*

    You're bit like Coulter and Moore in that your primary means of argumentation is misrepresentation and fabrication.

  • ||

    The Syrians are leaving Lebanon.

    The Egyptians released Nour.

    The EU will refer Iran to the UNSC.

    Both Hamas and Hezbollah have announced they will participate in upcoming elections in their respective polities.
    (These last two factions don't, as presently constituted, have any future in democratic societies, I believe. But that even they understand that the rules have changed is significant.)

    I'm having a good day...how 'bout you?

  • ||

    Sounds like good news to me, Andrew.

  • ||

    Andrew:
    "I'm having a good day...how 'bout you?"

    We will see your, and the neccons, commitment to democracy in the middle east if Hamas and Hebollaah dominate their respective elections.

  • ||

    Andrew,

    Now if you could only stop lying. :)

    The Syrians are leaving Lebanon.

    Well, they've said that they are going to leave, but Assad also stated that a timetable won't be available until next week. This is a more realistic assessment of what is going on: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=540&ncid=721&e=7&u=/ap/20050312/ap_on_re_mi_ea/lebanon_syria

    The Egyptians released Nour.

    More accurately, he was released on bail.

    The EU will refer Iran to the UNSC.

    Where did you get that from? Got a link?


    These last two factions don't, as presently constituted, have any future in democratic societies, I believe. But that even they understand that the rules have changed is significant.

    Yeah, that explains Hamas' crushing victory in the municipal elections in Gaza. Your assumption that Hizbollah is on the way out is just, well, stupid.

  • ||

    thoreau,

    A couple of thousand people rioted in the Gaza strip today; invading the Parliament building there.

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    Gary-

    That sounds like not-so-good news.

  • ||

    You're bit like Coulter and Moore in that your primary means of argumentation is misrepresentation and fabrication.

    Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, pot.

  • ||

    This is all very nice. Take off the gloves, already.

  • ||

    thoreau

    I guess GG's having a good day too. For years to come, I imagine there will be plenty of MidEast atavism and European duplicity to keep him happy...but I see a change- what about you?

  • ||

    BTW, the riot (really, a demonstration)in Gaza wasn't about Israel, or even Palestinian electoral politics...it was about jobs. Despite the Fence and the settlers, the roadblocks and incursions, the unemployed in Gaza are holding ABBAS responsible, because there isn't enough work - THAT'S Good News! The benefit of democracy is that populations start replacing hate-filled mythologies with REAL concerns.

  • ||

    a...you're fullof shit. The US has not problem with a dozen democracies in our own hemisphere, nearly all of whom spout anti-American rhetoric...who cares?

    Surveys say Hamas polls about a third of Palestinians, and those numbers can only decline, moving forward.
    Shi'ites make up about 40% of Lebanese, and Hezbollah can't claim ALL of that. They DO have rivals - most respectably, Amal - and Hezbollah is polarizing their opponents into unity.
    There is a huge ex-pat vote, and it's mostly Christian. The Syrian mukabarat has been stuffing ballot-boses with 300,000 Syrian "guests", and who knows how many Palestinian refugees (who aren't citizens)...but with the spooks gone, and UN observers in, that isn't going to work.

  • ||

    I absolutely, positively can't wait for the day when I'll never again have to hear or read the words "Middle East."

    I mean NEVER EVER AGAIN. As in, for the rest of my life.

    Ugh. Such constant, disproportionate attention for such a small, crappy corner of the globe. Beyond the obvious annoyance factor presented by this small, crappy corner -- you know, the whole terrorism thing, the religious hatred, etc. -- it's all just so ... boring.

    It really is just so utterly boring (as most deserts are, come to think of it).

    At this point, I don't care what it takes: Help democracy flourish, pull an Ann Coulter and convert them all to Christianity, nuke Mecca -- just whatever it takes to get this inane little region off the front page of my newspaper. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel, Hellzbellz, Al Qaeda or Al Quida or whatever the latest transliteration happens to be ... the whole lot of 'em needs to get the hell off the daily news radar. Damn, it got so old so long ago.

  • ||

    Andrew-

    If the events in Gaza are indeed the way that you characterize them*, and it really is about people holding Abbas accountable, then that sounds good...as long as dissatisfaction doesn't lead to sympathy for a strongman. But I'll always err on the side of holding governments accountable.

    *All statements in this post are provisional and contingent on me reading more news reports before accepting any particular characterization of events. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary.

  • ||

    Andrew,

    How are settlers to blame for the lack of jobs for Palestinians?

  • ||

    "How are settlers to blame for the lack of jobs for Palestinians?"

    They're not...nor is it rational to think they are. But if you don't think your run-of -the-mill Arab bone-head is apt to blame settlers for joblessness, you should check out some Palestinian sites...or talk to Rick Barton. They blame Bush/Cheney/neo-cons/Sharon/Israel/settlers for the Tsunami, Mt. St. Helen explosions and Turkish earthquakes.

  • ||

    Who is Rick Barton?

  • ||

    Muslim apologists say that their religion's discrimination against women is for the protection of women. Then I read about women getting beat in public. One way I've changed since 9/11, is that I now put women's rights as top priority. That's a signal for how an entire society is going. Pro-regime mob beats women protestors, I know what side I'm on.

    Of course, American feminists have been on the nutso side of the line for decades and they don't say a peep about helping women gain their freedom around the world, that would get in the way of abortion at home. Priorities!

  • ||

    Jabba the Tutt:

    "Pro-regime mob beats women protestors, I know what side I'm on."

    So I guess we know which side you are on in Iraq:-)

  • ||

    crimethink,

    Hardly. I'd ask you substantiate your claim, but as you can't...

    Andrew,

    ...I see a change- what about you?

    (a) You see what you want to see.

    (b) Whoever said change is ncessarily a good thing. Hell, we might adopt a National ID card in this country - something which you likely support - but I'm not quite sure how that change is a good thing.

    (c) So far, none of your many predictions have actually come to fruition. I saved them, so we'll see.

    BTW, the riot (really, a demonstration)in Gaza wasn't about Israel, or even Palestinian electoral politics...it was about jobs. Despite the Fence and the settlers, the roadblocks and incursions, the unemployed in Gaza are holding ABBAS responsible, because there isn't enough work - THAT'S Good News! The benefit of democracy is that populations start replacing hate-filled mythologies with REAL concerns.

    It wasn't a riot? Yeah right; lie again dipshit. To quote:

    In Gaza, about 2,500 unemployed Palestinians stormed the parliament building, throwing stones at police and breaking windows. One man waved a piece of bread and a woman held up an empty pot to underscore complaints of poverty, while police in full riot gear fired in the air to disperse the crowd.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30456-2005Mar12.html

    Anyway, from your perspective its only good news if something actually changes for the better. Like I wrote, you see what you want to see. Well, that and you leave out the more unpleasant parts of the real world when they clash with your idealized world.

    Note that you never did substantiate your claim re: the E.U.; of course I don't excpet you to, since you are a Class A busllhit artist.

    The US has not problem with a dozen democracies in our own hemisphere, nearly all of whom spout anti-American rhetoric...who cares?

    That's why it threatened Mexico and Chile for not supporting the U.S. in the run-up to GWII.

    Surveys say Hamas polls about a third of Palestinians, and those numbers can only decline, moving forward.

    What "survey?" And how do you know that they can only decline?

    Fatah movement threatened by popularity of Hamas: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=540&ncid=736&e=5&u=/ap/20050313/ap_on_re_mi_ea/palestinians_fatah_vs__hamas


    For all your talk of democracy and the like, you despise the one party that challenges the hold of the cronyist and corrupt Fatah movement.

    Shi'ites make up about 40% of Lebanese, and Hezbollah can't claim ALL of that.

    As I recall, naysayers of Sistani said virtually the same thing. Turned out the naysayers of Sistani were, well, wrong. Your comments are at best speculative.

  • ||

    thoreau,

    Then there is this horrible sotry: http://gatewaypundit.blogspot.com/2005/03/in-support-of-riyadh-triad.html

  • ||

    Stan Dupp has it sort of right, and this is from someone who DOES find the Middle East very interesting. Take the Middle East off the front burner of foreign affairs too.

    "...just whatever it takes to get this inane little region off the front page of my newspaper. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel, Hellzbellz, Al Qaeda or Al Quida or whatever the latest transliteration happens to be ... the whole lot of 'em needs to get the hell off the daily news radar. Damn, it got so old so long ago."

    Amen.

    Andrew,

    When you know that the people cheerleading the armed force purporting to liberate you talk like this when push comes to shove:

    "your run-of -the-mill Arab bone-head.."

    ...it's pretty much over. It really is about this, and 100% about this. They know we dont like them or at least those among us who are most ardent for the use of force in their affairs. The rest is only commentary and/or temporary developments.

    As Michael Young correctly said in a comment about Bashar A...to the effect of, if you dont like the people you govern, you shouldnt be (not exact quote but the sense of it).

  • Sean Sirrine||

    Hello, I am looking for future, present or past law school students to help create a blog to provide resources for law students. If anyone out there that would like to help, send me some mail or check out the beta: objectivejustice.blogspot.com

  • ||

    Andrew,

    "The US has not problem with a dozen democracies in our own hemisphere, nearly all of whom spout anti-American rhetoric...who cares?"

    This must explain why the Bush administratin, and YOU as I recall, supported bloody coups against democratically elected but leftist governments in Haiti and Venezuela. Following a long pattern of rightists using democratic language when it suits them, and backing convenient dictators. The fact that you neocons invoke Ronald Reagan's foreign policy (El Salvador, Hondorus, Guatemala) and Cold War liberals (South Vietnam) demonstrates to me exactly how deep your commitment to democracy goes. And how many times have you made broken egg/omlette arguments about Augusto Pinochet on this site?

    I don't trust that you people to actually support democracy, because every time you've had to choose between an obedient strongman and a democratic movement, you've chosen wrong.

  • Peter K.||

    Joe,

    1) what year is it?

    2) how long ago did the Cold War end?

  • ||

    Peter, if modern conservatives disagree with the anti-democratic tactics of the past, they should stop lauding them as the model for their contemporary politics.

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    This must explain why the Bush administratin, and YOU as I recall, supported bloody coups against democratically elected but leftist governments in Haiti and Venezuela.

    The Haiti situation wasn't exactly a power grab spawned by a small clique of fascists. There was a large-scale insurrection going on. Aristide had pissed off almost the entire country, and it was pretty obvious that the only way the bloodshed would end is if he abdicated. That's a big reason why the France supported the US in calling for his ouster, and why the UN gave its tacit approval to both countries' actions in the aftermath.

    As for Chavez, yes, there was a coup attempt, but it wasn't exactly the Contras that we were empowering this time around. It was a middle class that was furious at Chavez for the way in which he was taking Venezuela's economy down the toilet with his cynical populism. Chavez's behavior since the coup attempt, capped off by his recent Mugabe-like land grab, has done nothing to ameliorate those fears. Venezuela remains a pretty good case study in how granting uneducated villagers and slum-dwellers the keys to a democracy will often produce disaster.

    That said, your broader point about the Bush Administration, like many Administrations before it, being happier at times in dealing with dictators whose support it can count on than with democracies that might object to parts of its agenda, has some truth to it. The Iraq war, in which democratic Turkey refused to support the US, unlike many Gulf dictatorships with populations opposed to the war, drove this point home.

  • ||

    The Lebanese rally wars continue: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7179978/

  • ||

    "That said, your broader point about the Bush Administration, like many Administrations before it, being happier at times in dealing with dictators whose support it can count on than with democracies that might object to parts of its agenda, has some truth to it."

    I consider this to be damning indictment of any American president, but particularly so in the case of Bush, for whome the promotion of democracy is allegedly the central principle of his foreign policy.

    BTW, if you actually believe in democracy, ideological and class affilliations with groups seeking to overthrow democratic governments aren't a justification for violence and regime change. In democracies, sometimes the other guy wins.

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    joe-

    To be fair, conservatives of every stripe are practically obligated to make burnt offerings before graven images of Reagan--libertarians and theocrats, neocons and paleocons, free marketeers and Bush administration officials. They all insist that their policies are the proper interpretation and implementation of Reagan's Vision.

  • ||

    True, thoreau, but liberal hawks like Peter Beinart are making the same claims. In the neo-con mind (and their neo-lib allies), Ronald Reagan ushered in a period of "moralistic" foreign policy, a shart contrast from the "realpolitik" of Nixon and Kissinger. Where they were happy to make deals with dictators to advance America's power and interests, Reagan (so the story goes) put principle above Great Game considerations.

    The problem with this line of thought being, Reagan was just a happy to pay off butchers in Latin America as Bush has been to pay off butchers in Central Asia.

  • ||

    BTW, if you actually believe in democracy, ideological and class affilliations with groups seeking to overthrow democratic governments aren't a justification for violence and regime change.

    Of course. But what I really "believe in" isn't democracy, but liberty. I'd prefer that the two didn't come into conflict, but in many developing nations, that sadly isn't the case. To some extent, it's also not the case in America, where unelected judges are forced time and time again to protect the Bill of Rights - which themselves can't be amended through standard majoritarian procedures - from the machinations of elected officials.

    A democratic despotism is like a theocracy: it assumes its own correctness. -- Walter Bagehot

  • Peter K.||

    Joe, as a liberal hawk, I believe Vietnam was a crime and a disaster. The USSR collapsed b/c of its economic and social system, not b/c the CIA was running around blowing up bridges. The Soviets weren't going to invade via Mexico. Communist China is now propping up our currency so we'll by all the manufactured goods they're producing.

    But I don't see how you can argue that the Iraqis, Lebanese, Egyptians, Palestinians etc., should all wait until Central Asia is free.

    You and the wingnut conservatives need to get it through your heads that the Cold War is over. Even during the Cold War, "our bastards" just did our side serious harm.

  • ||

    joe

    For the record, I have never made ANY comment on this site (or anywhere else) about Venezuela or Chavez...and for a simple reason - I don't believe I know anything at all about it. I am vastly ignorant on the subject. Literally...I was busy with personal matters at the time of the coup attempt, and fairly indifferent during the more recent plebiscite, or whtever it was.

    In Haiti I supported the multi-lateral French-US mission - a fairly uncontroversial position.

    I believe the Reagan admisnistration took the better and wiser side of it, in the Central American societies that had all but collapsed during the 80's, and I think a policy of "a plague on BOTH your houses" would have enabled the meddling by Castro which was escalating the violence. It is obvious that Reagan was a potent and direct sponsor of freedom in Nicaragua.

    Kissinger RESTRAINED the Chilean military from ousting Allende when he first took office, and for years afterward. He couldn't possibly have restrained them indefinitely, and it was NOT as if Allende was either a consensus leader or a good one - same with Chavez, I expect.

    South VietNam DID democratise during the period of American involvement, and in its WORST years, was always a more open society than the Marxist police state to the north, and the successor state.

    When Fujimori staged his Presidential coup in Peru, he was a free-marketeer and resolved to wage a Total War on marxist guerillas...and the US (Bush I) organised an OAS response within hours, which got him out within months, as I recall. Fujimori was an elected president, with a certain amount of public sympathy...how does this fit your template, joe?

    When did you start hitting the crack-pipe of Chomskyite historical revisionism, joe? When it became evident Bush was right?

  • ||

    "But I don't see how you can argue that the Iraqis, Lebanese, Egyptians, Palestinians etc., should all wait until Central Asia is free."

    I've never argued any such thing. I don't even understand what this means. Iraqis, Lebanese, Turkmen, Pakistanis etc. should run, not walk, towards liberal democracy. And George Bush should not get in the way of their movements.

  • hk||

    Man.... Reason needs more Libertarians in these old threads.

    Bush supporters vs Kerry Supporters, WHAT a shame. ;)

    Fuck them both. I'm very glad to see Libertarianism becoming more mainstream.

    Also, fried chicken.

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