Syria: "Change is Coming"


Joshua Landis, the American scholar who is blogging from Damascus, put up a pair of notable posts this weekend, both dealing with the prospects for political change in Syria. On Saturday he wrote that, "Change is coming to Syria—there is no way to deny it. How it will happen and how controlled it will be, no one can say. . . . The signs are everywhere. One top Alawite official joked to a Sunni friend, 'Will you treat us well in the future?' This kind of remark revealing the anxiety of regime figures about the future, but still couched in a joke to indicate insouciance, would not have been heard a year ago."

Landis, frequently a sharp critic of U.S. policy in the region, reports that Syria's "elite is anxious and beginning to take evasive action to prepare for change—what kind of change? Who knows?"

Landis is concerned that Syria isn't ready for major change, and on Sunday he made the case for sticking with the Assad regime, at least for now. Describing a discussion with a Syrian journalist friend, he wrote that, "I argued that regime-change now would be a mistake and would hold many unforeseen and unpredictable dangers. My friend argued the opposite. He said the sooner there is regime-change the better. 'You are out of touch with real Syria,' he said." The friend went on to make an economic case for change, one that Landis believes is mistaken.

Landis is concerned that "Syria has no organized opposition that has any experience. The ethnic and sectarian divisions among Syrians are real and wide. There is very little 'liberal' consciousness among the broad masses. 'If there is revolution or regime-change now,' I argued, the chance of Syria heading toward chaos or even civil war is high—too high to risk.'"

Obviously, Landis knows that the approaching collapse of the Assad regime can't be scheduled. Whether one agrees with his views of the region or not, these posts on Syria's intensifying dilemma are well worth reading in their entirety.