Syria is not Libya

By Jin Liangxiang
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 24, 2011
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Syrian President Bashar Assad's recent promise for reform, including a scheduled election and proposal for national dialogue, after months of growing discontent and protests has not satisfied his opponents' requirements. It is unclear which side will win and if Assad has the capability to survive the crisis. Most likely, the Syrian protests will become another protracted story.

The oustings of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak almost half a year ago have helped the international community to overestimate the strength of the Middle East oppositions. But other regimes, such as Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, have so far survived domestic and international pressures. While they may not resist further pressure, these governments have proven they are not as weak – and the oppositions are not as powerful – as previously thought.

Assad seems to have played his cards just right compared to his other Middle Eastern counterparts. Ben Ali and Mubarak surrendered to protestors too early, while Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi turned to hard measures too late. And those Arab leaders who have managed to stay in power certainly have given Assad some courage and confidence to persist.

But the post-resignation stories of Ben Ali and Mubarak also provide serious lessons for those still in power. Shortly after their falls, their assets were confiscated and their personal freedom limited. Both of them are now facing tough trials that will very probably put them, their family members and their protégés in jail. Any leader in a similar situation might have reasons to persist till the last bullet, and giving up power will be the last choice they will make, as Gaddafi and Saleh are doing. Assad, who has the staunch support of Allawites, his own religious tribe, will be no exception.

The U.S. has every reason to impose a military solution on Syria both for geopolitics and for its ideological cause of promoting democracy. If the Syrian crisis had broken out before Libya, Syria might be the target of military intervention instead because Syria is more of a geopolitical concern for Americans. The U.S. does not like a Syria, which is united with Iran and anti-Israel. But its current situation allows very little leeway for the U.S. to maneuver. Though Americans have successfully deconstructed the political structure of Iraq and Afghanistan, they have failed to reconstruct it. Drawing lessons from those wars, the U.S. has chosen to keep a low profile in the joint military actions against Gaddafi's regime, whose legitimacy is being questioned by the opposition. Already fighting two other wars inherited from its predecessor, the current administration neither has the will nor the capability to invest in another war against Syria.

It is still early to predict Assad's collapse. Though Assad still has the loyalty of the military, which he inherited from his father, he faces a sizable opposition. Neither the regime nor the opposition will be able to get an upper hand in the struggle. A clear-cut outcome is unavailable, and a prolonged internal conflict is foreseeable.

The author is a columnist with For more information please visit

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