People seem fairly optimistic about the likelihood of Assad going down.  I’m not so sure, for the reasons that Andrew Reynolds explains:

That nation is poised on a knife edge: it could plunge into civil war or come to rest in a valley of repression where Bashir al-Assad’s opponents have fallen. The entrails of the Arab Spring suggest that Assad will be the fifth dictator to fall only if the Syrian military irrevocably splits or if international military force intervenes on the side of the opposition.

Neither looks likely. The Syrian army is dominated by Assad’s Alawite minority and foreign powers have demonstrated no stomach to insert themselves into the quagmire of a civil war in Syria which would spark tensions, not just between Turkey, Israel and Lebanon, but would ominously see NATO, Russia and China picking sides.

If it weren’t for Western intervention, Gaddafi would still have Libya. If it weren’t for the decision of the Egyptian Army to withdraw its support, Mubarak would likely still be atop Egypt. In Syria, as Reynolds suggests, neither outcome is particularly likely. I would guess that a coup is slightly more likely than international military intervention, although the development of a strong, militarized opposition may actually be counter-productive on this score; it gives the military something to do, and ties the fate of the military chiefs more tightly to the regime. I also wonder whether the fact that many military leaders would likely already be subject to international prosecution reduces the likelihood of a coup. In any case, there’s little reason to believe that the Syrian military would be as (minimally) favorable to the creation of a democratic state as the Egyptian Army. And so if your the compulsive type that just has to bet…

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  • bobbyp

    Nice. Realpolitik. A dispassionate assessment of probable outcomes. Just like the administration and Libya.

    I guess humane intervention can only take you so far.

    • rea

      It’s not exactly a humane intervention if you make a half-assed attempt at overthrowing him and fail.

    • A dispassionate assessment of probable outcomes in Libya, divorced from humanitarian concerns, would have lead the administration to politely avert its eyes while Gaddhafi finished the job of crushing the opposition, while our companies kept pumping the oil.

      A dispassionate, realpolitik analysis doesn’t end with “and so what if causes an oil price pike?”

      • Or even, “And so what if it causes an oil price spike?”

  • Murc

    I rather agree with this. Toppling a regime via popular uprising has a two-step process and I don’t see the protestors making it past step two.

    The first step is ‘Is the regime willing to order its civilian security forces to use deadly force against their own people, and will the security forces obey that order?’ If the answer to the latter is ‘no’ then the regime collapses. If the answer to BOTH is ‘yes’ then you go to step two.

    Step two is ‘Is the military willing to support the regime by turning their weapons on the civilian populace?’ If the answer to this is ‘no’ the regime collapses (Egypt). If the answer is ‘yes’ then the popular uprising likely fails.

    In Syrias case I think they make it through both steps and keep on keeping on.

  • Pseudonym

    But what if your the compulsive type that just has to nitpick grammar?

    • The Fool

      You applaud the [un?]intentional hilarity present in this comment.

  • Based on gut feeling and historical precedent I am guessing that Assad stays in power for the foreseeable future. The US is not going to intervene like it did in Libya and I doubt the military is going to turn on him.

    • Spud

      The big difference is that Assad has far more influential friends and a greater potential to wreak havoc on his neighbors than Gaddafy did.

      Intervention has an element of opportunity to it as well. Some targets are easier than others. Realistically one doesn’t want a civil war becoming an international conflict as well.

      • The list of people Gaddhafi managed to piss off is truly impressive.

  • skidmarx
    • I’m getting some weird redirection and can’t read the Hama article.


      • Hamas, that is.

        • skidmarx

          The Syrian leader is outraged that Hamas, a movement he has sponsored and nurtured for years, is refusing to back his regime against the uprising that started earlier this year. Relations are reportedly at breaking point… they want us to give support just like Hizbollah [the Lebanese Shia movement] did. But this is impossible for Hamas. The Syrian regime is killing its own people.”

  • Njorl

    I wonder if there will be an Alawite backlash against Iran’s efforts at conversion. The older Asad kept the Iranian missionaries out, but the younger Asad has been more dependent on Iran, and let them in. I certainly wouldn’t expect anything like that to happen in the face of the current unrest, but Iran’s efforts to make Syria more dependant could backfire in the long run.

  • Amanda in the South Bay

    I’m not terribly surprised people in the west are ignorant of the Sunni/Alawite distinction. Or why Orthodox clergy are pro-Assad.

    Why are the Iranians sending missionaries? I could’ve sworn that they recognized the Alawites as being bona fide Shia at one point?

    • Njorl

      Alawites are recognized as Shia, but I got the impression that it was a matter of convenience at the time. I’m about as far from being an expert on the matter as possible, but the announcement that Alawites were Shia came as a surprise, if I’m not mistaken.

      Alawites and Shiites were small minorities in Syria. Alawites were well organized, with a history of successful collective action, but they faced significant prejudice from the greater Moslem world. When they seized power in Syria, a Shiite Imam gave them acceptability by declaring them to be Shiite.

      The elder Assad didn’t want Iranian Shiite missionaries in Syria. He credited the tight-knit Alawite community for his rise to power. Anything that might diffuse that cohesion was a threat. He wasn’t hostile to Iran or Shiites, quite the opposite, but he was very protective of his base.

      His son may not see it the same way. His rise to power was through birth. He may view Iranian assistance as worth the price of a few missionaries. Some of his father’s associates may not see it the same way. Regardless, I can’t see them rocking the boat in the middle of the current storm.

  • skidmarx
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