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Syria is no Libya. It was never designed as such. Its important to keep that in mind while watching events unfold in the Middle East and North Africa.
In Libya the Little Green Book shapes the government structure (or the lack of one). If you aren’t familiar with the Green Book, suffice it to say that it was written by Qaddafi and that he rode his own revolution into office by championing the ideas within it. The Green Book included Qaddafi’s vague vision of what government should look like and how it should be run. He apparently wrote the whole thing to serve as a model to what his presumed utopia would one day look like. Syria’s Baath Party too once had an idealistic utopia in mind for Syria and the rest of the Arab world. Both countries developed different paths to shape their government structures. Both countries rewarded corruption, cronyism and dictatorship rule as well.
And that is where the similarities end.
The reason I am hopeful that Syria’s President, Bashaar Al Assad, will indeed be toppled is because of the subtle political similarities between Syria and Egypt. Like Egypt’s former President Mubarak – the effect of saying former still hasn’t quite rubbed off yet – Assad has accommodated his autocratic authority by keeping his cronies satisfied. But even dictators can have a hard time pleasing everyone, especially when they face popular discontent and revolt on the scale we have been seeing recently in the Middle East. Granted that the army seems to be much more in line with Assad’s plans to crush the revolution taking place there than say it was in Egypt. Nonetheless there are other reasons that the regime may crack.
Syria is an autocratic country. Unlike Libya, the structure there allows for opposition political parties, much like Egypt did, however they are consistently and methodically harassed by a skewed constitution, impartial judiciary and a demented, power crazed executive branch. Assad certainly has reason to keep it as such, being that he is an Alawite, a minority sect of Shia Islam.
But this is where the similarities with Egypt end and those with Iraq begin.
Like Iraq during Saddam’s reign, Syria is dominated by the Baath Party (resurrection in Arabic), a secular political party that was founded in Syria, and manifested itself at different times in Iraq, culminating with its rule predominately under Saddam. But secularism here is enforced. It is not accompanied by liberal ideals of tolerance. In fact, tolerance in most of the Arab world, is used mainly as a reactionary argument by their regimes against the occasional religious clashes or any other forms of internal social rift that would at any time seem to threaten the stability of those who rule. It is not proactive and it is certainly not embodied in the spirit of the Baath party. Sadly, tolerance is engineered by these regimes for one reason and one reason only, to keep a minority or unelected group of individuals in power. As cynical as that assessment may be, unfortunately that is how the situation currently stands in Syria and much of the Arab world.
If the protests rocking Syria in the past few weeks hint at anything however, it is that the ruling party and the establishment system as a whole is vulnerable and that their propaganda efforts are failing them. One important factor to consider is if that vulnerability will eventually culminate in the rejection of Assad’s one party dominates all rule.
So how are things going to end up for Assad and his Baath party should Syria fall?
My assessment is that it won’t be a pretty picture. The possibility of a fair power sharing agreement between the Sunni’s and Shia and Alawite’s is doable but not likely. An additional variable also adds worry to this already risky situation and that is the Muslim Brotherhood In Syria. Unlike Egypt, Syria had lagged in the degree of political reform during the early years of this century. The situation in Egypt pre-revolution allowed for a more vocal and heightened opposition to government rule. When the government tried to choke off the stream of reforms, the country imploded. It remains to be seen however if Syrians will be able to fight off the army – a situation that Egyptians mostly avoided during the revolution – and succeed in their cause of toppling the violent dictatorship that rules them today.
Will Syria too fall? Is so, what are the chances of it creating a multi faceted vibrant civil society to replace its currently established dictatorship? Let us know your opinion here. You can also comment on this article through our facebook page!