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Arab Spring: Will Syrian Leader Bashar al-Assad Go the Way of Gaddafi?

Posted on the 27 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Arab Spring: Will Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad go the way of Gaddafi?

Bashar al-Assad faces tough decisions as the situation escalates in Syria. Photo credit: copepodo

The Syrian edition of the Arab Spring has been going on since January, with little chance of abating now. The situation seems to be coming to a head, with the AP reporting that the US Ambassador had been pulled from Syria due to “security concerns.” Protests in Homs, Hama, Aleppo and Deraa, among others, have met with brutality from the Assad regime — around 3,000 protesters are estimated to have been killed already, with thousands more incarcerated and tortured. The government also claims that around 1,150 soldiers have been killed since the start of the uprising, and citizens from the ruling Alawite sect generally avoid going to conflict-embroiled areas.

Last week’s execution of Col. Gaddafi at the hands of victorious rebels in Libya saw another Arab autocrat scalp claimed by the Arab Spring. Should Syrian rebels take comfort in the fact that a dictator whose position seemed up until recently just as entrenched as their own has been toppled? Or is Assad a tougher nut to crack?

More complicated than we think. Reporting from Syria for The Independent, Robert Fisk saw genuine support for Assad at a rally two weeks ago. He warned of the “growing reality” of a “sectarian war” but said there is still some time for the Syria to “climb out of its tragedy” and for the government to embrace “a serious new constitution, pluralist political parties and real and genuine free elections.”

Syria is not Libya. Without Western intervention, Syria cannot hope to overthrow Assad, so argued Bessma Momani and Heather Roff in The Huffington Post Canada. Furthermore, they opined, an incursion into Syria would be “tactically challenging”, especially since only 40 percent of Syrians oppose Assad, the population of Syria is almost four times the size of Libya’s and the Syrian army is eight times as big as Gaddafi’s.

A dead Gaddafi could be counter-productive. Gaddafi’s grisly end will mean dictators will be less likely to open the door to reform, according to Alex Massie on The Spectator’s Coffee House blog. Wrote Massie: “it is hard to have just a little reform; once that door is opened there’s little chance of closing it. So better, from the dictator’s perspective, not to open it at all.”

A despot is gone — soon another will go. Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post’s Right Turn blog adjudged that Gaddafi’s death was very important for the Syrian Revolution because “each time the blood-soaked hands of a despot are immobilized (by death or capture), it gives hope to other people fighting their own brutal regimes”.

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