The popular uprising in Syria began almost a year ago in the wake of the wave of hope produced by the “Arab springs” in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. But the Syrian government is a hardier beast than its North African counterparts. Possessing armed and administrative services still very loyal to president Bashar al-Assad, it bloodily represses the regular demonstrations of opponents calling for regime change. The international community, including the Arab League, has been trying for months to put pressure on Bashar al-Assad to end this repression and give way to some popular demands. Nothing has come of this. In this context, what might the prospects be for this country, whose role and influence remain central in the Middle East?
Olivier Marty examines the question, beginning with the salient features of the current regime: the legacy of Hafez al-Assad, attempts at internal modernization, and a stifled society with no room left for manoeuvre in a context of growing communal tension. He goes on to demonstrate how Syria has positioned itself over time internationally – and, particularly, in terms of its alliances – and to show its still essential role in that highly troubled region of the Middle East. Lastly, Olivier Marty sketches out what the scenarios might be for overcoming the crisis in Syria, though here he inclines more towards the view that the situation is likely to deteriorate (on account, among other things, of the difficulties the international community would have in intervening militarily), with the bolstering of financial sanctions and political support for the opposition. In this connection, he specifies the roles of the various states involved in the management of the crisis – Turkey, Russia, Europe, USA etc.
If, as this article suggests, there is still a high risk of political stalemate, let us hope for the sake of Syrian civilians that it does not last long.
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