Syrian Regime Gets Down And Dirty

Bashar Al Assad

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been violently trying to suppress the popular uprising against his regime. Over 850 people have been killed and about 10,000 imprisoned, since the revolt began earlier in March.On one side is Assad’s regime, and on the other are the protestors. Pinned between the two is the middle-class that appears to have accepted the status quo. Foreign Policy reports:

The calm that has reigned along the Syria-Israel border for 37 years was broken on Sunday, May 15, when hundreds of Palestinians and Syrians stormed across the fence separating the two countries in the Golan Heights and the Israeli military shot four dead. While the clashes were undoubtedly inspired by Palestinians keen to commemorate the nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s founding, it may also mark a dirtier phase in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s quest to gain the upper hand over a persistent domestic opposition at home.

…In Damascus, analysts and dissidents have interpreted the event as a direct message from the Assad regime to Israel, the United States, and its internal rivals: Either we remain in power, or there will be chaos.

….One notable group that has been conspicuously absent from Syria’s protests — in stark contrast with the uprisings that brought down the governments in Egypt and Tunisia — is the top echelons of the country’s young, well-off, and educated population. Many of these people, who are often foreign-educated, are either connected to the regime, have found a way to navigate its systems of patronage, or quite simply aren’t interested in politics.

…Syria’s opposition movement is geographically fractured, which makes it difficult to judge its strength. Protests are scattered far and wide — a fact seen as a weakness by some, because it prevents the opposition from uniting into a coherent movement, but also a testament to the widespread dissatisfaction with the Assad regime.

In an interview with The New York Times last week, Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Assad, claimed that the government had finally gained the “upper hand” and continued to paint the protestors as “…a combination of fundamentalists, extremists, smugglers, people who are ex-convicts and are being used to make trouble.”

Despite their claims that President Assad’s power is secure, Assad’s actions suggest otherwise.