News / Middle East

Syria's Assad Learns Lessons from Arab Spring, Recent History

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at Damascus University in Syria, January 10, 2012.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks at Damascus University in Syria, January 10, 2012.
Henry Ridgwell

With Russia and China blocking a U.N. resolution condemning the crackdown on protests in Syria, the prospects for a quick end to the conflict seem bleak.  President Bashar al-Assad can also rely on support from some other key players in the region. Our correspondent reports from the Lebanese capital, Beirut, on some complex histories and alliances in the Middle East that are shaping the response to Syria's uprising.

Syrian protesters on the streets of Damascus send their message to the United Nations, burning the Iranian, Russian and Chinese flags - all allies of the Syrian government.

The uprising is proving long and brutal.  Analysts say the Syrian government has learned lessons from across the Arab world.

Analyst Paul Salem directs of the Carnegie Middle East Center.

“The regime in Syria has calibrated, has learned from the Libyan experience and has calibrated its response to be brutal but not flamboyantly so; and not to speak of it openly," said Salem. "To carry a big stick but speak softly ... they looked at countries like Egypt which had made compromises with the opposition ... and they concluded that if you compromise first, you will end up losing everything second.”

There are history lessons too in neighboring Lebanon, which fought a civil war in the 1970s and 80s.

Like Lebanon, Syria is made up of a mosaic of different religions - Sunnis and Shias, Alawites, which includes President Bashar al-Assad and much of the ruling class, along with Christians and Druze.

Beirut, now home to some of Syria’s exiled opposition, still bears the scars of that brutal conflict.

It is a war that reverberates in Syria today, says Salem.

“They have used the lessons in the reverse way," he said. "The regime is effectively threatening the Syrian people that if they get rid of the regime they will have a civil war on their hands.”

Looking east, Syria can count on Iran as its main ally.  There, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has repeatedly berated Arab countries for pressuring Syria to end the crackdown.

He says one of the bitter and ridiculous scenarios is that in the region Arab leaders who do not have any concept of election and freedom in their culture, have gathered and want to issue freedom and democracy decrees for Syria.

With Syria’s President Assad enjoying some regional support, it will be difficult for the international community to isolate Damascus.  Russia and China have also made it clear they will not support regime change through the United Nations.

Only violence on an even greater scale could prompt foreign intervention, says analyst Paul Salem.

“If something happens that is of a dramatic nature and if the Western press gets hold of it and it impacts public opinion, at the end of the day politicians are politicians and they have to respond to what the mood of the public is," said Salem. "This is effectively what happened largely in Libya, it is what happened eventually in Kosovo.”

For now, analysts say international divisions mean there is little hope of a quick solution to Syria’s conflict.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid