July 24, 2012


Overcoming Assad's dark legacy (Deutsche Welle, 7/24/12)

[I]t remains uncertain whether a rebel victory would bring better times, for Syria will have to struggle with the legacy of the regime. Assad and his father have been in power for over 40 years. They both described themselves as secular, but that did not stop them filling key political, military, and economic positions with Alevi Muslims - the same Shiite minority that they belong to.

It's true that some members of the government came from the Sunni or Christian elites, but the center of power stayed firmly in Alevi hands. And the brutality with which they defended this position is likely to have woken a thirst for revenge among the regime's many enemies. Should the Assad regime fall, it is likely that there will be a few nights of bloody reprisals.

Margret Johannsen, political scientist at the University of Hamburg's Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH), says it is very likely that the violence will continue if and when Assad falls. She points out that the country is split along many ethnic and religious lines - a circumstance that will not be changed a successful coup.

If the Assad regime does fall, it would be crunch time for the two major opposition groups - the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the National Coordination Committee (NCC). These two blocs claim that together they control over 90 percent of Assad's opponents, and both have declared they will represent all of them, regardless of ethnic or religious background, if they get to form a new government.

An SNC spokesman - who wishes to remain anonymous - said the council intends to set up a government of national unity. He added that since administrative and government experience would be essential, the SNC would work together with representatives from the old regime - as long as they are not suspected of any crimes.

"We will not make the same mistake as in Iraq, namely allowing society to fracture again," the spokesman added. "We will avoid that mistake. If we keep to this plan, we will be sure of setting up a new government."

But bringing the population to put their trust in a national unity government is such an immense task that it would require no less than a cultural revolution. 

The mistake in Iraq, though noble, was to try to prevent fracture in hopes of instant revolution.
Posted by at July 24, 2012 6:26 PM

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