Foreign Policy Blogs

Unrest Continues

As unrest continues to grip Syria, and opposing viewpoints continue to battle it out over the airwaves, in the pages of newspapers and magazines, and over the interwebs, let’s try to take a look at some of what is going on; both in Syria, and in the battle to frame what is happening there, shall we?

As discussed yesterday, the protests seem to be losing a bit of steam. There is a very good chance this has something to do with a targeted campaign of arrests and detentions allegedly being carried out by the regime and its supporters. According to this report, which seems much more professional and trustworthy than many of the claims that have been made during the past weeks, there are 2,843 confirmed detainees, and the total unconfirmed number is placed “easily” over 8,000.

According to Insan, author of the above cited report, the Syrian Army participated in all aspects of these cases of detention. This would seem to call into question claims of dissension and mutinous sentiments within the Army. While small scale disobedience may have taken place, large scale defections–like those imagined here–seem highly unlikely. It is important to remember that in Syria the armed forces is a family business, and no one of any importance will be abandoning the regime. For further evidence, read here.

Armed actions against centers of opposition activism continue and it seems that the regime’s tactics have proven successful in tamping down opposition activity. So much so that the Army announced that it is on the verge of lifting the siege of Dera’a. While local accounts contradict Army claims, it is hard to imagine how the “wall of fear” could be “crumbling” or “broken”–as claimed here–as arbitrary arrests and military actions proceed on such a large scale. The same FP article claims that the repressive actions of the Syrian regime will cement its isolation within the international community, however, I seem to remember many an attempt to engage the Syria of Hafez Al-Assad. These detentions have also crossed over into the field of journalism, as the Syrian government announced that it was holding Dorothy Parvaz, the detained Al Jazeera correspondent who had been missing since last friday.

International “outrage” continues, as US Secretary of State Clinton reiterated warnings and condemnations aimed at the Syrian regime today. However, the EU has not been able to agree on enacting sanctions similar to those imposed by the US. Apparently Cyprus doesn’t like protestors either. Regardless of the ability of the EU to act on this one, sanctions won’t be the deciding factor in Syria, now or in the future.

Another important aspect of the ongoing uprising is the destabilizing effect that Syrian unrest can have on neighboring countries, and the broader region as a whole. Syrian refugees have already started to spill over into northern Lebanon, and the threat of greater instability is just what Lebanon needs right now. Furthermore, this article outlines the tough spot Syrian repression has put Hezbollah in. Sayeed Nasrallah is having a bit more trouble being supportive of protestors when they are protesting against one of his main supporters.

Little has changed. The opposition is still battling a highly organized and militarized regime intent on staying in power without any clearly defined leadership or structure. The regime continues to fight for its right to survive, utilizing fairly brutal tactics. The majority of the Syrian population continues to largely sit on the sidelines, either unwilling, or unable, to play an active role. That inactivity itself represents a very clear choice, and if that choice remains the same we will not be seeing a new regime in Syria.



Walter Raubeson

Walter spent the last two years living and working in Damascus, reporting on the Syrian social, political, and cultural scene. Recently returned to the US, Walter continues to monitor Middle Eastern events with verve, and also gusto.

Having graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science- International Relations-in September 2008, Walter's MA thesis analyzed the Lebanese political system; focusing on the impact of foreign intervention within Lebanon, particularly the roles of Iran, Israel, Syria, and the US.