Foreign Policy Blogs

Another Weekend Wrap-Up

Another friday of protests has come and gone: Assad is still in power, however, many protests continue.

The past week has seen a raising of rhetorical stakes from the West, despite the fact that the West is pretty much powerless to do anything. US Secretary of State Clinton suggested that the US is closer to declaring the rule of Bashar Assad to be illegitimate. Notice closer; not saying it actually is illegitimate…yet.  A group of 16 US senators have taken the illegitimacy plunge, and are pressuring the Obama administration to do the same. Even John Kerry–JOHN KERRY!–of rapprochement/engagement fame has jumped on the bandwagon, and in the process done a complete 180 on Syria. The lesson here is, don’t listen to congressmen.

Something that must be taken much more seriously are the opinions of veteran Syria analysts Josh Landis and Patrick Seale. This week I suggested that the immediate revolutionary threat of these protests was over. Well, Landis and Seale both came out with articles this week discussing the end of Assad. It needs to be said upfront that both of these guys are 1000% more knowledgable about Syrian affairs than I am. Both have been covering the country for a LONG time and know their stuff.

Having gotten that out of the way I strongly disagree with both of them, not to say I’m not nervous about it.

Landis suggests that a “widespread culture of resistance” has taken root amongst Syria’s youth that isn’t going away. Landis implies that this culture makes it impossible for Assad to hold onto power. He doesn’t make any specific timeline predictions, but he seems to suggest a change in the short term. He is also predicting a bunch of violence.

In a far less clear piece, Seale asks if this will spell the end of the Assad dynasty. He doesn’t really answer his own question, unfortunately, however, one can see fairly strong seeds of doubt as to Bashar’s ability to remain in power in his writing. Seale seems to be drinking the Arab Spring KoolAid, as he suggests the Syrian political order must reform or die. He does not allow for the possibility that the regime will remain in place largely unchanged, which is what I see happening, especially in the short term.

You can find the Landis piece here, and the Seale piece here. We’ll see who ends up being correct, but this blogger is more than a bit nervous to find himself opposite these two.

This is a pretty good article on the deadlock taking place between the regime and protesters. Check it out.

Other articles on the most recent weekend of protests: general state of things here, violence just outside Homs here and here, and reports of Syrian troops attacking fleeing refugees (classy!) here.

Another big story of late is gun running. Apparently the business is booming as Syrians try to buy as many weapons as possible from the Lebanese black market, and weapons shipments between Iran and Syria are picking up, according to the UN.

Something else comes from the Iran-Syria front, as we now probably know where Dorothy Parvaz is. I guess knowing is better, but Iran isn’t where she wanted to go. Hope she’s alright, and is released very soon.

That’s it from here Kiddos. Enjoy the weekend!



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.