Flunking the Syria Test
Spring/Summer - Number 22

Flunking the Syria Test

Matthew RJ Brodsky

w ith the Syrian uprising now past its one-year anniversary, it’s long past time to take stock of the carnage. More than 7,000 people have been killed to date by the Assad regime, as it has unleashed war on its own people.

The spark that lit the fire was an errant one. On March 6, 2011, state security forces arrested 15 teenagers for spray painting anti-regime graffiti on a wall in the southern city of Deraa. Their continued detention sparked massive demonstrations in the city, and in turn were met by the regime’s brutal crackdown using live fire and tear gas. By the time the teenagers were released, the flashpoints between the Syrian security services and the protesters had already claimed many lives. This began the cycle of funerals which became rallying points for further protests—and further regime violence.

The anti-regime opposition began as a peaceful protest against a dictatorship. President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal response—including the arrest and torture of regime opponents, the indiscriminate shelling of cities, and the cutoff of escape routes to Turkey and Lebanon for civilian refugees—has pushed the opposition to respond with force.

Meanwhile, conventional wisdom in Washington and in European capitals is that the Syrian regime is doomed and that it is only a matter of time before Assad is removed from power. But these optimistic assessments are dangerously flawed. Despite Western sanctions and other punitive measures levied to date, the Assad regime as of this writing continues to maintain its grip on the four pillars of Syrian power: the unity of the Alawites; supremacy of the Ba’ath Party; supremacy of the al-Assad clan; and Alawite dominance over the military and intelligence apparatus.

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Matthew RJ Brodsky is the director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center in Washington, DC, and editor of inFOCUS Quarterly. A former Legacy Heritage Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, he is the author of the “Syria” chapter in the Council’s World Almanac of Islamism. His website is www.MatthewRJBrodsky.com.