The Syrian Regime's Business Backbone

by Bassam Haddad
published in MER262

Nearly one year into the Syrian uprising, with more than 7,500 Syrians dead, the protracted conflict is not very well understood or reported despite a deluge of writings. Most track fast-moving events without pausing for sober analysis of Syrian politics and society. Early on, the dominant argument was that the regime would quickly collapse; later, it has been that the regime is durable. The long view rarely appears. When it does, alas, it most commonly adduces timeless cultural factors, chiefly sectarianism, to explain the apparent stalemate.

The Local Politics of the Lebanese Disappeared

by Roschanack Shaery
published in MER262

The Syrian presence in Lebanon was visible and audible to all, from the large numbers of Syrian construction workers to the peddlers selling the latest music CDs on the sidewalks to the military checkpoints in the mountains. In shared taxis there was often talk about which Lebanese politician had just returned from Syria, along with parodies of Syrian Arabic dialect and jokes about Lebanese men going to Syria for what they called a bicycle ride -- a visit to a prostitute. A parallel social hierarchy separated those who could use the military lane to cross the border into Syria and those who had to wait sometimes long hours in regular lanes.

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Beyond the Fall of the Syrian Regime

by Peter Harling , Sarah Birke | published February 24, 2012

Syrians are approaching the one-year anniversary of what has become the most tragic, far-reaching and uncertain episode of the Arab uprisings. Since protesters first took to the streets in towns and villages across the country in March 2011, they have paid an exorbitant price in a domestic crisis that has become intertwined with a strategic struggle over the future of Syria.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Dramas of the Authoritarian State

by Donatella Della Ratta | published February 2012

During August of 2011, which corresponded with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, viewers of the state-run satellite channel Syrian TV might have stumbled upon quite a strange scene: A man watches as a crowd chants “Hurriyya, hurriyya!” This slogan -- “Freedom, freedom!” -- is a familiar rallying cry of the various Arab uprisings. It was heard in Syrian cities, including Damascus, when protesters first hit the streets there on March 15, 2011. But it was odd, to say the least, to hear the phrase in a Syrian government-sponsored broadcast. Until that moment, state TV had not screened any such evidence of peaceful demonstrations in Syria.

The Middle Powers Amid the Arab Revolts

by Imad Mansour | published September 29, 2011

The UN Security Council has been a key arbiter of international action regarding the upheavals in the Arab world in 2011. In late February, the Council issued Resolution 1970 calling for an “immediate end to the violence” in Libya, imposing sanctions and an arms embargo, and asking the International Criminal Court to investigate the regime of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. Less than a month later, on March 17, the Council passed Resolution 1973 authorizing NATO “to take all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, leading to Qaddafi’s eventual fall from power. In late September, the Security Council will also take up the request of Palestinian leader Mahmoud ‘Abbas for full UN membership for a state of Palestine.

The Evolution of Kurdish Politics in Syria

by Christian Sinclair , Sirwan Kajjo | published August 31, 2011

Over the weekend of July 16-17, representatives of the opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad met in Istanbul to choose a “National Salvation Council.” Among the diverse attendees were delegates speaking for Syria’s Kurds, the largest ethnic minority in the country at more than 2 million people, some 10 percent of the population. All of the multiple Kurdish parties in Syria envision a pluralistic state in which their cultural and linguistic rights are recognized. Those at the Istanbul gathering wanted the name of the country changed from the Syrian Arab Republic to the “Republic of Syria.” When the other delegates at the conference refused this request, these Kurds walked out in protest.

The Bourgeoisie and the Baath

A Look at Syria's Upper Class

by Volker Perthes
published in MER170

Syria's Torment

by The Editors | published August 10, 2011

There are two political-intellectual prisms through which the recurrent conflagrations of the modern Middle East are conventionally seen. One casts the region’s stubborn ills as internally caused -- by the outsize role of religion in public life, the persistence of primordial identities like sect and tribe, and the centuries-long accretion of patriarchal norms. The other espies the root of all evils in external interference, from European colonialism to the creation of Israel and assorted ventures of the imperial United States.

Syria's Parliamentary Elections

Remodeling Asad's Political Base

by Volker Perthes
published in MER174

On May 22 and 23, 1990, Syrian voters were called to the polls to elect a new parliament, the fifth People’s Council (Majlis al-Sha‘b) since Hafiz al-Asad came to power in 1970. The new Majlis would consist of a total of 250 instead of the 195 members in previous councils. The official media made clear that President Asad had “granted” these additional seats to encourage independents to stand as candidates. The Baath Party and its allies in the six-party National Progressive Front (al-Jabha al-Wataniyya al-Taqaddumiyya), which held some 160 seats in the outgoing council, would content itself with about that number in the new assembly; roughly a third of all seats would be reserved for independent, non-party candidates.

Scuds versus Butter

The Political Economy of Arms Control in the Arab World

by Yahya Sadowski
published in MER177

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