Damascus Fighting and Wife’s Emails Dent Myth of Assad Control

March 19, 2012  

The two major items about Syria in today’s news were the heavy fighting in an upscale Damascus suburb and the leaked e-mails citing that Asma Al- Assad, the wife of the Syrian ruler, is the country’s real dictator.

Both the fighting and the quotations from the Syrian First Lady, as well as reports on her extravagant shopping habits, have a single subtext; namely, that the Assad regime is no longer in control.

What made the Assad regime attractive to Syrian elites, even if they did not belong to the Alawite sect of the Assad clan, was the stability that the Assads brought to the country.

Before Hafiz Al-Assad consolidated power, the Syrian leadership was a merry-go-round of leaders with one military coup succeeding the next.

Between 1958 to 1961 Syria was temporarily willing to forfeit her independence and merge with Egypt to form the United Arab Republic under Gamal Nasser.

Syria’s era of weakness also represented the zenith of Lebanese freedom and prosperity, as during that time, Syria was too preoccupied with her own internal politics to meddle in neighboring Lebanon.

Even the most repressive regime cannot rule by bayonets alone and needs a modicum of popular support to achieve legitimacy and stability The results of the Arab spring have not been encouraging in terms of stability, with Libya furnishing exhibit A.

The insurgents have taken a leaf from Assad and are destabilizing the regime by terror attacks –  and by, at least temporarily, showing that no area of Syria, including the capital of Damascus, is totally secure.

As the few totally loyal brigades are moving from city to city to reduce the insurgents, they have apparently left weaknesses in Damascus and Aleppo. If the insurgents shake the myth of Assad’s control, they have undermined the legitimacy of the regime more than Assad’s commission of atrocities and human rights violations.

Syria is a typical Machiavelli situation. Senseless cruelty is abhorrent, but cruelty that gets results may be condoned.

On another note, the Assad e-mails are being reported by the Al-Arabiya network, Saudi Arabia’s media answer to Al Jazeera. There is little love lost between the Saudis and the Assad regime.
The revelations about the British born Syrian First Lady helped demolish Ms. Assad’s image in the West as a forward oriented bridge and transformed her into a hated figure.

Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie will not be visiting again anytime soon.  More importantly, when a woman claims that she is actually running the show, she inflicts damage on her husband’s reputation.

The Arab Middle East is not quite Scandinavia, nor is it a bastion of women’s rights.


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