Analysis: Critiques won't break Assad regime

While VP Khaddam's criticism hurts, there is not yet enough "critical mass" for the regime to fall.

By
January 1, 2006 23:04
2 minute read.
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assad 298.88 ap. (photo credit: AP [file])

 
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The blows to Syria's regime are mounting. The latest on Friday was particularly damaging, because a trusted former high-ranking member delivered it. However, erstwhile Syrian vice president Abdul-Halim Khaddam's criticism of the regime and his accusing Syrian President Bashar Assad of threatening former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri before the latter was assassinated, are not straws that will break the camel's back. The Syrian dictatorship remains strong and internal opposition remains weak. According to Dr. Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syrian at the Dayan Center, there is not yet enough "critical mass" for the regime to fall. Still, some oppositionists are hopeful and one is doing his best to implement regime change. The recently self-exiled Syrian analyst and oppositionist Ammar Abdulhamid, on the eve of 2006, posted a plan of action in Arabic and English on his weblog, www.amarji.org. The plan, dubbed, "Managing Transition: A few guidelines for a velvet revolution in Syria," is "meant to help the opposition inside Syria get their act together over the next few months," wrote Abdulhamid. Among other things, he suggests that the opposition in Syria should consult image makers and public relations experts to better sell itself to the Syrian people. He advises reaching out to Syrian military and security officers and offering them a message "centered on forgiveness for past misdeeds and a willingness to open a new page." The goal, he wrote, is to influence them not to take sides against demonstrators and, when possible, to help facilitate the fall of the regime. "The army needs to be neutralized, and the best way for doing this is to make sure that certain top figures and second-tier commanders are unwilling to cooperate with the regime should it opt to crackdown," wrote Abdulhamid. Meanwhile, the Syrian Ba'athist National Party expelled Khaddam on Sunday and joined parliament in demanding his trial on a charge of high treason, Syrian government news agency SANA reported Sunday. Had he still been living in the country - he moved to Paris in May to write his memoirs - he may have been punished more ruthlessly. Then again, had he been in the country he would never have opened his mouth. Khaddam was accused by the party of joining the "US-Israeli scheme." The aim, read a party statement reported by SANA, was "striking Syria's steadfastness and foiling her pan-Arab role as well preventing hostile schemes of hegemony and serving the Israeli interests that are to impose control on the region." Khaddam achieved one of the highest positions for a Sunni in a regime filled with people from the small Alawite sect. An experienced politician, he had hoped to take over from the late Hafez Assad. Bashar decreased Khaddam's influence in the government. In May, three months after the Hariri assassination, Khaddam quit and went to France. In the Syrian Ba'athist regime of the Assad family, blood relations and Arab nationalist ideology mix to create a mafia-style government where blood relatives are automatic insiders, co-religionists are also trusted and anyone else must be a firm believer in the ideology of pan-Arabism. If that trust is betrayed the result is often life in prison or death. But since Khaddam was already abroad the only immediate alternative is indicting him for treason.

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