SYRIA - Political Leadership - The US Challenge.
From the US perspective, Bashar al-Assad's Ba'thist regime is facing a combination of a soft confrontation and a hard game of wits. Apart from being on the terrorist list at the State Department for years and new sanctions under the Syria Accountability Act The Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act is a bill of the United States Congress passed into law on December 12, 2003.
The bill's stated purpose is to end what the United States sees as Syrian support for terrorism, to end Syria's presence in and more recent measures, the regime will encounter serious trouble in the months ahead as a result of its "procrastination" - or, to put it mildly, its reluctance to meet a long list of US terms (see DT No. 12 of Vol. 62).
Officially, Bashar al-Assad Dr Bashar al-Assad (Arabic: بشار الأسد, is a Sunni Muslim Noun 1. Sunni Muslim - a member of the branch of Islam that accepts the first four caliphs as rightful successors to Muhammad
Sunni Islam, Sunni - one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam . But in reality he belongs to the Alawite minority which has been ruling Ba'thist Syria since his father, Gen. Hafez al-Assad Hafez al-Assad (Arabic: حافظ الأسد , took over power in 1970 and later converted to Sunnism. Among many challenges being faced by this regime are Syria's Kurdish minority, which wants to have an autonomous state similar to Iraq's Kurdistan.
On the Syrian side, the locals call it Western Kurdistan and area which Kurdish activists claim to be part of this extends as far to the west as the Aleppo area. The Kurds in Syria Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Syria making up 10% of the country's population i.e. about two million. Most of them are Sunni Muslims; there are also Yazidi Kurds in Syria. A very small number are Christians and Alawis. have begun aggressively demanding recognition of their political rights and status, including the granting of Syrian citizenship to about 250,000 who have been denied it, the right to register their land and the right to use their language. (Kurds are said to make up almost 2m of Syria's population of almost 20m. It is said that the Alawites, who control the Ba'thist regime, make up about 10% of the Syrian population.
Syrian Kurds deny seeking an independent homeland. But they say the government in Damascus should treat them like citizens. The state-controlled Syrian media reported late on March 13, 2004, that the government had appointed a committee to investigate reasons behind Kurdish rioting during that year - see background in Vol. 62, Gas Market Trends No. 12).
Bashar al-Assad, who took the presidency when his father died in the summer of 2000, has taken some steps to loosen Syria from its totalitarian system. He released hundreds of political detainees Noun 1. political detainee - some held in custody
captive, prisoner - a person who is confined; especially a prisoner of war and initially allowed political groups to hold small gatherings indoors. But in 2001, after he was surrounded by the old guard in the invisible layer, Assad began to clamp down on pro-democracy activists, raiding their meetings and jailing lawmakers and other activists. They were convicted on a charge of trying illegally to change the constitution.
It was speculated in March 2000 that, under the rule of Gen. Hafez al-Assad since 1970 when he took power in a Baathist coup which he called a "corrective movement", Syria was going to change for the better. Assad was then preparing his eldest surviving son, Bashar, to become the next ruler. (Assad's first son and heir apparent heir apparent n. the person who is expected to receive a share of the estate of a family member if he/she lives longer, or is not specifically disinherited by will. (See: heir) , Basil, died in a car crash in 1994).
Hours after Gen. Assad died on June 10, 2000, however, a small elite around key Alawite intelligence and military officers took over power in a quiet Ba'thist coup. Consisting mainly of old guard Ba'thists who shun Shun
In Chinese mythology, one of the three legendary emperors, along with Yao and Da Yu, of the golden age of antiquity (c. 23rd century BC), singled out by Confucius as models of integrity and virtue. publicity, this elite assumed control as an invisible layer of authority. Most of the members of the invisible layer under Gen. Assad were either retired by the old ruler before he died or retained later by the ruling elite.
Allied to this layer then were the two Vice Presidents of the Republic, Abdul-Halim Khaddam who deputised for the head of state and Zuhair Masharqa who deputised for the head of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party Socialist party, in U.S. history, political party formed to promote public control of the means of production and distribution. In 1898 the Social Democratic party was formed by a group led by Eugene V. Debs and Victor Berger. . The post of third vice president held by Rif'at al-Assad was abolished as Hafez banished his younger brother Wiki is aware of the following uses of "'Younger Brother":
The coup, hours after Bashar made then PM Miro interim president on June 10, was quick and simple. Hafez may have tried to abolish the invisible layer of authority in favour of a visible and modern one under his son Bashar, which may explain the latter's appointment of Miro as interim ruler. But soon after Miro's appointment, the new elite moved quickly to proclaim Khaddam as an interim president. Khaddam, a Sunni from the town of Banias See Pentium M. who began his career as a layer and Ba'th Party Ba'th Party
or Baath Party
Arab political party that advocates formation of a single Arab socialist state. It was founded in Damascus, Syria, by Michel 'Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar in 1943 and in 1953 merged with the Syrian Socialist Party to form the activist, by then had become a pillar of the invisible layer - already having served as vice president for many years under Hafez.
Bashar, elected president in July 2000, was given limitations within which he could rule but beyond which no decision would be executed. Khaddam, supposed to be among figures to be convicted in a major corruption scandal, became one of Bashar's invisible mentors. But that relationship did not last long as Bashar rebelled against Khaddam and the subsequent years were like hell for the latter. By the time the ruling Ba'th command has its congress in June 2005, Khaddam had been out of real power. Before the congress concluded, Khaddam quit as first vice-president and later defected to France to join the opposition.
At this point it is important to note a sequence of events which occurred in the period between February 1982 and June 2000. In February 1982, then President Hafez al-Assad's younger brother Rif'at, vice president at the time, headed the campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood Muslim Brotherhood, officially Jamiat al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun [Arab.,=Society of Muslim Brothers], religious and political organization founded (1928) in Egypt by Hasan al-Banna. in what turned out to be a massacre of between 20,000-40,000 Sunni Arab Syrians in Hama - in a blitz which still has an effect on those who saw that drama and remember.
After that massacre, President Assad fell ill and Rif'at, thinking his elder brother was going to die, staged a coup d'etat as he had become more popular in the armed forces and the Ba'th leadership. But the coup attempt was foiled in a swift turn of events which saw Hafez recover and Rif'at banished from Syria. In the early 1990s, Rif'at tried to recover his power base in Syria with the help of loyal assistants. One of them was Asef Shawkat with whom Hafez's only daughter fell in love - and the two eloped. Hafez's eldest son, Basel, wanted to have Shawkat eliminated; but instead Basel died in 1994 "of a car crash", said to have been engineered by Shawkat and other assistants of Rif'at. It was rumoured that Basel had wanted to have both Rif'at and Shawkat assassinated as·sas·si·nate
tr.v. as·sas·si·nat·ed, as·sas·si·nat·ing, as·sas·si·nates
1. To murder (a prominent person) by surprise attack, as for political reasons.
The US today, however, does not have a rich menue from which it can select a candidate for regime change in Damascus. The US list is short and includes Rif'at, a billionaire who still claims to have a wide support base in each of Syria's Ba'th Party and military establishment.
After his failed coup attempt, it was said, Rif'at had to promise his mother, the late Na'isah, not to try again to topple Hafez. He had to live in exile, mostly in Paris. But he did press his claim to the Syrian throne in June 2000, when Hafez died, and later did call Bashar's presidency "illegitimate".
It is said in US media reports that Washington's contacts with Rif'at have been resumed. Hikmat al-Shihabi, a former chief of staff and a Sunni pillar of Hafez's leadership, now lives in the US and is in contact with the Bush administration. If Khaddam, Rif'at and Shihabi come to power as part of a collective leadership, they would have to do it through a peaceful coup d'etat, or after Bashar abdicates and leaves Syria, in partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups.
When the late Na'isah al-Assad got her younger son Rif'at to promise he will let Hafez rule Syria, the understanding was that the country was to be under this Alawite family for generations. Syria was to become a family estate, rather than a state in the modern sense (see news14cSyriaOct3-05).
Immediately as Khaddam defected in late 2005, he denounced Bashar's regime as being murderous mur·der·ous
1. Capable of, guilty of, or intending murder: a group of murderous thugs.
2. , of having physically threatened ex-PM Hariri at a meeting in the Syrian presidential palace in August 2004, and of having made nothing but blunders since mid-2000. In subsequent interviews more recently, Khaddam predicted Bashar's downfall "within months".
Khaddam recently met in Brussels with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition parties, such as those of the Kurds, the Communists, the Arab nationalists and democrats. In an interview with the US government-sponsored Arabic TV network al-Hurra, Khaddam said the opposition bent on Adj. 1. bent on - fixed in your purpose; "bent on going to the theater"; "dead set against intervening"; "out to win every event"
bent, dead set, out to taking over in Damascus included important members of the Alawite minority as well as others who used to be key figures in the Ba'th Party before Bashar took over.
Bashar's regime, however, has declared Khaddam a traitor TRAITOR, crimes. One guilty of treason.
2. The punishment of a traitor is death. and lawsuits against him and members of his family have led to confiscation confiscation
In law, the act of seizing property without compensation and submitting it to the public treasury. Illegal items such as narcotics or firearms, or profits from the sale of illegal items, may be confiscated by the police. Additionally, government action (e.g. of their assets in Syria. The charge of high treason HIGH TREASON, English law. Treason against the king, in contradistinction with petit treason, which is the treason of a servant towards his master; a wife towards her husband; a secular or religious man against his prelate. See Petit treason; Treason. in Syria is punishable by death. But Khaddam has said repeatedly in recent weeks that the regime was an illegitimate, "personal dictatorship whose legal procedures have no value outside Syria".
Al-Hurra quoted Khaddam as telling the Syrian people This article is about the Syrians as an ethnic group. For information on citizens or nationals of Syria and foreign residents, see demographics of Syria.
Syrian people to be on their guard and not to take any action that might lead to their physical harm. He asked the Syrians to be patient and await further developments from the opposition. It was later said the opposition was likely to form a government-in-exile.
International support for such a government would depend on a Franco-US approach to the Bashar regime. If Bashar continues to leap from one blunder to another, as Khaddam claims, then the international approach could be supportive of regime change (see news2-SyriaJan9-06). But for the time being, France and the US prefer "change of regime behaviour" - i.e., all depending on how Bashar will behave in the coming months. Bashar is being provoked particularly by the Hariri family, in the person of his son Sa'd who leads a Sunni-headed political faction A political faction is presently an informal grouping of individuals, especially within a political organization, such as a political party, a trade union, or other group with some kind of political purpose (referred to in this article as the “broader organization”). in Lebanon, and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt Walid Jumblatt (Arabic: وليد جنبلاط) (born August 7, 1949) is the current leader of the Progressive Socialist Party "PSP" of Lebanon and the most prominent leader of the Druze community. , who calls Bashar "a terrorist" and a "dictator".
To understand this country, one must remember that Syria was in the past millennia a melting pot melting pot
America as the home of many races and cultures. [Am. Pop. Culture: Misc.]
See : America for all the major civilisations the world has known. This territory was attached to the empires of Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Arabs, Mongolia and the Ottomans. Much of Syria now is a living museum.
The founding dynasty of the Arab/Islamic empire, the Sunni Omayyads, ruled from Damascus. Their reign in the 7th and early 8th centuries stretched from India to Spain. Much of the confrontations between Christians and Muslims during the Crusades took place on battlegrounds in today's Syria. The Alawite community, to which the Assads and most members of the new elite belong, is said to be descended from the Crusaders.