Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Why Assad Should Fear What is Going on in North Africa

Al-Arab, London, April 17

Until recently, Assad was seen as the Arab dictator who succeeded in stopping the so-called “domino effect” of Arab revolutions, which spanned Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Iraq. The Assad regime did not hesitate to use everything necessary to stop the Syrian revolution, including the use of chemical weapons, sectarian militias, and foreign armies. The results were catastrophic. Almost all of Syria’s national infrastructure was destroyed, millions of people were displaced, thousands of others were killed, and large-scale demographic changes unfolded in the country. But the outcome was not entirely negative for Assad. The savagery with which he responded sent an important message to his counterparts in the Middle East: I am here to stay. Assad’s tactics also helped other Arab regimes crush their own internal demonstrations and scare protestors away. However, what is currently happening in Sudan and Algeria severely undermines the Assad doctrine. Algeria, for example, is one of the few countries that supported the Assad regime. It stood on Assad’s side several times at the United Nations, when the General Assembly attempted to condemn Syria and launch an international commission of inquiry against the regime. Similarly, Sudan’s ousted President, Omar al-Bashir, maintained tight relations with Damascus and even visited Assad this past December in a demonstration of support. The fall of both these leaders spells trouble for Assad. First, he lost some of his closest allies in the Arab world. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Assad is witnessing a renewed wave of political protests that might trickle into his own country. The people of the Middle East have learned their lesson from previous uprising attempts. They no longer view their leaders as gods. They refuse to accept military regimes in place of deposed dictators. And they’ve grown tired of their old leaders. As Assad vows to regain complete control over Syria’s territory, he might find himself facing a new revolution at home. Assad’s war may be over, but the battle for his regime’s stability will continue.  – Ali Hussein Bakir

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