Syria … the road to where?
In this article, drawn from a presentation at a seminar held at the Centre for Arab Unity Studies on 9 September 2011 in Beirut, veteran Syrian writer and political thinker Michel Kilo analyzes the situation on the ground in Syria in the midst of the ?Arab Spring?, unrest and violent clashes between the state and various forces. The reforms President Bashar al-Assad initially mentioned when he replaced his father in the summer of 2000 ? when he endeavoured to open up the country to a degree ? were accorded low priority until the events of 2011 obliged his government to readdress them. Kilo argues that the Ba?athist ideology has long since been obsolete and ill suited to present realities, that regime priorities have been misdirected and that while the entrenched security apparatus is still a force to be reckoned with, genuine reforms are inevitable if a major catastrophe is to be averted. Gross income disparities and inequalities such as those the author details, which are intrinsic to the system, must be rectified; and in what is most germane in the present context, the Syrian middle class can no longer be placated or controlled through the typical strategies that the regime has historically employed. Syria at large, and especially the youth, has come to experience the wider virtual public space afforded by the internet and its social media websites, and they are eager to transfer the freedoms of cyberspace to the real political sphere. Kilo also asserts that there is a grave danger of civil war in the event that Syrians and the regime prove unable or unwilling to sort out their issues, and the presence of armed Islamist groups at the local level is a genuine threat where such are capable of drawing elements of the general population closer and into the sphere of radical political Islam if the regime continues its draconian tactics and opts for a ?security solution?. Kilo argues that Syrians themselves must rectify the situation and that foreign intervention will only ultimately play into the hands of the regime or the Islamists or both, and that such would be highly detrimental to the project of democratic transition via apparatuses of civil society in which Syrian intellectuals and the middle class play a vital role. Syria is at a precipitous crossroads ? a breaking point ? and Kilo, as an insider long affiliated with the Syrian intellectual opposition, provides essential reading for comprehending the players and dynamics of the crisis ? one which will have serious implications for Lebanon and the rest of the region.