Whither Syria?
MrZine / Flynt Leverett and Andrew Tabler

Flynt Leverett: Syria is a real mosaic in terms of its society.  And I think that President Assad can probably marshal at least 50 percent of the society, which would prefer him and the present regime to any plausible alternative. . . .  I think the strategic problem is, in broad terms, the same for his father and now for Bashar al-Assad.  The strategic problem is to hold this society together.  The biggest concern for, I think, still a majority of Syrians is that they have seen next door in Lebanon, they have seen next door in Iraq, what happens when a multiethnic, multiconfessional society comes apart in the Middle East.  There are more than a million Iraqi refugees living in Syria right now as daily testament to that.  And I think that most Syrians, certainly the constituencies that Bashar al-Assad is counting on to support him, are not looking to him primarily at this point for bold reform initiatives.  I think they're looking to him primarily to demonstrate that he can hold this together and keep it from turning into post-Saddam Iraq or civil war Lebanon. . . .  I think the protests will continue for a while.  I think Andrew is correct that the security force response is likely to get more severe over time.  And I think that President Assad is going to count on, essentially, as I said, a majoritarian support within the country to support him in doing what he needs to do to restore order.

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