Fawaz Gerges is professor of international relations of the Middle East at the London School of Economics. He spoke with CNN's Ali Velshi about the crisis in Syria. Here's a lightly edited transcript of their conversation:
Ali Velshi: Fawaz, first of all, the United Nations is taking this issue up. Does the Syrian administration care that United Nations is taking this up and does it matter?
Fawaz Gerges: Well, it cares a bit. The voice of the international community matters.
But, Ali, one point must be made very clear: The Syrian regime is fighting for its very survival. I think what we are witnessing now, this is all-out war. It's a fierce struggle to the bitter end.
Both camps, the Syrian authorities and the protesters, are basically going for broke and I doubt very much whether President Assad will listen to the condemnation in New York in the next day or so.
Ali Velshi: Fawaz, tell me why - how Syria is different from Egypt or Libya or Tunisia? What's the balance of power between the Syrian government and military and the Syrian people who are protesting?
Fawaz Gerges: Ali, this is a very important point. You're asking really several questions in one. The first question is that there is no daylight between the security authorities in Syria and the political leadership. The security apparatus, the bulk of the security forces, will fight to the end to protect the regime because there is no divide between the two, point one.
Point two, Ali, and for your viewers, more than 50 percent of the Syrian population lives in two cities, Aleppo and Damascus. And so far, neither Aleppo nor Damascus has fully joined the protesters. What I'm trying to say is that there is a silent majority out there and when and if the silent majority joins the protesters, this would mean the end of the Syrian government.
And, finally, I think the economic situation is deteriorating very sharply. The next few weeks are very, very critical. If the economic situation deteriorates further, then the silent majority will throw its lot with the protesters and that's why now it's all-out war. The next few weeks in particular, during Ramadan, are really critical for both the opposition and the Syrian authorities.
Ali Velshi: And explain to me the significance of the month of Ramadan. It is an important month. It is when the worshipers go to the mosque and sometimes those Friday prayers become flashpoints, or they become points from which people then move on to protests. Is that a real threat to the administration?
Fawaz Gerges: Absolutely. Ali, Ramadan is a holy month of fasting and prayer and reflection. Remember, during the protests in Syria in the last few months, Friday is the day because the mosque has served as basically an outlet for mobilization. And what the protests would like to do is to use Ramadan to turn every day into Friday, to bring more people into the streets, to create a critical mass that tips the balance in power in their favor.
And that's why what you've seen in the last three days, the Syrian government is trying to prevent Ramadan from becoming a catalyst - from giving the protesters a critical mass of people. And that's why they're trying to crush the protesters - they're trying to strangle the baby before it develops, before it matures during the next few weeks.