August 2nd, 2011
11:06 AM ET

Gerges: Syria's silent majority can overthrow Assad

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.

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Topics: Syria

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Buckley

    You are not a Muslim anymore my friend.

    August 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Reply
    • Islame

      And that's a BAD thing???????

      August 2, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Reply
    • Mr Khan

      Hate are not a good things ? Don't Kill your Self. " Because Hate = Cancer "

      August 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Reply
  2. AlAsshat

    I like my hat!

    August 2, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    Fawaz Gerges said, "this is all-out war. It's a fierce struggle to the bitter end."
    It's true about the both camps – the protesters and the regime". The protesters refuse to ask outsiders for help. They want to topple Assad's regime themselves, which is fighting for its survival. It's interesting to see, how the protesters weather the storm during the Ramadan.

    August 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Reply
  4. Toppolina

    Fawaz Gerges is one of the best analysts of the Middle East. Very interesting what he just discussed with Ali Velshi. The Syrian regime crossed the line and I hope their end is near. Syrians definitely deserve better and if Bashar el Assad does not know that his people will not stop until he is toppled then he really does know his own people. Like father, like son. Both are tyrant and brutal. Hopefully the bloodshed will end soon and Syria will see better days than they saw the past 40 years under the despotic Assad rule

    August 3, 2011 at 10:36 am | Reply

    CNN & BBC always used to say "Bahrain is a majority shia country, rules by a sunni minority" However, we still didnt see them saying "Syria is a majority Sunni country, ruled by a shia minority" why is that? In almost every Bahrain Article you see that phrase, and yet nothing of the sort is mentioned regarding Syria. It must be noted that latest figures prove shias in Bahrain are in fact a minority and not the majority as thought.

    August 4, 2011 at 3:20 am | Reply
  6. Al Ghamdi

    If Ghaddafi as a Muslim isn't on the UN radar for being next in line soon at The Hague, then I sincerly hope Assad and his henchmen soon will be; one by one just like Milosovitch, Karadic, and the rest. It is unacceptable for the leader of any country in the world today to escape judgement on the world stage just because of religious background. When was a Muslim ever at The Hague for crimes against humanity?
    Placing Assad on trial would prove to all on this planet that Muslim leaders too, who are nothing but thugs and murderers (and of their own people), cannot slip the net either. They too must also be held accountable to the world for the appalling crimes they have committed.
    It is quite apparent that Assad has an unusually long neck already. If the UN doesn't deal with him, then it is most surprising that he is prepared to push his luck and risk having it stretched even further! That is going to happen very soon, and like Saddam Hussein who met his fate at the hands of his own people, it is very likely that Assad will go the same way and become history too. The Syrian people have suffered enough, and they know they have more to endure. However, as happened in Iraq, their time will surely come!

    August 4, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  7. sam kohen

    Those brave men in Hama should have looted the armories and use them against the tanks as was done in Benghazi, Libya rather then simply sticks. Things would have been very different. Finally, if Mr Assad does not really get his act together soon, you will start to see a real war between the majority Sunni and the minority Alawaite. This could very well end up like Rwanda.

    August 8, 2011 at 8:24 am | Reply
  8. Don L.

    Why don't we support this man? We supported the bosnians and when we finished protecting them, they spit on us. If Assad loses we end up with Al Queda.

    August 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Reply
    • Can You Handle the Truth

      Is this all you guys can come up with an excuse to improve the Assad's oppressive regime's image? Truly pathetic, so you want the world of conscience to support a criminal that has killed his people just so that he can remain in power? Care to explain to the world the justification for killing over 300 children under the age of 14, or at least Hamza Al Khatib, the 13 year old kid? Was he a terrorist or al Qaeda now? You must be the only moron that believes these lies.

      August 14, 2011 at 6:11 am | Reply
  9. Can You Handle the Truth

    The Assad regime is over, and all thugs supporting the regime better wake up and smell the coffee. For 40 years, this regime has done nothing to the country except steal its wealth. Thailand, Vietnam, and even Bangladesh today are much more advanced technologically than Syria, imagine that.

    Syria is so corrupt that everything is owned by the Assad family directly or through Makhlouf indirectly. The oil revenue is not even in the country's budget, because it goes into the regime's coffers. Cannot wait to see how much the Assads had amassed wealth like the Mubaraks since their gained power, then it would be obvious to everyone how much corrupt the whole regime is.

    As for the regimes lies, nobody even believes any of it. What kind of terrorists never get caught dead or alive yet seem to disappear into thin air? Are they using invisible UFOs? Bashar must have watched Casper too much during his stay in the UK.

    As for HateKiller, you are nothing more than paid thug supporting the regime. Care to explain to the world how and why Hamza Al Khatib was killed, a 13 year old boy, who was tortured by having his stomach burnt with cigarettes, was beaten on his forehead until it turned purple, shot three times in close range, had his genitals mutilated while alive, and finally killed by breaking his neck? Was this teenager the terrorist too? If you had a terrorist do you kill him or interrogate him to get more details from him?

    Are the 3,000 plus that disappeared in Syria all terrorists? Are the over 15,000 plus held by secret services also terrorists? How come the dead are all civilians? How come funerals were attacked and the police or army was no place to be seen yet they were sent in to protect the very people that were killed? If you add up all the dead, plus the ones disappeared and the ones being held in unknown places they are larger than any terrorist group on this world in history. What type of terrorist group travels from one city to another and never get caught and what is their objectives? How come the Syria government had not come out and said who is supporting these supposedly make belief terrorists?

    When you have so many unanswered questions one has to seriously question the government's spin on things, since its record is not one that can be trusted in the past.

    August 14, 2011 at 6:06 am | Reply
  10. Joy Hassan

    Assad is and would never be a muslim. For the Holy Book say never to harm the innocent if even they are not of your side. God bless Ur nation Syria.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  11. omar halabi

    Joy Hassan even prophets went to war when is was raged on them, The syrian army and police was attcked first in cold blood, darra, homs, hama jsir al shagour its ironic how so called syrian wannabes here comment on murderers and killers, hence why does know one mention the latest video footage of hama and he killing of police by terrorist who belong to the muslim brotherhood who al qaida's current leader happens to be their former leader in eygpt???? lol syrian army is loyal to its nation, syria is not egypt or libya syrians will die for assad proof so called protestors many terrorist have been waging war since March of this year was has not syria callapsed even witht he halp of america, saudi arabia, turkey, europe and the united nations????? syria today is a target and yes there are some haters out there who hate Bashar al assad simply because he is not suni......get over it haters...syria will not be saudi arabia tool to hit iran, we true arabs have learnt that you can not trust the fake muslim gulf states ie saudi arabia they are all zionist stoogers. Syrian army is cleaning up the streets and god willing ramadan will be a victorious one for the syrian army. DONT FORGET that the syrian army consist of all dominations, all syrian boys all syrians no matter where they are from must serve in the army hence syria is all in the majority behind Bashar and we syrians see through your attacks and lies .....ALLAH SYRIA BASHAR OH BASS

    August 16, 2011 at 12:12 am | Reply
    • PK

      "syrian army is loyal to its nation, syria is not egypt or libya syrians will die for assad"

      Exactly. They will die for Assad, not Syria. In fact Assad and his army are the traitors to the Syrian nation because they are killing the Syrian people. THE ASSAD REGIME IS NOT SYRIA! What part of that don't you cowards understand?

      August 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  12. ali

    bashar alassad is criminal like his father and his uncle and he is going in his father steps

    August 23, 2011 at 8:22 am | Reply
  13. Nour

    I love president Bashar Al Assad

    August 31, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  14. 2011cnn2011

    I hope the Syrian people do to that assad, what his soldiers did to that poor animals!

    September 26, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Reply
  15. tony

    Syria never in the modern history seen an oppressive regime as such as this Alawite controled regime. Infact syria is occupied by the Alawites .They proved over the last 45 years that they have no nationalistic feeling for their country, they have ripped the resources of syria, promoted corruption to a very high level, retarded syrian society to the middle ages. President Hafez al Assad gave up Golan height to israel on a silver plate. There is no Alqiada or fanatic in syria.
    We urge the syrian Alawite to stop Bashar Assad and save their country from destruction it is time to do so

    October 5, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Reply
  16. tony

    To all of Assad supporters you are not helping him or helping your country. It is not too late, you have to stop this killing machine and save your country from destruction. All minorities contributed to the well being of syria through the history. The Arab christians enlightened their countries and always are the link between the west and east. Christians have elevated syrian education, economy, culture and lived with muslims for thousands of years.

    October 5, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  17. tony

    To all Alawite ...Syria is for all. Wake up it is not TOO late. Put stop to the destruction of syria, learn from Rawanda, somalia and Iraq....DO NOT FORGET YOUR HISTORICAL PATRIARC SALEH AL ALI. ASSAD REGIME is not your choice.
    Learn from america the melting pot.

    October 5, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Reply

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