Al-Assad hangs on by ruthlessness, reformist image
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pictured in 2008.
February 7th, 2012
03:43 PM ET

Al-Assad hangs on by ruthlessness, reformist image

By Joe Sterling, CNN

When the Tunisian revolt erupted last year, Tunisia's president fled power in weeks. When Egyptians took to the streets, longtime leader Hosni Mubarak was swiftly ousted as well.

In Libya, it took about seven months for rebels to topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi. And in Yemen, sustained anti-government protests eventually led to the departure from power of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

But Bashar al-Assad, the president of embattled Syria, is a survivor.

He's remained ensconced in power despite an 11-month popular uprising, a bloody government crackdown against civilians, and world outrage at the tales and videos filtering out of Syria.

Observers say he's been able to stay in power with a combination of regime ruthlessness, diplomatic subterfuge, and internal sectarian dynamics.

Rafif Jouejati, spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees, the Syrian opposition group, said that when al-Assad came to power in 2000, he inherited a Soviet-style intelligence network erected by his father, Hafez Assad, who ruled from the early 1970s till his death in 2000.

That spider web of agencies has served to control popular discontent, she said.

"He has a network within a network within a network of intelligence services."

Al-Assad has continued what she calls "the family tradition." The repression has generated the widespread fear "embedded in day-to-day life" among the populace.

"He didn't come up with this himself. This came from his father," she said.

"In Syria, there are dozens of Mukhabarat-types of agencies that spy on one another," she said, using an Arabic term for intelligence agencies.

"In families, one doesn't know if one's sibling is an informant."

Jouejati said Hafez Assad was able to strike a deal with business elites 30 years ago during popular tumult then.

"That's been an important factor" and "up until recently" Bashar al-Assad has had the support of the business community.

She compares the current president to Germany's Adolf Hitler and Cambodia's Pol Pot. And she likens regimes in Haiti and North Korea, where sons inherited power from their fathers, to al-Assad's Baathist regime.

"He's got a whole group around him, many of whom are from the old guard and they keep the pressure going," with "Soviet-style tactics that other repressive regimes have used."

"They are raising the level the violence," she said.

She said al-Assad staked out his position "at a time when the world is sort of getting smaller and everybody is more aware of human rights and individual rights and governments are pushing people for more transparency."

He missed a "tremendous opportunity" to work for that kind of change in his own country, she said.

Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he thinks al-Assad has been more brutal than Mubarak and Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

"He's been willing to use live fire extensively," he said. "He's just ruthless."

And in a reference to world and regional powers, Tabler said "very simply we have not been ruthless with him."

There has long been sectarian strife in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, where there are Sunni-Shiite as well as Muslim-Christian animosities, among others. Syria's diverse sectarian dynamics buttress al-Assad, Tabler said.

Al-Assad is part of an Alawite minority in Syria, a largely Sunni nation. That minority - which he calls a heterodox offshoot of Shiite Islam - prevails in the government and military.

It and other Shiite offshoots, such as Druze and Ismailis, have made up the core of the regime. Christians represent another minority that has not largely been anti-regime and even some Sunnis have made their peace with the government.

During the 11-month crisis, there has been a lot of international engagement with the regime.

But Tabler said al-Assad has done "a very good job of confusing diplomats."

"That's his M.O.," he said. "He consistently lies and confounds people."

Read on here.

Post by:
Topics: Syria

soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. George Patton

    Don't count that Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh out just yet. He'll live in Saudi Arabia like a king while continuing to rule Yemen through his right hand man. These Islam Aristocrats never give up, especially if they have the West on their side!!!

    February 7, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    The author said, Bashar al Assad doesn't have the proficiency of his late father, Hafez. The latter was brutal but intelligent and his son were an idiot. Well, maybe Bashar al Assad is just a figurehead and at the bidding of his entourage, an old guard and remnants of his father's days, which makes up the core of this brutal regime. So getting rid of Bashar might not be the answer, by weakening the regime apparatus itself. Still Maher al-Assad, Bashar's brother is the keyfigure of the regime strenght, as he heads the feared security forces.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:15 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      please read: by weakening the regime apparatus itself could be one.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:17 am | Reply
    • Joe

      If you look at Assad's history and education he certainly isn't an idiot. Perhaps you were speaking figuratively.

      February 10, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Reply
  3. IRQI SHIIE3A, IRAN AND HIZBOALLAH SENDING MONEY AND WEAPONS TO SYRIA GOVERNEMTN

    وهم كل من :

    أ. المترجم التائب رقم ( 10) محافظة نينوى .

    ب. المترجم التائب رقم ( 15 ) محافظة بابل .

    ج‌. المترجم التائب رقم ( 20 ) محافظة التأميم .

    د. المترجم التائب رقم ( 50 ) محافظة بغداد .

    هـ. المترجمة التائبة رقم ( 75 ) محافظة بغداد .

    و. المترجمة التائبة رقم ( 100 ) محافظة بغداد .

    ز. المترجم التائب رقم ( 125 ) محافظة صلاح الدين .

    2. أرسل لي المترجم رقم ( 50 ) من محافظة بغداد معلومات خطيرة عن عملاء مزدوجين للقوات الأمريكية والإيرانية وموثقة بالوثائق والصور التي تثبت ذلك وهم :

    أ. العميل ( حسن سعيد حسن الكليدار ) مهنته ضابط شرطة متقاعد – محكوم سابق في زمن النظام السابق بتهمة مخلة بالشرف ( الرشوة والاختلاس ) لمدة سنين في سجن أبو غريب أثناء حكم النظام السابق .

    عمله الحالي – عميل مزدوج للاستخبارات الأمريكية والإيرانية .ويكلف الى الآن بمهمات استخباراتي داخل بغداد وخارجها وخارج العراق

    عنوانه : يسكن بغداد – الجهاد حي الأطباء

    ب. العميل ( أمرو ألقيس حسن سعيد الكليدار ) قضى حياته في السرقة والنصب والاحتيال – هارب من الخدمة العسكرية أيام النظام السابق – خدم كجندي في الجيش الأمريكي في فرقة الخيالة الثالثة – كان من ضمن الفرقة القتالية التي اقتحمت الفلوجة – أنتسب الى الجيش الأمريكي عام 2003 والى الآن .

    يعمل حاليا ضمن الاستخبارات الأمريكية في خدمة الجيش الأمريكي – عميل مزدوج للاستخبارات الأمريكية والإيرانية – ويكلف الى الآن بمهمات استخباراتية وقتالية داخل بغداد وخارجها وخارج العراق .

    – لديه ورشة تبريد لتغطية أعماله الإجرامية

    -عنوانه : يسكن بغداد – الجهاد حي الأطباء.

    ج. العميل ( مروان حسن سعيد حسن الكليدار ) خدم مترجم لقوات الاحتلال الأمريكي – أنتسب عن طريق أبوه ( حسن سعيد حسن الكليدار ) الى الاستخبارات الأمريكية عام 2004 – والآن منتسب الى الاستخبارات الأمريكية

    – يسكن بغداد – الجهاد حي الأطباء .

    د. صديق عائلة حسن سعيد حسن الكليدار العميل المزدوج ( مازن التميمي ) يسكن مدينة السماوة ويعمل معهم ويرافقه في كل شي وهو احد أعضاء المجلس الأعلى للثورة الإسلامية (فيلق بدر)

    د. صهر امرؤ ألقيس أي زوج بنت حسن سعيد واسمه العميل ( إبراهيم حربي إبراهيم القيسي ) وهو نائب ضابط سابق في الجيش العراقي ويعمل الآن مع القوات الأمريكية وقد نسبته القوات الأمريكية لحماية امن السفارة الألمانية وبعدها عمل في المنطقة الخضراء وكان يركب سيارة كولف حمراء .

    عنوانه : منطقة المنصور حاليا .

    3. إليكم الوثائق الموثقة بالصور أدناه للعملاء الجواسيس أعلاه ومعهم الكثير من العملاء العراقيين الذين باعوا دينهم وشرفهم للمحتل الكافر الأجنبي من الضباط والجنود الذين خدموا الاحتلال الأمريكي راجيا من أبناء العراق النشامى وفي حالة معرفة كل من يظهر في هذه الصور ان يزود المقاومة العراقية بأسمائهم ومناطق سكناهم او تزويد الشبكات والمواقع التي ستنشر هذه الاعترافات بأسمائهم وعناوين سكناهم وأية معلومات أخرى يعرفونها عنهم , والوثائق هي :

    • اسمه ( أمرو ألقيس حسن سعيد الكليدار ) قضى حياته في السرقة والنصب والاحتيال – هارب من الخدمة العسكرية أيام النظام السابق .

    • خدم كجندي في الجيش الأمريكي في فرقة الخيالة الثالثة

    • كان من ضمن الفرقة القتالية التي اقتحمت الفلوجة

    • أنتسب الى الجيش الأمريكي عام 2003.

    • يعمل حاليا ضمن الاستخبارات الأمريكية في خدمة الجيش الأمريكي .

    • عميل مزدوج للاستخبارات الأمريكية والإيرانية – ويكلف الآن بمهمات استخباراتية وقتالية داخل بغداد وخارجها وخارج العراق .

    • لديه ورشة تبريد في منطقة المنصور لتغطية أعماله الإجرامية .

    • يسكن بغداد – الجهاد حي الأطباء.

    والعميل الجاسوس : امرؤ ألقيس حسن سعيد حسن الكليدار : هو من مدينة سامراء ومن عائلة الكليدار التي تسكن المدينة وهي عائلة مشهورة بالالتزام الديني والتقيد بالعادات والتقاليد , نشأت هذا العميل في بغداد , والده شرطي واسمه حسن وهو معروف بسقوطه الأخلاقي وانحرافه وقد حكم عليه سابقا بالسجن (10)سنوات بتهمة الاغتصاب والرشوة وطرد من الخدمة .

    February 8, 2012 at 10:02 am | Reply
    • Thereik 1

      Whaat?

      February 8, 2012 at 10:57 am | Reply
    • Dan Bednarik

      I don't have time to learn arabic, but the scripting is actually pretty! Please convert to English for us American pig dogs.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Reply
      • BldrRepublican

        Speak for yourself, liberal appeaser

        February 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
      • Sandman

        Run it through translate.google.com. It has nothing to do with the story but is talking about Iraq

        February 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • izandroro

      i certainly hope that you have written about what asma was wearing.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:15 am | Reply
    • $$$

      this guy is cursing at us

      February 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Reply
    • Name required

      That's what she said...!

      February 10, 2012 at 6:25 am | Reply
  4. Allenwoll

    Drone him ! ! !

    February 8, 2012 at 10:51 am | Reply
    • sharno

      please

      February 10, 2012 at 6:46 am | Reply
    • Pretty Polly

      I promise you, he has weapons of mass distruction! a lot more than Saddam did. Actually Saddam didn't, anyway, GET RID OF THIS MONSTER!

      February 10, 2012 at 8:08 am | Reply
  5. honest abe

    so when the opposition arms themselves and attempts to overthrow their gov't... what gov't wouldnt fight back? the problem is that the rebels are getting their tails whipped and when they die – media calls them civilians. they are actually armed civilians engaging in a civil war. surprised more haven't died as of yet.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:59 am | Reply
    • bobsacomano

      Abe! The protests began peacefully and the hammer was brought down on them anyway. How long do you let the government fire on you before you take up arms to defend yourself?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Reply
  6. Dan Bednarik

    Simple solution for Assad that must apply to ALL of his generals - single bullet, fired transversely through the cranium. Last I checked, lead remains reasonably inexpensive.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  7. Pliny

    Hey Bashir! It's a shame you can't ask Qadaffi what the barrel of a gun tastes like (before they pull the trigger). You'll have to find out for yourself.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • mike halter

      May he rot in hell for killing Children.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:51 am | Reply
  8. Pliny

    The funny thing about this mess isn't the Russian/Chinese veto. You can depend on those dictators to screw up anything that will promote world progress (seeing as how they fear it will undermine their illegal hold on power).

    The funny thing is the arab/muslims. No matter what happens...the arab/muslims will continue to blame the USA for their problems. We could land the Marines on the shores of Syria, march them into Damascus, and videotape them putting a bullet thru Assad's brain...and the arab/muslims will still blame us for their failures (as a nation, as a religion, as a culture).

    February 8, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply
    • Visitor

      Very well said!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Reply
    • NorCalMojo

      We'd be back to being evil imperialists before his body even hit the ground.

      February 9, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Reply
    • debbie

      And the Syrians and the World think the Golan Heights, a very tiny piece of land, will be returned to them or taken back or a treaty made between Israel and this kind of government ? No way. Israell will hold its own against those intentional child/civilian killers and brutes. Pity this Syrian populace.

      February 10, 2012 at 9:34 am | Reply
  9. TCMSOLS

    Want a lesson in Soviet style psy-ops, the Turks are replacing a butcher with a hero and seek to take advantage of the regimes inter generational brainwashing of the youth win over the younger generation Assad, al-As'aad, children will not know the difference, a simple switch. But the difference free an fair elections, popular. He is the President which is why the Turks have him in cotton wool. Securing Turkeys long term interest in Syria.

    See the Turks were looking around for a way to increase their influence, reaching out to Syria, problems with Israel. So the uprising in Syria came along at a good time for them. And for Israel.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  10. mike halter

    Turkey needs to supply Tank killers to the Rebel's to give them a fighting chance .

    February 9, 2012 at 9:49 am | Reply
  11. Face

    He will be hanging... from a gas station light pole.. just like Mussolini. I wonder if he will be sodomized like Kadaffi was before he dies....

    February 9, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
  12. Observer

    I would like to ask Rafif what is the alternative? And how do you get to it and not turn into absolute chaos if not through dialogue? The regime is entrenched and will take time to change without throwing "the baby with the bath water". But Assad is trying and has reached out for dialogue. Why does the opposition reject dialogue even on neutral ground? It might even empower Assad to force the change on the establishment he interited.

    On the flip side if the armed thugs that follow the Saudi sponsored Jihadist A'rour continue down this path of trying to take streets from the government by force and terrorizing the people that do not share their view where does that leave the opposition that represents the just demands of the Syrian people for progress?

    The silent majority and the army do not want chaos and that goes some of the way in explaining why he holds on to his post beyond the sensational press view of Mukhabarat within Mukhabara.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:52 am | Reply
  13. Joink

    Obama can single-highhandedly get Osama but not Assad? Maybe he needs Bush to get it started so he can take credit for it. Does he have George's number?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Reply
    • $$$

      1. Syria is a country, Al-Queda was a terrorist organization
      2. Russians and Chinese didn't veto killing Bin Laden in the security council
      3. Bin Laden was the enemy of the United States, this guy is not, at least officially
      Do you get it now, m o r o n?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Reply
    • Ben10

      Hey yea lets get into another war! I hope they end up brining the draft back.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  14. Johnna

    Just a matter of time!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  15. ReBemol

    The U.S. / NATO want more Saudi and Qatari funded bloodshed and destruction for Syria and Russia wants stability and smooth transition with reforms ... Syrian people are still strong behind President Assad and reforms for the following reasons:

    – The opposition leaders have major disagreement among them on how to govern Syria and which countries to ally with.

    – Unlike many Arabic leaders, President Assad does not flip flop politically and hence provide political stability for his country and the neighboring countries.

    – President Assad can unite all the ethnically and religiously diverse people of Syria.

    – Syrians have witnessed the failed western democratization attempt of Iraq and the fate of its Christians, Egypt Islamist take-over and Libya Al-Qaeda takeover and became immune to the war propaganda machine.

    – The Muslim Brothers who have hijacked the reform process think that by using a fear campaign and an armed rebellion to remove Assad they can win the heart of Syrians ... They are failing miserably fortunately for the Syrians.

    U.S. / NATO want to support war fighting and chaos to either topple Assad and bring in the Islamists who have agreed to support their interests or continue the chaos until Syria is weaken and destroyed from within … The Russians and Chinese will not allow the U.S. / NATO plan to succeed …. It is a wrestling political match and it is hard to predict the winner or who is going to forfeit … I just hope that the super power nations will agree on one peaceful solution for Syria instead of letting this conflict become an ugly regional war that may lead to ww3.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Reply
    • Onel

      You honestly mean that if he didn't care, he wouldn't step down.

      Bashar Al-Asad is being completely idiotic here: If he wholeheartedly wanted to do what was best for HIS country, he would have respectfully resigned office.

      Rather; though, he seems to favor bloodshed of his own people.

      Syria has not been stable for a massive amount of time now. I'd know, as I have family in Syria, who fled the violence in Iraq to come to Syria.

      The solution is simple, and he chooses to stay in power. I hope you're not blinded by your anti-superpower motif going on here, but for people WHO ARE ACTUALLY INVOLVED AND AFFLICTED, I request that you keep your mouth shut. Not knowing my families situation at the current time is horrendous: Imagine your cousin, his wife and his 5 children, your grandmother and grandfather all inside some ticking time-bomb. You cannot speak to them, and haven't been able to speak to them in a year and a month now, and you just want to hear your family members voices... Over the phone, it doesn't really matter at this point, but what does is that they are safe.

      You're selfish and completely ignorant of the current situation and the amplitude to which it has come to.

      February 9, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Reply
  16. crowgan

    the population is 74% sunni and 12% alwai. there are 20 million people, so there are 14.8 million sunni. so far he has killed only 6,000. he can't kill them all. it is just a matter of time.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  17. hazem

    he will hang on when usa and eourp decide that and help syria as they support lybia and iraq but since no oil in syria so no one intrested about the people who been killing by alasad there so alaad survive

    February 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  18. Greg

    Fareed, you are the best pitch man the CIA ever had.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Reply
  19. luvcomments

    Exactly why are the US and other countries cowering, holding back, deserting these desperate people in Syria? So what if Russia and China don't agree to help them. Is it true that we only help suffering people if there's something in it for us, like oil? Pouff – there goes another American dream.

    February 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Reply
    • Onel

      The only oil in Syria belongs to the Kurdish regions, which share with their Iraqi/Turkish brethren, not Syria.

      We just got out of 1 war and are waiting for the termination of another in the same general area. More Western influence anywhere in the Middle East is not going to accomplish anything.

      February 9, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  20. b

    Only in power because of Iran. He's out, though, not convenient to keep him around. He's trying to dictating foreign interests and as such stands in the way of progress. You should never compromise with someone that stands in the way of your interests, and whom can't keep his own people under control. Plus his area has many things that benefit expanding western powers.

    He should be ousted ASAP. Otherwise it stands in the way of progress and money, resources, trade. Not beneficial for trading, for him to remain in power.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Reply
  21. b

    Oh, I forget, Putin will try to monopolize this area to further monopolize their interests.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  22. Hopefull

    This country was founded on freedom for all God's people, so why are we, the greatest Country in the world, cowering to what two Dictators are saying. If the want war, so be it they will find out who and what USA is all about. Their interest is only in what they are getting from the government of Syria, they could care less about the people, and they want the Syrian government to win that's why Russia supplying them with weapons. I trully believe that the USA should supply the opposition with weapons, and that the NATO countries supply other weapons like fighter jets. Lets see how those cowers react then. This is why the Russian people don't want Putin for President again and his hand picked henchman like the present President Medredev. I've always had the greatest respect for the Russian people, a great nation. Its their government who them selfs said it was invested with corruption. Are they not the government, you don't have to be a rocket sciencist to see the truth. I'm sure the Russian people will chose wisely on election day. God Bless Russia and the Russian people. Thank you.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Reply
  23. Mohammad A Dar

    Western hindus have no truth in them but hindu soul, desire like animals, Same Al wits were source for British criminal occupation of the area and tool to oppress innocent citizens of Syria, nothing new, hindu west is back to his old game to divide and rule, No one need and enemy if they have hindu friends of the west, snakes with split tongs. Trust a snake before one trusts a hindu of the western world, they a scorpions with the nature to sting.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Reply
  24. Michael

    Christians have not protested because he is good to the Christians. In fact most of the opposition is extremists Islamists who would massacre the christian immediately if they took over. Look what happened to the Armenian and Assyrian communities in Iraq. The only reason you don't hear about that, and are told to root for them, is because the current government is pro-Russian, and the opposition will be more pro-Israel and US. Most of the people being killed are armed islamic militants. It doesn't excuse al assad's violence, but he sure is better than the oppision.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:33 am | Reply
  25. Kenneth

    Assad is a dead man and the soon the better....the ass!!

    February 10, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply

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