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Has Syria won?

December 5th, 2009 · No Comments · Politics

The Economist sums up Bashar Al-Assad’s first ten years in power. Its conclusion: Syria has won. It has surmounted some apparently impossible challenges and come out on top.

Apparently on the brink of regime change in 2004/2005, a string of international leaders now pay visits to Damascus. Rather than swinging Syria into the ‘moderate’ camp, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have come around to Syria’s way of thinking.

Economically, the article heaps praise on Abdullah Dardari, the deputy prime minister for economic affairs. It says businesses are being set up at an incredible rate, banks are raking in the profits as is the Four Seasons. It praises Dardari for cutting taxes and import duties (which were often evaded) in return for cutting costly state subsidies.

The situation has turned around so dramatically that Syria is no longer begging for an Association Agreement with the EU – it is wondering whether it even needs to sign the deal which Brussels is belatedly offering.

On politics, Syria is said to be more liberal than ten years ago. “Although Syrians whisper about palace intrigues and bumps in the night, a striking number reckon silence is a reasonable price to pay for stability. Punishment is harsh but at least the rules are clear. Syrian society is as complex in sectarian make-up as neighbouring Lebanon and Iraq. With the exception of the Kurds, Syria’s minorities enjoy a sense of security envied elsewhere in the region.”

On foreign policy, Syria has regained its cards: on Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and the Golan Heights, the article claims.

“In the capitals of America’s Arab allies, a sense is growing that, in the light of the persistent stalemate between the Palestinians and Israel, stubbornly bloody-minded Syria has been canny all along.”

Read it in full here.


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