Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad, kept Syria stable for 40 years through Machiavellian guile and ruthlessness, while sowing havoc elsewhere in the region.
How have authoritarian regimes remained in control so long in the Middle East? In Syria's case, a critical factor is the concentration of power in a single family, political party, and religious sect.
Many thought that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was at heart a reformer. But his response to unprecedented protests and violence suggest otherwise.
The Syrian cabinet on Tuesday passed legislation lifting nearly five decades of emergency rule. The concession may embolden protesters to demand greater reforms.
Hours after the Syrian government classified the protests as an 'armed insurrection,' Syrian forces used live bullets and tear gas on protesters camping out in Homs' main square.
At least 12 protesters were reportedly killed today in demonstrations across Syria, where greater instability could alter the balance of power in the Middle East.
The concept of emergency rule has been at the forefront of much of the Mideast unrest. Some countries have been in a “state of emergency” for decades, long after their citizens felt any threat still existed. Others have only recently implemented the emergency laws, in an effort to quell uprisings turned too large and violent for the governments to rein in. Although meant to help a country in times of danger, emergency law has sometimes been turned into a political tool.
In a long-awaited speech to the nation following multiple deadly protests this past week, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad failed to announce concrete changes or meet any of the protesters' expectations.
Elsewhere in Syria, anti-government protesters torched a police station and tore down a statue of the former President Hafez Assad, father of current President Bashar Assad.