Saturday, March 26, 2011

Syria needs a military coup and Turkish-style democracy

The popular uprising in Syria will spiral out of control and rivers of blood will flow unless Assad's brothers and cousins are stripped of their powers immediately and put under house arrest and the army is deployed in force in all the main population centres.

That of course is pure fantasy. Assad is too weak among his clan; the higher echelons of the armed forces have been corrupted or rendered powerless under the watchful eyes of military intelligence. Some have been compromised through Iranian indoctrination and infiltration. The arrival of two Iranian warships at the port of Latakia on 25 February, in the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprising, was probably no coincidence.

The current war of attrition between the regime's special units and the demonstrators can only escalate. Empty promises of reform, official media lies and the shooting of unarmed civilians will simply inflame public anger and lead to the destruction of property and violent acts of revenge.

There is no credible force in Syria except the army. Patriotic officers cannot however mobilise their units until the regime begins to implode and its intelligence networks start to break down through widespread public revolt.

Deploying the army in population centres now can give Assad breathing space to lift the state of emergency and proceed quickly with implementing real democratic multi-party reforms, leading to a new constitution. Unfortunately, this looks highly unlikely as the regime has always been fearful of a military coup and Assad does not seem able to prevail over his uncompromising and greedy clan (most of whom have already secured their families' future for decades ahead by amassing vast international fortunes and obtaining foreign passports).

The road to a truly representative, civilian and non-sectarian government in Syria will be traumatic and tortuous. Such a government will not see the light of day or survive for long without the protection of an uncompromised and patriotic army. Turkey provides a good government model for Syria but sadly much blood will be spilled before the country emerges from the dark age of dictatorship and endemic corruption.

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