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Political Factors Syria has a political system that is not democratic, and all power lies in the hands

of the president Bashar al-Assad. There are popular elections to the People's Assembly every 4 years. The by far largest group in this assembly is the National Progressive Front, which is led by the Ba'th Party. Assad holds total control over Syria through being in command of the Ba'th Party.Syria's constitution was introduced in 1973, and describes the country as democratic, popular and socialist. According to the constitution, only a Muslim can be president. The only groups allowed into Syrian politics are the socialists, the communists and the panarabists.Islamists have been strongly suppressed in the past, and remain outlawed. Following the death of long-time president Hafez al-Assad, and the takeover of his son, there have been some lifting on restrictions in Syria. Some political prisoners have been released from jail, and Assad has taken initiatives to ease control over both economy and information technology. It seems that Bashar al-Assad will remain in power for the moment once the icons of the old guard who are impeding the execution of the American reforms are removed together with the security teams whose hands are tainted with the blood of the demonstrators and once the unilateral dominion of the ruling Baath party is terminated, even if it led to its dissolution. The statements of the US and Western officials, as well as the Turkish and Arab officials, indicate that they support a domestic solution. There is hardly any mention of Bashar AlAssads removal. In addition to the US President Obamas reluctance to address the removal of Bashar Al-Assad, the State Departments spokesperson Mark Toner had commented on Bashar Al-Assads second speech by saying that it "fell short with respect to the kinds of reforms that the Syrian people demanded. The Turkish foreign minister Ahmed Dawood Oglu for his part was quoted by the Anatolia Press Agency as saying that his country rejected any foreign intervention in Syria and believed that the continued popular uprising in that country ought to be resolved domestically. Furthermore, the Emir of Qatar Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani was quoted as saying by al-Safir newspaper during his visit to Paris: There is talk about imposing sanctions, but we support a solution that emanates from within the Syrian household and fulfils the aspirations of the Syrian people. Bashar Al-Assad was also

excepted from the recent European sanctions which included 13 Syrian personalities from the ruling elite in Damascus. What is remarkable is the release of a communiqu on 18 April 2011by the International Union of Muslim Scholars headed by Yusuf al-Qaradawi in which Bashar Al-Assad was urged to assume immediately the process of changing the constitution, granting more freedoms and fulfilling all the demands of the masses. The Union condemned strongly the acts of torture, humiliation and killing of peaceful demonstrators; it even called on the heroic Syrian army to protect the peaceful demonstrators from the oppressive security teams who terrorise the Syrian people. The Union stressed that accusing the demonstrators of collaboration and of having links with foreign powers, and attempting to suppress them by labelling them as a foreign conspiracy would not fool anyone in our world today; the demonstrations today express the conscience of the people. The Union concluded its communiqu by saying that Syrias position as a frontline in the face of the Zionist enemy does not absolve her rulers from achieving the aspirations of the masses and their freedoms, and from removing oppression and despotism. In fact, most of the Arab and Islamic lands were occupied while under oppression, dictatorship and the one-party rule or the supreme leader. One can observe that the communiqu did not call on Bashar Al-Assad to step down. Besides, al-Qaradawi, who had called on Zein al-Abideen and Mubarak to step down, and who issued a fatwa legitimising the killing of Gaddafi, did not urge Bashar Al-Assad to step down and did not issue a fatwa endorsing his killing. Moreover, the statements made by most of the opposition leaders in Syria and abroad focused on calling for reforms, even if Bashar Al-Assad remained in power. It has also transpired that Anas al-Abdeh, one of the icons of the Syrian opposition in exile, who attended the Istanbul conference had been accused of liaising with the Americans and that their satellite channel Barada, as well as their other activities had been bankrolled by America to the tune of $6 million. Bashar Al-Assad, who senses that America has not dropped him, realises the size of the opposition forces in Syria and is nowadays banking on rough treatment and scaring the masses with the threat of civil strife and division; at the same time, he expresses his willingness to execute the required reforms. The Syrian regime initiated in the past few days an invitation for a national dialogue through which the regime would probably adopt most of the oppositions demands and demonstrate its seriousness to execute them.

The masses in Syria, who yearn for getting rid of the rule of Al-Assad and his Alawite sect and the majority of whom were hesitant in joining the protests, realise that the influential forces within the army are in the hands of Bashar Al-Assad and his Alawite sect; they fear a Libyan-style domestic strife and the probability of the regime resorting to perpetrating massacres as it did in the past; a precedent which has not been erased from their memory yet. Hence, it would not be odd for them to seek excuses for the opposition forces inability to settle the issue of the regime as was the case in Egypt and Tunisia; they would understand the oppositions acceptance of a heavy dose of the so-called reforms in exchange for maintaining Bashar Al-Assad in power. It seems that the American calculations for change in Syria will be confined to introducing what she refers to as reforms, which if achieved, would lead to transforming the image of the regime and to paving the way for removing Al-Assad from power subsequently. Otherwise, the collapse of the current Syrian regime would be resounding and would probably leave a catalogue of problems which would be hard to contain in a short period of time. This would jeopardise the card with which a sizeable chunk of the Israeli mainstream public opinion is pressurised; this card is represented by the alliance between Hezbollah and Syria, both of whom are both backed by Iran. The collapse of the regime in Syria would also have a knockon-effect on Turkey, who the Americans use as another card to exert pressure on Israel. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed recently his countrys aversion to seeing a divided Syria, stressing that this could harm Turkey. The move towards domestic reconciliation has been corroborated by the press reports on the talk of efforts to form a public delegation representing the various Syrian provinces to visit the city of Deraa, offer condolences for those who lost their lives and initiate reconciliation.

Economic Factors