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Tuesday, January 18, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Report: Syria would suppress a Tunisia-like revolt

LONDON — Syria is prepared for a revolt of the kind recently seen in Tunisia.


A leading U.S. Web site on Syria asserted that Syrian President Bashar Assad would not lose the support of the military and security forces in any confrontation with the opposition. The SyriaComment Web site said Assad, unlike Tunisian President Zine Ali Abidine Bin Ali, would order his troops to fire on demonstrators.

"Syria is unlikely to follow along the path of Tunisia toward popular revolution," Joshua Landis, a U.S. professor, said in an analysis. "The Syrian intelligence and military forces will shoot and stand by the president."

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Landis cited Assad and the Alawi minority in Syria, which comprises about 10 percent of the population, Middle East Newsline reported. The analysis said Assad was expected to retain Alawite support as well as that of the Sunni elite.

"Tunisia is a religiously homogeneous country unlike Syria," the analysis said. "In Syria, because the military elite is dominated by the Alawite minority, it is unlikely to split."

The Sunni majority in Syria was said to have been concerned by civil war in neighboring Iraq and Lebanon. Landis said the fear of civil war marks the "greatest legitimizer or bulwark of authoritarianism in Syria."

"The people have been chastened by watching the years of sectarian agony that the people of Lebanon and Iraq have suffered due to state collapse," Landis said.

Still, Tunisia could be a model in the Arab world should it turn democratic. Landis, however, stressed that the Arab world has failed to produce a democratic government.

"So far, the Arab world has failed to produce a model of democratic success," the analysis said. "If Tunisia turns into a successful model of Democratic success, it will embolden the forces of change and opposition parties throughout the Middle East."

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