Friday, December 18, 2009

When is a dictator not a dictator?

Bashar al-Assad leads an authoritarian regime, but the workings of power in a country such as Syria are surprisingly complex

Brian Whitaker, Friday 18 December 2009

".....This was echoed by a foreign official who has worked closely with the regime and is quoted in the ICG report as saying:

In dealing with Syria we always need to ask ourselves, 'Are they reluctant to do this or simply can't they do it?' … We should not take any promise as a given, if only because many are beyond their capacity. This is a systemic problem. Syria is an authoritarian system of a particular kind, in which the ruler isn't necessarily obeyed. Besides, the system is largely inefficient. People step on each other's toes; institutions lack capacity; and things are disorganised.

And even when the president speaks, it's difficult to know whether he's telling people what he really thinks or what he thinks they want to hear. A Turkish official interviewed by the ICG said: "Bashar has two lines of speech, one for the region and one for the west. He doesn't say the same thing on BBC and al-Jazeera. It's double-talk. Here [in the Middle East] it is acceptable. His interlocutors must understand this is not unusual in the region. Americans might think it devious. He sees it as being polite"."

No comments: