Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Syria: the point of no return

The battle between President Assad's regime and the Free Syrian Army is a life-or-death struggle. But whatever its outcome, this is a civil war being fought on a faultline that threatens the entire Middle East

Martin Chulov, Wednesday 29 August 2012

"When power starts to shift in the Middle East, its people have long known what to expect. Challenges to authority have rarely been met with a promise of consensus or inclusion. Strong-arm suppression – the more forceful the better – has been the default reaction to dissent. The price has usually been brutal.

Syrians who wanted an end to regime dominance knew the rules when they started demanding changes in the region's most uncompromising police state in March last year. Now, 18 months and more than 23,000 bodies later, and with no end in sight to the chaos ravaging the country, their worst fears are being realised on a scale that continues both to horrify and numb.

And yet, the events of the past 18 months have shattered one of the abiding guidelines to life under totalitarian rule – that absolute power is uncontestable. If anything has so far been achieved through the bedlam now rumbling through Syria and indeed other parts of the Arab world, it is a new reality: the power of the street has exposed the fragility of authority......

....A realignment of power appears to be top of the wish list for many fighters and residents alike in Syria's opposition strongholds. But such a shift will not be contained within Syria's borders – a fact that is causing increasing alarm outside the country and fuelling fears that changes more profound than anything since the fall of the Ottomans are starting to take place in the Middle East.....

In dozens of conversations the Guardian has had with Syrians in recent months – some diehard regime backers and others just as deeply committed to the opposition cause – a clear sense has emerged that the popular uprising that started it all in the southern city of Deraa has been dwarfed by something far more significant......"

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