Still brushing up on the system that Thomas Friedman famously described as "Hama Rules" ? Anton La Guardia looks at Syria's immediate prospects in today's Telegraph. If you want a scene-setter, The Atlantic is re-running a Robert Kaplan essay, "Syria: Identity Crisis", first published in 1993 (subscriber-only). Interesting to see the subject viewed through a pre-9/11 prism - and to be reminded that Syria did indeed experiment with democracy in the post-WW2 era, before the Baathists imposed their own brutal order. Kaplan couldn't help wondering how Assad Snr managed to stay in power for so long against the odds:

It is still more impressive when one realizes that he belongs to Syria's most-hated ethnic group—the group that has historically been suspected by other Syrians of sympathizing with the French, the Christians, and even the Jews. Daniel Pipes, a Middle East historian, writes in Greater Syria, "An Alawi ruling Syria is like an untouchable becoming maharajah in India or a Jew becoming tsar in Russia—an unprecedented development shocking to the majority population which had monopolized power for so many centuries."

|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/03/syria-foreground-background-still.html|||3/14/2005 09:57:00 am|||||||||