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Middle East Policy: Why the Assad Regime is Likely to Survive to 2013

Author: Joshua Landis, codirector, Center of Peace Studies, University of Oklahoma
February 23, 2012

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In an essay for the Middle East Policy journal, Dr. Joshua Landis examines the Syrian uprising of 2011 and predicts Bashar al-Assad's regime's prolonged survival despite its growing isolation and struggling economy.

Will President Bashar al-Assad make it to 2013? Chances are he will. Despite his regime's rapid loss of legitimacy, its growing isolation and tanking economy, no countervailing force has yet emerged that can take it down.

Many opposition and foreign leaders are predicting that the regime will fall within months. Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Riad al-Shaqfa stated that Bashar would fall "in the next few months."1The U.S. State Department has called President Assad a "dead man walking." Israel's defense minister has insisted that Asad will fall in a matter of weeks. Certainly, the revolutionary process that began to sweep the Middle East a year ago is powerful; most Syrians want change, and many are willing to fight for freedom and dignity. One cannot envision the Assad family retaining power in the long run; all the same, predictions of its rapid demise may be wishful thinking.

Four elements are important in assessing the regime's chances of surviving to 2013: its own strengths, the opposition's weaknesses, the chances of foreign intervention, and the impact of sanctions and economic decline.

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