Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The dynamics of al-Assad’s rule | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In the world of management and business schools, it is always advisable to admire and appreciate specific names or companies that have done well and outperformed others, as they can often provide important and distinctive examples. Among the most important management success stories are those of Jack Welch, the former head of “General Electric”, and the much revered and remarkable story of the late founder of “Apple”, Steve Jobs. However, governments and political movements also have their own distinctive management styles and approaches, which distinguish them from their counterparts.

Here the regime of Bashar al-Assad – and before him his father Hafez al-Assad – and its management of affairs in Syria, is worthy of further study in order to examine how a state of relentless panic was created, serving to consecrate the ruling family and sect at any cost, and for the longest possible time.

The al-Assad regime’s rule has been primarily based on occupying public opinion with beautiful and idealistic – but vague – slogans. The regime’s ideologues were busy for years and decades polluting the minds of generations with principles, objectives, rules and fundamentals that were disseminated in seminars, conferences and books, and likewise in official decisions and speeches, but were nothing more than a form of cheap nonsense. The people were preoccupied with socialism at times, and nationalism and unity at others, all of which are slogans of the Arab Socialist Baath Party.

The rulers of the al-Assad regime have also been characterized by a devastating, evil thought process. They sold and promoted the idea that they were patrons of a “first-hand” confrontation, resistance and opposition against the Zionist, imperialist enemy. They were skilled and proficient in removing anyone who opposed them, and pursued the nationalist, Arabist doctrine relentlessly. They adopted support for “resistance” factions, parties and movements, whilst Syria’s borders with Israel and the occupied Golan Heights remained safe and secure without even the slightest inconvenience. In reality, the regime’s rulers were closer to the resorts of Hawaii and the Caribbean Sea, rather than standing in the firing line and fighting for their occupied regions.

At the heart of the regime’s method of dealing with those who oppose it is the “Shabiha”, a name which has become widely known with the recent events of the Syrian revolution, but in fact this approach has been in place since the regime’s outset. The al-Assad regime recruited trumpets within the Arab media, or MPs in other Arab parliaments, for the purpose of “slander and propaganda”, defaming the political opponents of the regime. If this did not have the desired effect, the next option would be to resort to physical harm, starting with threats or instances of pain and mutilation, and often ending with horrific deaths.

The regime excelled in using the Shabiha in all sectors and areas, employing politicians, businessmen, traders, artists and athletes, each with their particular weight, and each imposing their distinctive influence in their respective fields. Over time, al-Assad’s maneuvers were no longer confined to the limits of Syria alone, but moved to neighboring countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Turkey, Egypt and some Gulf states. Each of these states has suffered in different ways and tasted the bitter result of Syria’s cross-border convulsions. This explains the reluctance and fear of some of these countries when it comes to frankly and openly declaring their support for the Syrian revolution. For example, the al-Assad regime has continuously maintained a spillover threat towards Jordan, where suspicious demonstrations have recently taken place, seemingly protesting against the Jordanian intelligence services and orchestrated by bodies affiliated to the Syrian regime. The same goes for Lebanon which has been completely invaded by Syrian cross-border convulsions, penetrating both the government and the parliament. In Turkey, there is clear concern and fear of Syria infiltrating the upper classes, using them to spark unrest in favor of al-Assad, and as a means to alleviate Turkish pressure on the Syrian regime.

There is also a clear mobilization of some Kurdish movements inside Turkey through acts of terrorism, thus undermining the Turkish citizens’ confidence in Erdogan’s ability to protect the country’s stability after a relatively positive period of managing the Kurdish issue.

The spillover threat is one of the al-Assad regime’s most heinous tactics, and righteous voices around the world are in agreement about the need to prevent it, not only in the interests of the Syrian people, but also because it is a scourge upon all humanity.