|Quoting Sv7887 (Reply 8):
What is the social situation in Syria? Is there widespread discontent with the regime like there is in Iran?
Basically yes-there is widespread miscontent about many limiting factors in daily life and freedom of speech is obviously not the top priority.
One major difference though with Iran-the position of women in Syria is much easier than in Iran-the country is fully secular and no women is obliged to wear a scarf.Once you attend a marriage in Damascus in one of the big Hotels (Sheraton ,Meridien ) you will be stunned by the amount of alcohol consumed and the show-off of the deepest decoltées for the women..
The country was ruled for 40 years by a Baat'h party system which looked like a Pan-arab socialist phantasy.Bashir's father ruled with an irons fist and his main-enemy were obviously the Israelis but also elements within Syria who dared to show thirst for change.
Bashir is a different breed -and the choice of his very intelligent and attractive secular wife (educated in UK and in Wall-street as investment banker ) should give some insight in the man's thinking.
He has problems from several sides-he needs to get back the Golan,which he is short of succeeding through his peace-talks with Israel.He has no dogmatic barrier to deal with the Israelis and relations between the two counties could normalize relatively fast.
His main problem though are old Baat'h party and military officers who have not changed with the world's evolution and still remain in cold-war theories.There is a complex system of civil and military secret services,and rogue parts of those people had indeed their fingers in dirty action in Lebanon.I do not think Assad ordered the assasination of hariri though-it was to clear for him he had nothing to gain from such a stupid act other than international discontent and isolation.
Other issue is the countries relation with Iran,which Assad is prepared to loosen considerably once the Golan is back in Syrian hands.While Syria wants access to civil nuclear technology,Assad is not seeking nuclear weapons technology.
Syria has quite good relations with Turkey,and Assad is currently making holidays in Turkey's sea-resort of Bodrum with his wife.( where he met Erdogan yesterday for further consolidation of peace-talks with Israel.)
Syrians don't live in worse conditions than say the average Egyptian ,Algerian or Moroccan,-trafic jams in cities demonstrate a certain wealth of the middle-class and there are quite wealthy Syrians who invest abroad.Most average-class Syrian's though are more concerned by consumer-goods,housing and everiday life issues.
There are still quite a number of opponents to Assad either in jail or in closed residence,but that number is decreasing by the months.
Life has changed nevertheless considerably as compared to ten years ago and freedom of press might just be around the corner,once the orientation towards the West has gained momentum.
In overall,a country just ahead of important strategic changes with a troubled political past,but apparently with a leader that will implement his modern ideas and changes to the better.
[Edited 2008-08-05 23:30:00]
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