2012. 02. 16.
I think we can all agree that what is happening in Syria - the use of force against political demands - is unacceptable and deplorable. The question in my mind, though, is why the resistance to change of any kind on the part of Syria's rulers is so obstinate. The Assad regime has offered not a single meaningful concession to the social forces demanding change.
This requires an explanation that few of the assessments have so far offered. It is a mistake to see Syria as a unified society. Far from it, it is wholly segmented, with five major groups living side by side. The group that has monopolised power are the Alewites, and within that, Assad's own extended family system. The Alewites have co-opted the Druze, the Christians and the Shi'a; taken together, they make up about 30 percent of the population. The majority, at the heart of the anti-Assad movement, are the Sunni Muslims, who have been largely excluded from power and its benefits by Assad.
The fear of the ruling establishment is that a simple majority system would put power in the hands of the Sunni majority, with no guarantees that other groups would be included in a future regime run by the Sunnis. Any settlement, if it is to work, must take these factors into account, otherwise the fighting and the killing will go on, because neither side will see any benefit from a settlement. International guarantees for the security and well-being of Syria's minorities are essential if a settlement is to last.