Thursday, April 13, 2017

The popularity of Assad.

When Assad did stand for reelection in 2014, after 14 years of unopposed rule, in a contested election that was judged "free, fair, and transparent" by an international commission of observers, headed by Jimmy Carter--Assad won 88% of the vote if such a thing is possible. That's 3 percentage points higher than Putin's highest point of genuine popularity. Could it be?

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The neocons were shocked (Like the "liberated" Iraqis not greeting our invading forces in 2003 with flowers.) But Assad's popularity is really not so hard to fathom. For while both he and his father, Hafez al-Assad, did rule as dictators--even brutal dictators at times--they were also "enlightened" dictators in the sense that they well understood that even dictators ultimately only govern with the consent of the governed; and that it was therefore in their interest to respect the rights, especially the religious rights, of all of their citizens, while simultaneously emphasizing the unifying feeling and concept of a shared secular identity among their citizens as "Arabs" and more specifically "Syrians."[1]

[1] Don't Blame Assad for Syrian Gas Attack Yet." By Dr. William Wedin, Russia Insider, 4/8/17.

1 comment:

Reg T said...

Also, was not Syria, under Assad, one of the few places in the Middle East where Christians were able to live without being attacked and driven out or murdered en masse? (Before the advent of ISIS and the rebels, anyway.) If that is true, that works in Assad's favor, as well.

Scott Adams wrote an article on this, stating that he did not think the notion of Assad using sarin on the rebels - let alone civilians - passed the "sniff test". I agree with him. Assad had nothing to gain, and a lot to lose in the way of both PR and the goodwill of those of his people who still felt they were better off with him than with the muslim Brotherhood.