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Policy Analysis 16 February, 2012

The positions of the Syrian opposition toward the central Arab causes

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The Unit for Political Studies

The Unit for Political Studies is the Center’s department dedicated to the study of the region’s most pressing current affairs. An integral and vital part of the ACRPS’ activities, it offers academically rigorous analysis on issues that are relevant and useful to the public, academics and policy-makers of the Arab region and beyond. The Unit for Policy Studies draws on the collaborative efforts of a number of scholars based within and outside the ACRPS. It produces three of the Center’s publication series: Situation Assessment, Policy Analysis, and Case Analysis reports. 


The Syrian revolt resembles other Arab revolutions in that the slogans and the political literature of the popular protest movement did not engage with the larger nationalist causes, and remained limited to the immediate political demands, which were manifested in the questions of freedom and democracy. In fact, nothing was puzzling about the Arab revolutionary movement keeping away from the crucial national questions, for revolution as a rule is a revolt against despotism, and it naturally tends to focus on that issue and to devote all energies to bringing down the regime. Furthermore, the social movement itself resists the dispersal of its energies throughout various causes aside from the central one, whether they were crucial questions or not. Unlike the situation of Tunisia and Egypt at the eve of the revolution, public opinion trends in Syria disagreed with the regime socially and politically and on the level of development and freedoms, but not on questions of Syrian foreign policy, and especially the posture in the Arab-Israeli conflict and the regime's support for the Arab resistance movement (Hizbollah and Hamas). Thus, many Arab analysts interpreted the delay of the raising of slogans calling for the fall of the regime in Syria, compared to the quick adoption of such slogans in Egypt and Tunisia, to the popular approval of the regime's foreign policy. On this level, popular criticism against the Syrian regime focused on its excessive pragmatism in the relationship with the United States, and the persistent attempts to convince the US of the regime's strategic importance, even if such attempts led to the disregard of people's security and lives and well being. On the same front, the regime is also criticized for intervening in the war against Iraq on the side of the US forces -during the war for the liberation of Kuwait- the regime's shelling of the Tel al-Za'tar Palestinian camp in Lebanon and sponsoring the war of the camps, and even its stance toward the Lebanese resistance in some stages -before the regime decided to fully commit to its support. These issues were the major points of contestation among the Syrian and Arab public opinion vis-à-vis the regime's foreign policy, and not the regime's commitment to the Arab causes and its rejection of submitting to American dictates. 

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