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Unrest spreads to Syria

Published Friday, June 10, 2011

This note looks at the background to the recent unrest in Syria and analyses briefly the threats to the regime and its sources of strength, and the position of western governments towards the regime.

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• Violence is increasing in Syria as the uprising refuses to be put down and the government opts for brutal repression as the best way to handle it

• Western governments at first refrained from imposing sanctions personally on Bashar al-Assad in the hope that he could be coaxed towards choosing to open up the political system

• These hopes are fading fast and sanctions have now been imposed by both the US and the EU on Assad and members of his family

• The regime may last only as long as the armed forces remain loyal

• Syria has deep religious divisions; the Sunni Islamic majority resents rule by the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shia Islam

• Both the west and Syria’s neighbours fear the consequences of a collapse of the regime, given Syria’s strategic location bordering Iraq, Lebanon and Israel and the Assad regime’s friendly relations with Iran.

Commons Briefing papers SN05928

Author: Ben Smith

Topics: International politics and government, Middle East

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