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How did Syria Become Without a Revolution and Without a Regime?

Omar Kaddour writes in al-Modon that while the current regime cannot run a competent dictatorship, the remaining forces cannot be integrated into any settlement.
How did Syria Become Without a Revolution and Without a Regime?

As we mark the anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian revolution, we can expect to hear from many who remain committed to its ideals and proclaim that the revolution lives on. The cliché that “revolution is an idea and ideas do not die” is one that we have encountered repeatedly, and it continues to resonate today.

Some of Assad’s remaining supporters may argue that the revolution failed and ended with evidence of his continued presidency. According to this line of thinking, the ongoing catastrophe in areas controlled by Assad is an acceptable price to pay for his survival.

Bashar al-Assad has frequently portrayed himself as the president of only a portion of Syrians. Since the start of the revolution, his media has signalled a narrow sectarian meaning that has gradually been expanded to present him as a protector of minorities. In a well-known speech, he even boasted that the areas under his control had become more harmonious after the extermination and displacement of millions. It is unnecessary to mention his collaboration with Iranians and their militias, and later the Russians, which further highlights his lack of patriotism. The latter was made clear when he expressed joy in eliminating about half of the Syrian population.

Should we be prepared for the inevitable counter-question: is your “revolution” any better off than the current situation? The realistic answer may very well be a resounding “no,” as the revolution has followed a similar path to that of Assad. We do not even need to reference the subservience of the revolution’s spokespersons to external forces or the fact that all remaining military factions are subordinate to Turkey. The evidence that the revolution has lost sight of its national objectives can be seen in those who claim to be the most committed to its cause. Their discourse, whether “Sunni” Islamic or Arab nationalist, is nearly indistinguishable from the Baath, save for sectarian differences.

Over the years, we have seen individuals defending groups such as the Army of Islam, whose leader publicly speaks out against democracy. Today, we continue to see individuals openly or implicitly defending al-Julani under various pretexts.  

There are three major local forces in Syria, but there is no equality between them, and none of them offers a national discourse that can bridge the current division. Undoubtedly, Assad’s regime bears the greatest responsibility for what has happened in Syria, from causing the revolution as an inevitable explosion to the displacement and extermination of Syrians, bringing in occupation forces and exposing the people to famine. However, even when we consider the other two powers, with their differences aside, neither provides a model that offers hope to the Syrian public regarding behaviour or discourse. 

As we mark the twelfth anniversary of the revolution, it is becoming increasingly evident that the current regime cannot run a competent dictatorship if such a thing is possible. The remaining bodies and forces of the revolution are dishearteningly inept. There seems to be little hope that they can be integrated into any settlement that could lead to a functioning system. The three dominant powers in Syria are ultimately forces of division. At the same time, the international community continues to treat Syria as a theoretically united entity, as if external actors can compensate for the lack of a cohesive national discourse.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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