Moogut Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: The impact of such a shift was evident even prior to the end of the reconsifering war. Although China is not part of the Middle East, it provides a worthwhile comparison in two ways. International Security 24, 2: Accessed March 22, A defected soldier would be received with open arms and enthusiasm. Skip to search form Skip to main content.

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Download PDF This content was written by a student and assessed as part of a university degree. The Syrian Uprising is indeed a puzzle. However, on March 25, , large demonstrations in Syria spread nation-wide. In response, President Bashar al-Assad mobilized his coercive apparatus and repressed against the protestors.

After months of repressive means against protestors, parts of the Syrian military left to join the opposition movement, which created the present situation in Syria, a civil war. For scholars of the Syrian Uprising, it is thus critical to ask two questions. First, what were the underlying factors that initially demanded an uprising in Syria?

Second, what factors explain why the Syrian Uprising has not yet been successful? This paper will argue that Syria had many of the socio-economic and political problems that were also found in Tunisia and Egypt, but that these factors alone cannot explain the uprising. Furthermore, this paper will attack the question of the lack of success in the Syrian Uprising by arguing that it is due to the patrimonial military organisation that the Syrian opposition has not yet succeeded in breaking the regime.

Part 1 1. The arrest served as a spark to a movement, much like the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi ignited the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and indeed the Arab Spring itself. These events clearly reflect some grief in the respective populations, and these grievances are indeed important in explaining mobilization.

Firstly, let us consider the mobilizing grievances of the Syrian Uprising. What is imperative to assess, before diving into empirical evidence in Syria, is why an analysis of grievances really matters. Indeed, many scholars have to a certain degree neglected the importance of grievances as a factor that spurs mobilization.

A common assumption among scholars is that grievances will always exist everywhere, so there must be other factors that are more likely to trigger mass mobilization. These conditions were absolutely present in rural Syria pre-mobilization, and the grievances can be summarized to be a disappointment in the Assad regime for failing to deliver to the rural poor what they were promised. Additionally, after the Soviet Union fell, aid directed towards Syria declined.

Thus, when Hafez died in , Bashar inherited a Syria with many economic problems Hinnebusch, What was clear for both Bashar and the Syrian government was that an economic reform was crucial.

Indeed, Syria as whole shared grievances due to this new economic direction. In rural areas, farmers and other agricultural workers lost their subsidies from the government. In the cities and suburbs, economic liberalization gave opportunities for real estate investment, which ultimately benefited many of the Syrian bourgeoisie, as well as affluent foreigners.

However, many Syrians, who had lived on state-owned properties for decades, were now homeless as their properties were sold to investors Hinnebusch, However, the two authors hold that such grievances cannot alone account for a revolution. Metaphorically speaking, these experiences only fertilize the ground for revolution, but do not generate it.

However, as stated above, this only explains the foundation for the movement and cannot explain fully why Syrians mobilized and demonstrated against the Assad regime. The important question posed in this section of the paper is why, despite the repressive means the regime used to control the small demonstrations that occurred in March of , demonstrations continued to grow and spread further to other cities. What many social movement scholars focus on when analyzing a movement is the environment in which movements occur.

The main focus for many scholars is to consider the political opportunity or freedom individuals have to mobilize. Syria, however, are more closed than open, and because of this, the regime will not tolerate demonstrations.

A common characteristic among more closed states is that demonstrations are often shut down repressively. This was as true in the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in , as it was when Syrians mobilized in Nevertheless, albeit the similarity in the repressive means of the Chinese and Syrian government in the two instances, they differ in outcome.

While the Chinese students who participated in protests in Tiananmen Square eventually had to give up due to massive repression, the Syrian protestors have continued. It is therefore critical to note that although protests can occur in the same context, they may not have the same outcome.

Indeed, for this reason, a closer analysis of demonstrations in repressive contexts is vital for this present analysis. Much research has focused on mobilization in these contexts. Rather, the mukhabarat was indeed highly active at the time of protests in Syria. When people mobilized after the arrest of the school children in Deraa, the mukhabarat opened fire and killed four of the protestors. When the protests grew to 20,, the security forces attacked the protestors again, killing 15 and wounding hundreds.

Additionally, electricity, water and mobile phone networks were cut off in Deera Lesch, , The Syrian government did not show the protestors any moment of weakness. Yet, their repression proved to spur even more protests. One scholar that has particularly focused his research on social movements in this repressive context is Charles Kurzman.

A factor that can explain the roots of such a perception of political opportunity is social networks. Studies of such networks prove that human relations or networks between people may give people the perception that the threat the regime poses are smaller than it indeed is, and that the opposition are stronger than they really are. These social networks give individuals more incentives to join a movement.

By studying the social networks of the city of Deera, where the Syrian Uprising initially started, Leenders hold that a conclusion can be reached to explain why Syrians mobilized despite the repressive means of the regime. Despite the solid nature of the regime, the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Moubarak in Egypt clearly established a perception among Syrians that they could do the same.

Deera is characterized with many different social networks. In other words, the aforementioned socio-economic grievances were largely dealt with by the family clans, which again gave more incentives to resist the Assad regime.

Another critical network in Deera is the labor migration network, where workers travel both within Syria and to the neighboring countries of Lebanon and Jordan. But it is not only labor migrants that network beyond the Syrian border.

To explain why these networks spurred mobilization, Leenders suggests that a look at the framing of the regime repression is critical; the way the protestors of Deera framed their grievances, through slogans and cries, is what initially would encourage many to join the protests.

Thus, it seems prudent to conclude that grievances that existed in Syria and the social networks that helped spread these grievances were the most important factors for explaining mobilization in Syria.

Part 2 2: Syria and the Personalist Regime Despite successes in both Egypt and Tunisia in overthrowing the respective regimes, this success has been absent in Syria. The social movement developed into a civil war, which is also the current status of the conflict.

There are a number of factors that can explain the lack of success for the opposition. Many social movement scholars, among them Jack Goldstone, put an emphasis on the regime structure in explaining the variety of outcomes in revolutions or uprisings. In particular, such scholars argue that it is due to the variety in the regime structure that protests in Tunisia and Egypt made their respective autocrats leave office, while the autocratic leaders in Libya and Syria sought war instead of retreat.

The Assad regime in Syria can be conceptualized as a personalist or sultanist regime; a type of regime that is considered to be both very strong and very vulnerable. Such regimes consist also of many politicized elites, where the autocratic leader must serve as a broker among them.

Although such regimes are considered to be strong, their stability is solely based on the political wins of the personalist leader. This is contrary to monarchies, for instance, where the monarchic leaders have a strong and tradition-based legitimacy.

When the leader loses its legitimacy, as has gradually happened to Assad during his first decade as president, some scholars focus especially on the structures of the military in explaining the sustainability of the regime.

One of these scholars is Eva Bellin, who in wrote an article reconsidering the robustness of authoritarianism in the Middle East. Her article can be effectively used in explaining why the Syrian military did not turn against the Assad regime, like the Egyptian military did.

It is argued that this variation is largely due to the structure of the military. In Egypt and Tunisia, it was not due to the lack of military capacity that the military refused to shoot on the protestors, it was rather due to will. Any military leader must in such situations consider different imperatives. Syria has a very robust coercive apparatus, where the military is patrimonially organized; the military consists mainly of Alawi the religious group, based in Shia Islam, which the Assad family is a member of.

Thus, as the regime must rely on the military for its survival, it becomes critical that the military does not have any incentives in parting itself from the regime. It was only a small portion of defectors that established the Free Syrian Army, the established military force fighting against the Assad regime.

Furthermore, to sustain this patrimonial organized state, it is argued oil can play a crucial role in explaining the regime survival. Although Syria is only a minor oil producer, it is noted by Goldstone that oil gave the regime a substantial source of revenue. It has also enjoyed support from primarily Iran and Hezbollah. Iran assisted the Syrian military with 4, soldiers from their own Revolutionary Guard Fisk, Because of the social networks and framings, Syrians established a perception that they, united, could stand up and express their grievances and fight the Assad regime.

The social networks, like the family clans, labor networks, trading networks or criminal networks, made it easier for the individuals of Deera to express their grievances. How they framed the repressive means of the regime functioned to ignite the hope and spirit of the people of Deera.

Nevertheless, although protests spread around the country, there has been no success in breaking the regime.

Due to the closely tied military, oil revenues and international allies, the Assad regime has been able to stay in power and it is highly uncertain if or when it will eventually break. Jeff Goodwin and James M. Jasper Oxford: Goodwin Blackwell Publishers, , David A. Snow and Sarah A.


Volume 44, Number 2, January 2012

However, the internal variation in regime collapse and survival observed in the region confirms earlier analyses that the comportment of the coercive apparatus, especially its varying will to repress, is pivotal to determining the durability of the authoritarian regimes. At the same time, the trajectory of the Arab Spring highlights an empirical novelty for the Arab world, namely, the manifestation of huge, cross-class, popular protest in the name of political change, as well as a new factor that abetted the materialization of this phenomenon—the spread of social media. The latter will no doubt be a game changer for the longevity of authoritarian regimes worldwide from now on. While a broad range of literature posits a negative link between repression and democracy, empirical models of the determinants of democratization rarely include measures that capture this relationship. An original panel dataset with a global scope from ?


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Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Lessons from the Arab Spring


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