News Release

Abdullah: Asad Should Step Down


AP reports: “Jordan’s King Abdullah said [today] that Syrian President Bashar Assad should step down, making him the first Arab ruler to issue such a call over the regime’s deadly crackdown on an 8-month-old uprising. The surprising statement comes as Arabs close ranks against Damascus. On Saturday, the Arab League voted to suspend Syria over attacks on protesters that the U.N. estimates have killed 3,500 people since mid-March.”

BASSAM HADDAD, bhaddad at
Haddad, director of the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University, is author of the just-published book Business Networks in Syria: The Political Economy of Authoritarian Resilience. He is co-founder of Jadaliyya Ezine.

Haddad said today: “I would not actually place a lot of emphasis on the Arab League’s decision. On the one hand, it’s important that the Arab League has done that, because it is consequential for other players, in the sense that the Arab League’s decision is a signal or a prelude to some sort of international intervention, which will be detrimental to all parties involved, including the Syrian people, especially if it takes a military dimension or a military tone. So, on the one hand, this is basically still an open game; on the other hand, the violence of the Syrian regime must be condemned with the strongest possible language.

“One wonders, however, who are the actors that are going to bring about an end? All the actors involved — including the Arab League and the member states — are a club of autocrats and oligarchs that are not actually fit to push for this kind of a resolution. They themselves have actually oppressed their own people, and they have now basically shown that there is this desire to end the violence in Syria, but it is not clear how they would actually themselves deal with their own people in the case of a revolt. The talk of external intervention in the Arab League’s decision, which might be a prelude to external intervention, and the Arab League’s decision to speak on behalf of democracy, is in many ways extremely hypocritical. It is basically like Israel speaking on behalf of equal rights or the United States speaking on behalf of international law.

The Syrian regime has actually survived based on a combination of strategies, including violence, but not limited to violence. … Between 1970 and 2005 … the state actually came together with top business elites to literally hijack the economic policy-making process and create a major part of the cause of what we are seeing today, which is the disenfranchisement of most Syrians as a result of the social polarization that these networks created in society between rich and poor, between haves and have-nots, and between regions, which is actually how we witnessed the revolt proceed from the countryside, from the periphery, as opposed to the center, which has been severely neglected.”