Analysts differ on whether Syrian president to remain in power

JERUSALEM, March 31 (Xinhua) — Syrian President Bashar al- Assad ordered on Thursday to form a commission to study ending the country’s long-time emergency law, in a bid to appease the country ‘s protesters.

The decision came one day after the president addressed the people in a televised speech, during which he said the unrest in the country is a result of conspiracies, which aim to “bring down Syria” and “enforce an Israeli agenda.”

Syria has been witnessing nationwide protests for change since two weeks ago, which turned into clashes between protesters and the security forces that have left some 50 Syrians killed.

Meanwhile, Israeli analysts differs on whether Assad will remain in power. Some say that with the support from Syrian army, Assad might survive the unrest and hang in, while others believe the opposite.

Gabriel Ben-Dor, a professor of political science at the University of Haifa, told Xinhua that Assad is likely to remain in power, mainly due to his support from the armed forces.

“The situation is not clear, obviously the president is determined to hang in there, following the example of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi,” Ben-Dor said.

“He has a good chance, he has a very strong army, a very strong police system and he is very experienced although he is relatively young,” Ben-Dor said, adding “the regime still has a lot of tools, and Assad has a good chance of hanging in there.”

Ya’acov Bar-Siman-Tov, a professor of international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said “most of the Syrian officers are Alawites, and they fear that toppling the regime would plunge the country into the hands of Sunni Muslims.”

Syria is ruled by a small Alawite elite, which is an offshoot of Shiite Muslim, while most Muslims in Syria are Sunni. There have been grievances between the Sunni and the Alawites.

The Alawites have controlled Syria for more than 50 years, said Bar-Siman-Tov, adding that besides the political and economic reforms, there might also be an ethnic factor behind the protests.

“There were ambiguities in Assad’s speech,” Bar-Siman-Tov said, adding that Assad accused several TV channels of being behind the demonstrations without mentioning what kinds of reforms he would launch to appease the people.

However, Mordechai Kedar, an expert on Syria at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told Xinhua that he was not sure that Assad is able to remain in power for long.

“Nobody in Syria takes him seriously, nobody believes him and he doesn’t believe himself,” Kedar said, adding “this is why riots will continue more or less on the same scale. The genie has come out of the bottle, and the future of Syria won’t be what it once was.”

Kedar believes that “people today are more determined to have a better life and to challenge the dictators, as we have seen all over the Arab world, and Syria is no exception.”