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The Brave Return Of Syria's Opposition Sends Assad Running Back To Russia And Iran

Syria is positioned to return to the geopolitical fold in the Arab world, but the political structure inside the country is still fractured, facing protests from its citizens and the need to call in the Russian air force and Iranian backers.

Photograph of Syrians taking part in a demonstration against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime

August 25, Idlib: Syrians take part in a demonstration against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime

Anas Alkharboutli/ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — When a country drops off from the news radar, it doesn't necessarily mean that all is fine. Syria made headlines for years with the brutal repression of the 2011 uprising and the war against the Islamic State; nowadays, it's hardly mentioned anymore, even if the state of the country is still dire.

Yet over the past few weeks, a new rumbling of reports about the Syrian situation has begun. In the southern part of the country, major demonstrations began in the city of Suweida, initially against rising fuel prices before evolving into more political protests. The protests spread to the city of Daraa, where the 2011 revolution had originally begun, as well as other localities. Among the popular demands were questions about the fate of those who've disappeared over the last decade, a pressing issue for millions of Syrians.

Videos that have circulated show significant sized crowds, reminiscent of the scenes from the early days of the 2011 uprising during the "Arab Spring." Considering the repression that followed, it is impressive to once again see the population taking to the streets to defend their rights, facing a regime that has shown it will not hesitate to brutally suppress them.

Arab league comeback

Coincidentally or not, this resurgence of a protest movement coincides with Syria's gradual reintegration into the Arab world after a decade of isolation. Damascus has been readmitted to the Arab League and has re-established ties with the Gulf monarchies.

This is part of a geopolitical reshuffling.

The return of Syria is part of a regional geopolitical reshuffling, but does not signify a normalization of the situation within Syria itself. The country remains ravaged by the consequences of a decade of war and repression. Millions of refugees are still outside the country, and the conditions inside Syria for their eventual return and reconstruction of the economy are still a long ways away.

Additionally, the Syrian fractures are far from being resolved. Just look at the violent clashes taking place in the north between Kurdish militias and Sunni Arab fighters, ancient rivalries reignited. These clashes have claimed dozens of lives in recent days and have seen Russian airstrikes – yes, amidst the war in Ukraine, Russian fighter pilots continue to bomb Syria.

Photograph of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad shaking hands with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi

May 3, 2023, Damascus, Syria: Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad (R) shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi

Iranian Presidency/ZUMA

Ideological fragility

There is hardly any change today. Bashar al-Assad's regime, with crucial support from Russia and Iran, has managed to retake most of the country, even though a rebel pocket survives in the northwest, and Kurdish militias control the northeast.

However, Assad has done nothing since securing his regime to appease, engage in political dialogue, or even open the door to reconciliation. In the tense context of the war in Ukraine, any breakthrough seems impossible.

What remains is the awakening of the population – the audacity to challenge Assad's rule. Yet, even here, hopes are slim. As Syrian dissident intellectual Yassine al-Haj Saleh explained to the Beirut-based newspaperL'Orient-le-Jour, "The military and ideological fragility of the Damascus regime is real, but it is protected by its backers."

Russian and Iranian support continue to be Assad's ultimate lifeline.

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Milei Elected: Argentina Bets It All On "Anything Is Better Than This"

The radical libertarian Javier Milei confounded the polls to decisively win the second round of Argentina's presidential elections; now he must win over a nation that has voiced its disgust with the country's brand of politics as usual.

Photo of Javier Milei standing in front of his supporters

Javier Milei at a campaign rally

Eduardo van der Kooy


BUENOS AIRES — Two very clear messages were delivered by Argentine society with its second-round election of the libertarian politician Javier Milei as its next president.

The first was to say it was putting a definitive end to the Kirchner era, which began in 2003 with the presidency of the late Néstor Kirchner and lasted, in different forms, until last night.

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The second was to choose the possibility, if nothing else, of a future that allows Argentina to emerge from its longstanding state of prostration. It's a complicated bet, because the election of the candidate of Libertad Avanza (Liberty Advances) is so radical and may entail changes to the political system so big as to defy predictions right now.

This latter is the bigger of the two key consequences of the election, but the voters turning their back on the government of Cristina and Alberto Fernández and its putative successor, (the Economy minister) Sergio Massa, also carries historical significance. They could not have said a clearer No to that entrenched political clan. So much so that they decided to trust instead a man who emerged in 2021 as a member of parliament, with a weak party structure behind him and a territorial base no bigger than three mayors in the Argentine hinterland.

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