Analyzing the domestic and international conflict in Syria: Are there lessons from political science?

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Jörg Michael Dostal


This article contributes to the discussion about opportunities for and barriers to domestically-driven political reform in the Syrian Arab Republic. The argument is put forward in five sections. In the first section, relevant political science approaches analyzing the Syrian case from a domestic and global perspective are briefly discussed. The second section sketches the early political history of Syria between 1920 and 1970, while the third section explains how the regime led by Hafiz al-Assad was able to use the period after 1970 to consolidate Syrian statehood, establish a national security state, and emerge as a strong regional geopolitical player. Section four analyzes the period of the Presidency of Bashar al-Assad before the current crisis (from 2000 until March 2011). Lastly, section five discusses the recent escalation of the Syrian domestic crisis toward the largest armed conflict in the country’s history. Section five also scrutinizes the domestic political reform program as advanced by the Syrian government since April 2011 (essentially the new 2012 Syrian constitution and the new multiparty system). A conclusion sums up both the theoretical and empirical arguments.

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