History of Baathist regime resilience in Syria from 1970 to 2014

by Elliot Patrick Klosterman

Institution: University of Texas – Austin
Year: 2015
Keywords: Baathist regime; Syria; Bashar al-Assad; Arab Spring
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2065275
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2152/32136


The Arab Spring protest movements that swept through the Middle East in the beginning of 2011 managed to dislodge many durable regimes and longtime heads of state, but has not yet succeeded in overthrowing the autocratic Baathist regime in Syria despite the overwhelming political pressure and armed opposition to its rule. While the world was shocked by the wave of popular protest that shook ostensibly stable regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, the Baathist regime in Syria has managed to withstand the Arab Spring challenge to their rule through at least the end of 2014 in part by employing tactics learned during previous instances of political insurrection. The diverse, tribal, and sectarian composition of the modern Syrian state has aroused many periods of political instability in the decades leading up to the ongoing Arab Spring uprising therefore allowing the ruling regime ample opportunities to learn how to contend with existential threats to its rule. Unlike the relatively homogenous and historically political stable states of Tunisia and Egypt, the Baathist Regime in Syria has become well accustomed to balancing opposition to its rule in order to maintain a tenuous hold on power. This thesis will reveal how the Baathist regime in Syria has managed to defeat past existential political and armed threats to their rule in the decades leading up to the present Arab Spring Uprising. An analysis of the regime’s political and military strategy during prior instances of domestic upheaval will reveal that much of the political and security actions taken by the regime post-Arab Spring can be explained historically. Prior to the contemporary Arab Spring Uprising, the regime had become well accustomed to the challenges of ruling a diverse and politically unstable state and thus has mastered the techniques of driving opposition forces while co-opting or coercing domestic and international support Over the years politicians and analysts have referred to the Baathist regime in Syria as being on the ropes or poised to fall at any time, yet the regime has managed to survive. Since history has revealed both the remarkable resiliency and entrenched position of the Baathist regime in Syria, there is little reason to believe that the regime will crumble in the face of the Arab Spring Uprising. Although the pressure for regime change felt in Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia may have been fundamentally similar to those felt in Syria, the Syrian Baathist regime makeup and experience in dealing with existential threats reveal why Bashar al-Assad and his regime have remained in power at least through the end of 2014. Advisors/Committee Members: Barany, Zoltan D. (advisor), Goodnow, Regina (committee member).