Syria is a mosaic of ethnic and religious groups. The minority Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, constitute about 12 percent of Syria’s 23 million people. They have controlled the government since 1970 when Hafez al-Assad seized power. Upon his death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad took over. Peaceful protests against his regime, which began in March 2011, following uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, were crushed by the military. Opposition grew. The consequences have been catastrophic. Tens of thousands dead, hundreds of thousands have fled the country, and more than 2 million are internal refugees. The Assad regime is under siege and is bound to fall. But what will take its place? There are multiple factions within the umbrella resistance group, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. The violence and suffering are escalating. Whither Syria? Interview by David Barsamian.
Bassam Haddad is Director of the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University, and is Visiting Professor at Georgetown University. He is the author of Business Networks in Syria. He is Founding Editor of the Arab Studies Journal and is co-producer/director of the award-winning documentary film, About Baghdad and director of a critically acclaimed film series on Arabs and Terrorism. He is also on the Editorial Committee of Middle East Report and is Co-Founder/Editor of Jadaliyya ezine.