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  1. Syria’s Leaders
  2. Bashar al-Assad, 46, President
  3. World Leaders Call for Assad to Step Down - WSJ
  4. 2. Rebel divisions

Syria’s Leaders

There was no anti-Assad coup. Though individual soldiers defected once fighting started, these came from non-elite conscript units and without heavy equipment. These figures were prominent, but had no real power. Those holding actual influence—the security chiefs, top military figures, and industry leaders—doubled down behind Assad.

This was primarily because Assad had inherited a coup-proofed regime from his father and predecessor, Hafez al-Assad. Hafez packed security positions and elite units with loyalists, many of them fellow Alawis, a traditionally marginalized sect that made up percent of the population. They were persuaded that the Assads were their best route to security and privilege.

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Second, Assad was able to retain the active or implicit support of key segments of the Syrian population. One ploy was a deliberate manipulation of sectarian identity. Both Hafez and Bashar al-Assad won support from Alawis, Christians 8 percent of the population , and Druze 3 percent , as well as many secularists within the 65 percent who were Sunni Arabs.

They did this by presenting themselves as secular defenders of religious pluralism. As soon as unrest broke out in , Assad falsely characterized protesters as violent, intolerant Islamists, and government posters appeared warning of sectarian divisions. Eventually, this worked. Early protests were diverse, but over time Alawis, Christians, and other minorities stayed away. They and many secular Sunnis remained neutral or fell behind Assad.

Material levers were also pulled. Yet the state still provided percent of jobs, and some feared losing a paycheck. Indeed, Assad cleverly continued to pay and even raise state salaries throughout the war despite bad inflation , including in areas out of his control.

Syrian leader Assad meets Iranian president Ahmadinejad

While some in rebellious Homs funded the opposition, in wealthier Aleppo and Damascus they largely remained quiet. There was also genuine ideological support for Assad. From the beginning, Assad insisted the rebellion was an externally orchestrated plot and, after a lifetime of absorbing propaganda, some believed him. Others feared political instability. The regime cynically cultivated supporters by introducing a sliver of reform, such as a new constitution.

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Another key ploy was a campaign of intimidation. Many were scarred by memories of the last rebellion against an Assad, when Hafez massacred at least 10, in Hama in The post repression was an amplified imitation of that. While many bravely risked their lives, others were evidently deterred. The government preferred to crush them rather than reform, yet it recognized that the population would not stomach unjustified violence.

So, it concocted a legitimizing narrative: It portrayed the oppositionists as violent, foreign, sectarian Islamists. Having constructed its false narrative, the regime set about making it real. Peaceful organizers were specifically targeted, and by July , 8, people had been detained, facing torture, sexual assault, and humiliation. November 20, - In an interview with a British newspaper, Assad warns other countries that military intervention in Syria would have "very dire" repercussions and that his country "will not back down" in the face of international pressure and condemnation.

December 7, - In an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters, Assad denies responsibility for the violence in Syria and distances himself from the behavior of his armed forces. The same day Syrians are reported to have died in Homs. March 23, - European Union sanctions are placed on Assad's wife, Asma, his mother, sister and sister-in-law. Their EU assets are frozen and a travel ban prevents them from traveling to any EU country. London-born Asma cannot be barred entry into Britain despite the EU ban. July 18, - Syria's Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat -- Assad's brother-in-law is killed , along with two other regime officials, in an explosion at a national security building in Damascus.

Bashar al-Assad, 46, President

April 17, - In an interview with Syria state TV network al Ekhbariya, Assad compares the support of rebels in Syria now to the backing of fighters in Afghanistan during their war with Soviet troops in the s. He predicts that the rebel groups will one day turn against the United States and others. June 3, - Is re-elected with It's Syria's first election since the start of civil war in Assad also says that Syria won't join the international coalition trying to "degrade and destroy" ISIS. July 9, - Assad is named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, DC by the family of journalist, Marie Colvin, who was killed in while covering the war in Syria.

According to the lawsuit, Colvin was targeted in a rocket attack by Syrian government agents because of her reporting.

World Leaders Call for Assad to Step Down - WSJ

Colvin and other journalists were tracked by the Syrian regime, the documents say. He says she entered the country illegally, putting herself at risk. April 11, - Russian president Vladimir Putin claims, without evidence, that a deadly chemical attack on April 4 in the town of Khan Sheikhoun was staged to frame Assad and his regime.

Putin says that more chemical attacks are being planned by opponents of Assad to provoke action by the United States.

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  4. Russia says Syria's Assad is popular in spite of overseeing 7 year war - The National.

Assad states: "The Americans should leave. Somehow, they're going to leave.

They came to Iraq with no legal basis, and look what happened to them. They have to learn their lesson. Iraq is no exception.

2. Rebel divisions

Syria is no exception. People will not accept foreigners in this region any more. If you are a dictator you are in full control I have my authority by the Syrian constitution," he said in an interview to CNN. His speeches generally made reference to the need for a national dialogue while touching on the protests being the work of foreign agents of disruption. His government, he said, was being hit by a political conspiracy. I don't own them. I'm president. I don't own the country. In January , it was reported that more than 5, civilians had been killed by the Syrian militia, and that 1, people had been killed by anti-regime forces.

In June , a UN official stated that the uprisings had transitioned into a full-scale civil war, the International Committee of the Red Cross also declared the conflict a civil war. But the conflict continued. There were daily reports of civilians being killed by government forces, and counter-claims by the Assad regime of the deaths being staged or the result of outside agitators. In August , Assad came under fire from leaders around the world, for using chemical weapons against civilians. However, he was able to stave off foreign intervention with assistance from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who agreed to help remove Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons.

Voting was held only in government-controlled areas, excluding vast chunks of northern and eastern Syria that were in rebel hands. His position strengthened the following September, when Russia agreed to provide military support to his forces. By February , the conflict had led to an estimated , deaths in Syria, and sparked international debate over how to handle the millions of refugees seeking to escape the brutality.

In April , following news of another round of chemical weapons unleashed on civilians, US President Donald Trump ordered air raids on a Syrian airbase, drawing sharp condemnation from Assad and Syria's allies Russia and Iran. One year later, in April , footage of dead Syrians surfaced amid reports that Assad had again used chemical weapons.