Can the Syrian Baath regime survive a peace with Israel? According to pro-Israeli critics such as Daniel Pipes it cannot even make peace, as Syria's authoritarian minority regime needs an external enemy to justify repressive rule and divert attention from its Alawi character. Peace would be the kiss of death, according to Robert Kaplan, who describes Syria and Iraq as artificial, fragmented states held together by authoritarian regimes that are the creatures of Cold War military largess, East-bloc security technology and the Arab-Israeli confrontation. Without these external supports they will collapse, and the regional map, heretofore enforced by the countervailing power of the superpowers, will be redrawn. Greater Israel will be the regional economic magnet incorporating the Palestinians, Jordan, and others at the expense of crumbling Syria and Iraq.1
The notion that the conflict with Israel has been invented or sustained by Syrian President Hafiz al-Asad's regime for internal purposes is hardly credible. Israeli analysts have acknowledged that Syria's reach for military parity established a more stable mutual deterrence between it and lsrael.2 But the regime has, without doubt, used real external threats to justify its rule. The enormous national security apparatus created under Asad in a response to the struggle with Israel, could lose its raison d'etre under peace. As a front-line state, the regime received plentiful aid from the Arab oil states that it could not expect to continue at the same levels once the conflict is resolved; and the private investment that could potentially replace it will be largely funneled to the private sector, not the state.
There is no doubt, either, that the regime's main source of legitimacy has been its claim to represent Arab interests in the struggle with Israel. This is far different from saying Asad cannot make an honorable peace, since the vast majority of Syrians want such a settlement. If a settlement could be plausibly presented as vindicating the enormous investment Syria has put into the conflict and allow Asad to claim credit for achieving a restoration of Arab land and dignity, it would bring a substantial windfall of political capital that the regime could even "invest" in political liberalization. However, such a peace has always been defined as full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines and Palestinian rights, including an independent state. The kind of peace Syria is likely to attain will fall far short of that. An Israeli-controlled autonomy administration in the West Bank and Gaza leaving diaspora Palestinians in limbo would be difficult to depict as an achievement of Palestinian rights. A return of the Golan will bring an unwelcome normalization of relations with Israel. Israeli penetration of the Arab world will threaten what remains of the common Arab interest Syria has claimed to defend, while incorporation of the Palestinians and Jordan into an Israeli sphere of influence threatens to cut Syria off from the fallen-away parts of Greater Syria, leaving only Lebanon in its orbit. Such a settlement will be hard to depict as a vindication of the Baath's 30-year-long struggle.
The ''peace process" does, therefore, represent a very serious challenge to the Syrian regime. From the moment he seized power in 1970, Asad designed his state to fight Israel, and he must now redesign it. He built both the military capabilities needed in this struggle and the internal power structures to maximize the foreign policy autonomy needed to pursue his raison d’état. Indeed, foreign-policy making approximated the rational-actor model: a unified leadership matched limited but consistent strategic objectives-recovery of the territories lost in 1967-with upgraded military capabilities and maximum flexibility of tactics and alliances, regardless of their domestic popularity.
Asad achieved internal autonomy by concentrating power in a "presidential monarchy" through a policy of balancing social forces. Under the radicals, the regime had achieved autonomy of the dominant classes by breaking their control over the means of production and mobilizing workers and peasants through the Baath party. After 1970, Asad used the army to free himself from party ideological constraints, built up his jamaa3- a core of largely Alawi personal followers-to enhance his control of both army and party, and finally fostered a state-dependent new bourgeoisie as a fourth leg of support to minimize dependence on the others. Ideological legitimacy, derived from consistency in pursuit of Arab nationalist goals, was backed up by patrimonial authority rooted in clientalism.
Adapting Syria's foreign policy to the dramatic changes it faces in the post-bipolar and peace eras requires maintenance of regime autonomy. Asad is seeking to maximize autonomy and stability by diversifying the internal bases of the regime. He continues to seek, with every bit of leverage at his disposal, to extract a settlement from Israel that would minimize the damage to the regime's nationalist legitimacy in the transition to peace, while simultaneously trying to alter the bases of this legitimacy. Thus, Asad is "omni-balancing" between elements of his internal coalition and between this coalition and the external arena.4 An analysis of domestic politics - of the bases of the regime: jamaa, institutions, class - will indicate how Asad is attempting to alter his coalition. A look at public opinion will suggest how the basis of legitimacy is being altered.
ELITE POLITICS: THE PATRIMONIAL CORE
lnfeudization or sultanism?
The patrimonial core of the regime, a presidential monarchy assisted by trusted lieutenants and backed by a jamaa has not been altered. The dominant elite coalition remains in place: Vice President Abd al-Halim Khaddam, Chief of Staff Hikmat al-Shihabi and intelligence boss Ali Duba are probably the most powerful of Asad's lieutenants. The jamaa around this core has been crucial to regime autonomy and stability. As long as it sticks together, it has the firepower, demonstrated ruthlessness and stake in regime survival to tum back any challenge from below. It is, however, an obstacle to the legitimation and institutionalization needed for long-term regime durability, and the leader's reliance on it could make him its prisoner. Asad has already had to defeat a 1984 challenge from his own brother, Rifat.
There apparently was dissent in the elite over the acceptance of the U.S. invitation to the peace conference, which accommodated few of Syria's traditional procedural conditions. The Alawi security barons were reputedly unhappy with it, perhaps for fear they would be the victims of a foreign-policy realignment. Asad's attempt to forge a consensus may have accounted for the time lag in accepting the U.S. invitation. Khaddam has been more outspokenly anti-Israel than Asad, but he has always been Asad's faithful lieutenant, and this could be a tactic to give the appearance Asad faces constraints that prevent his making concessions. In reality, none of his lieutenants have seriously challenged or constrained Asad's foreign policy.
Yet the military and security elite are often described as "barons," implying that they preside over personal semi-independent domains and that the presidential monarchy is dependent on them. In addition to their access to state-controlled resources and to payoffs as middlemen between state and business, their control of smuggling, and, if rumors are true, of enormous revenues from the Lebanese drug trade seems to give them independence of the state and, perhaps, greater wealth than it has. This provides the potential for "infeudization" of the state. Asad largely ignores elite corruption, either because he cannot afford to attack his own jamaa or because their implication in it gives them a stake in defending the regime.
Recently, observers thought they detected a power struggle of which Ali Duba was the victim. Duba, credited with breaking the Islamic uprising, has protected the regime for 20 years. But in 1993, he was reputedly in disgrace and banished to his Latakia village. Eleven of his subordinates were dismissed, and he was seemingly "kicked upstairs" to the position of one of three assistant chiefs of staff. Ali Haydar, the commander of the Special Forces, was also reportedly arrested in 1994. This apparent power struggle, apart from its relation to the unsettled issue of succession, was attributed by some to Asad's effort to rid himself of centers of power that could resist restructuring of the army in the post-peace era.5 Today, however, from his more elevated position, Ali Duba apparently remains in undisputed charge of military intelligence. Moreover, all of those dismissed were not his clients: Some were Rifat appointees and others--Muhammad Nassif and General Abboud-were powerful figures in their own right. Nevertheless, the dismissal of his subordinates reflects Asad's policy of rotation to prevent clientage networks congealing into fiefdoms beyond his control. As long as the president keeps a hand on appointments and dismissals, no baron can staff his domain with durable clients. As such, the patrimonial core of Asad's regime still appears closer to "Sultanism" wherein the monarch can make and break his barons, than to more decentralized forms of patrimonialism. Asad can make any reasonable peace settlement that he wants without fear of his own core supporters.
It is not a foregone conclusion that the Alawi elites cannot adapt to post-war conditions. They would retain their dominant positions in the officer corps and security forces, even if these are scaled down. Though officers have been told to expect cuts after peace, Alawi-dominated elite units such as the presidential guard will be the core of a slimmed down professional army. The Alawis' business connections to the Sunni bourgeoisie should allow them to share in any economic prosperity that accompanies peace, and just because they accumulated their capital through illicit means does not mean they cannot invest it in legitimate business.
The Politics of Succession6
The main threat to regime survival may well be a succession crisis because the patrimonialized regime has no legitimate procedure for it, and the institutions which would be called upon to hold the country together during the power vacuum at the top have been weakened by Asad's patrimonial divide-and-rule strategy. The logic of patrimonial succession-dynastic succession or a Mamluk-like power struggle in which the strongest baron triumphs-is at odds with the legitimacy principles of the republican regime and the main political institution, the Baath party.
Two strategies apparently being pursued by Asad imply two quite different succession scenarios. The first would produce a collective leadership in which elites based in key institutions and constituencies would share power. Asad reportedly appointed a committee representing various constituencies to preside over the transition. Whoever held the presidency would be a figurehead for the collective leadership. While the regime institutions themselves have little autonomy, the men who head them are strong and experienced and they may well stick together in the succession, although in the long run, collective leadership appears unsustainable. The alternative scenario is dynastic succession. Until he was killed in an automobile accident, Asad appeared to be grooming his son Basil for succession; he was acquiring political experience, held military command in the presidential guard and was popular among youth. Patrick Seale, however, believes his succession would have been resented and perhaps blocked by rivals of greater seniority and that Basil may not have had the stomach for the power struggle. Basil, in this view, was merely his father's lieutenant assigned to keep other elites in check or from positioning themselves for the succession, and, in particular, to neutralize support for Rifat as the natural post-Hafiz leader of the Alawis.7 Basil's death is a major setback to the dynastic scenario. Another son, Bashshar Asad, has taken over Basil's role as his father's right-hand man, but he lacks Basil's popularity and military experience. The regime will probably survive succession simply because there is no viable counter coalition which could challenge the ruling coalition. At one time Rifat al-Asad attempted to play the role of pro-bourgeois alternative. But he has lost his command of military units, is universally disliked among the elite, and the bourgeoisie has already been coopted by the regime.
PILLARS OF POWER, REGIME CONSTITUENCIES
Syria's institutions are too weak to hold the rulers accountable but do serve to organize the elite and control its constituencies. The quadruple pillars of power army, party, security police and bureaucracy-have reliable chains of command and appear quite capable of defending the regime, provided the elites who head them do not fight among themselves. Moreover, Asad is reducing regime dependence on them.
The Baath party might be expected to reject a peace settlement that does not measure up the Baathist standards and threatens it with the loss of its nationalist raison d'etre. Yet the Baath party has been downgraded, de-ideologized and turned into a patronage machine with little capacity for independent action. It has not made key decisions, above all in the foreign policy field, in a long time. Asad no longer appears at party functions and party national secretary Abdullah al-Ahmar or Khaddam stands in for him. A party congress is overdue by four years, perhaps because Asad would have to publicly defend foreign policies, notably the peace process, before they have delivered. The party central committee was, however, assembled to hear the regime's justification for entering the peace process. It brought together the Regional Command-the one body which assembles the top elite of generals, top party apparatchiki and senior ministers-with the second rank elite party branch secretaries and committees, governors, university presidents, leaders of the popular organizations, junior ministers, army commanders and chairmen of Peoples' Assembly committees. Party secretaries Suleiman al-Qaddah and Abdullah al-Ahmar and Prime Minister Mahmoud al-Zubi presided, while Khaddam addressed the assembly. The assembled elites approved the peace process and dispersed to justify it to their constituents.8
Party apparatchiki are still powerful in arranging patronage and access and, as such, remain loyal. The party retains importance as a political recruitment mechanism. One must belong to the Baath Central Committee to be prime minister, and the government (cabinet) is still dominated by party members. Party credentials are crucial to enter the army or university, especially for rurals. The fact that a new professional class has been formed by recruitment through party channels from rurals and Alawis gives these groups a stake in the party.
The power of the party has atrophied but its structure still incorporates a Sunni and rural base Asad needs-if only to balance the Alawi jamaa and the Sunni urban bourgeoisie. It is the one organization of surveillance and control which is everywhere-in all institutions, neighborhoods, villages-as neither the army, police or bureaucracy can be. Finally, the party has substantial presence in the countryside. A triumvirate of party boss, governor and intelligence chief, often good friends, rules in the provinces and districts and every village has its party cell. Should political liberalization result in competitive elections, the party apparatus would be a useful electoral and patronage machine for regime elites.
Asad keeps firm control over the military through several strategies. While there is a regular turnover in senior officers at retirement age, the very top layer of regime loyalists-Generals Tlas, Shihabi, Turkmani, Asian and Fayyid-have indefinite tenure. Sunni commanders are paired with Alawi deputies and vice versa. The army may fear its dominant societal role would be threatened by peace and Israeli demands for downsizing in force structure, but the Syrian military was unnerved by the easy defeat of Iraq and is aware another war in which it could be devastated might be the alternative to the peace process. Asad has portrayed the peace process to the army as an honorable struggle: "Our stance in the battle for peace will not be less courageous than our stances on the battlefield."9
STATE, ECONOMY AND DOMINANT CLASS
The bourgeoisie is a key to the autonomy and stability of the regime. Asad can preserve his autonomy by balancing it against party or jamaa, while, to the extent it acquires a stake in the regime, it becomes a force for stability. Asad has attempted to co-opt the bourgeoisie through economic liberalization and improved access to power.
Whether a new bourgeoisie is coalescing into a durable class base for the state depends on the relation of the regime and its Alawi barons with the Sunni bourgeoisie. The formation of a unified pro-regime class requires a bridging of the Sunni-Alawi private/state gap, thereby combining power and wealth, but these gaps are far from being bridged. To be sure, the economic gap is narrowing as the Alawi elite is enriched through business, not just politics. For example, it monopolizes the oil servicing sector and shipping. The cultural gap is kept alive by the migration of poor Alawis from the countryside who attach themselves to Alawi patrons and stand out for their rural ways and harsh accent. There is little intermarriage between Alawi elites and the Sunni bourgeoisie. There is, to be sure, an alliance of convenience between the two. Sunni businessmen need Alawi partners to get around state regulations or secure privileges such as access to foreign currency. The Alawis need the Sunnis for their access to the Western market and Gulf investment money. There is some sign of capital partnerships between them: Alawi money is behind such Sunni tycoons as Uthman al-Aidi and Abdul Rahman al-Attar. Nevertheless, for less well-connected entrepreneurs, the relation remains too much like a mafia protection racket-in which Alawi barons extort money from Sunni business-to speak about shared class interests.
Politically, a dominant class organized and conscious enough to constrain regime autonomy hardly exists. Rather, the regime is balancing class "fractions" to maintain its autonomy. Thus, to balance the Alawis, Asad is co-opting members of old families into government. The Sunni bourgeoisie is looking for full partnership in the regime, but the Alawis still want to keep the upper hand.
Although the bourgeoisie is ambivalent or split over the kind of peace shaping up, it will accept whatever Asad decides. Though some Syrian businessmen fear Israeli dumping on the internal market under normalization of relations, most merchants believe Syrian commercial acumen will allow them to compete. Some fear Syria will face competition from Israel's superior technology in the Saudi and Gulf markets they want for themselves. But they merely hope Asad will obstruct overly rapid normalization in Syria and the Arab world in general. Most understand that a stable peace is needed for long-term investment and that Syrian business must learn to compete on the international market.
Both regime and bourgeoisie realize economic health requires a peace settlement. With the collapse of the socialist bloc, the country needs incorporation into the world capitalist economy; especially with the decline of oil prices and the much reduced rent Asad can expect from the Arab petrostates, private investment (Arab, expatriate or Western) is crucial and a "no war-no peace" situation, isolated from an Arab world at peace with Israel, does not provide a favorable investment climate.
Regime stability and a stable peace both depend on bourgeois investment replacing war rent and generating the prosperity needed to make the peace palatable. According to one assessment, investment under the 1991 Law No. 10 to encourage private and foreign capital has exceeded that of the public sector in recent years.10 Sources of capital formation are diversifying. Gulf money is coming in-some going to the public sector as the continuing reward for Asad's stand against Iraq in the second Gulf War-but an increasing share is taking the form of private investment. Expatriate capital is testing the waters. The village petite bourgeoisie has given rise to a Baathi-connected business stratum, and the suq petite bourgeoisie has generated indigenous industrialists such as the Saif brothers. Private investment companies tolerated by the regime recently mobilized tremendous hidden middle-class savings that government banks had failed to tap. Syria has enjoyed growth rates of around 8 percent a year from 1990 through 1993.11
Some observers are skeptical, however, of the quality and durability of investment. Around $1.8 billion has been put into 474 projects, mostly tertiary, and some light manufacturing such as food industries.12 A lot of the new investment was possibly a temporary boom. Sharp operators took immediate advantage of Law No. 10 to set up phony car-rental agencies to get around the state monopoly and import cars. The failure of many speculative private investment companies may cause a liquidity crisis. Constraints on investment are built into the political system, including fear of post-Asad instability and continued bureaucratic obstruction. Corruption is rampant at every level. Business has to pay off the barons to get projects, and the best opportunities are reputedly reserved for friends of the regime.
The state sector of the economy retains some viability, kept alive by infusions of Gulf money and persisting ties to the former East bloc.13 It is questionable, however, whether the state can take a sufficient share, through taxation, of the economic gains of investors to replace wartime rent; although tax revenues have increased with current economic growth, much of it is from customs duties passed on by merchants to consumers rather than on profits and income. Much of the regime's revenue needs will have to be met by its own oil production and shortfalls could possibly generate pressures for reform of the public sector at the expense of state patronage and populism. The regime's inability to capture enough from a private economy outside its control will dictate a steady, albeit not precipitous, shrinkage in state economic functions to the benefit of the private and informal sectors.
THE ADAPTATION OF POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS
Calculated Decompression and Civil Society
The regime is pursuing a strategy of calculated political decompression as a substitute for substantial political pluralization. This denotes relaxing state control over society, with the aim of releasing private energies able to assume a larger share of the burdens of development. It also means adapting political structures to absorb the participation pressures this may stimulate without loss of regime control or autonomy.
While the state may at times have aspired to totalitarian control, it never wholly suffocated civil society. The traditional urban quarters were always relatively immune to state penetration and 'the private sector always remained viable. Signs of a healthy surviving civil society include the relative lack of crime enforced by a social solidarity rooted in family, neighborhood and religion. Moreover, the regime's development drive, in advancing literacy, urbanization and non-agricultural occupations, socially mobilized society, generated a large middle class and endowed a much larger sector of the population with the requisites of potential political empowerment.
Relaxation of regime control over society is permitting civil society greater autonomy. The security forces are being reined in, there is greater press freedom, and religious schools and mosques are recovering their autonomy on condition that opposition activity be eschewed. Political prisoners have been released in significant numbers. But freedom is conditioned on refraining from challenging the regime. Moreover, the political potential of civil society is limited by the dependence of much of the middle class on state employment and its absorption into "corporatist" regime-controlled professional associations and syndicates. As yet there is little overt societal pressure for democratization. In these conditions, the regime may be able to preserve the current political system with merely modest adaptations, namely the greater opening of the corporatist interest group system and of parliament to the strongest forces - the bourgeoisie, Islamics - originally excluded as outside the regime's populist constituency, without losing control of the latter.
Political Power and the Bourgeoisie
The bourgeoisie as yet has neither the desire nor the power to demand political liberalization as the price of capital investment. Liberalization is according it greater autonomy to reconstruct a business-centered civil society and the regime, having opted to depend on private capitalist investment, will have to be responsive to its demands for greater rule of law and a favorable investment climate. In return, the bourgeoisie seems prepared to defer demands for political power. Rather than leading a democracy movement, it looks to Asad to distance himself from the Baath, co-opt more of its own into government and accord it greater political access. Since the inegalitarian consequences of capitalism are likely to heighten popular discontent, it no more wants full democratization than the regime. As such, an Egyptian-like strategy in which the authoritarian presidency persists, but the bourgeoisie is given a greater share of power, might accommodate Syria's bourgeoisie.
The formerly populist-dominated corporatist system, whereby the worker and peasant unions had privileged access to power, has been opened to the chambers of commerce and of industry, which speak for the private sector. They are not mere government transmission belts but semi-official NGOs. While they are committed to support the regime economic strategy, within that framework they can press their interests and protect the private sector from arbitrary interference or changes in regulations.
Parliament, previously overwhelmingly dominated by the Baath party and its allies, has been expanded to include independents, thus co-opting a broader array of societal forces. In the 1990 elections, 40 percent of seats were allocated to them, compared to 18 percent in the previous parliament. Elections have been vigorously contested by independents with money and connections. In the 1994 elections, Ihsan Sankar, a millionaire Mercedes dealer, reportedly spent millions of Syrian pounds on private industrialists, was also elected.14 Independents in parliament have not, however, organized as a bloc to contest government policy and seek parliamentary seats mostly for prestige, privileges (such as the right to import and sell a car at a big profit) and for political access. Parliament advances the regime's strategy of co-optation. The regime nominates influential people in the neighborhoods as candidates and allows MPs a bit of patronage and scope to intervene on behalf of constituents with the bureaucracy.
Regime and Islamic Opposition
The Islamic movement has represented the main opposition to the Baath regime. While the regime crushed its uprising in the early eighties, Islamic sentiment, always potentially political, is diffused throughout society and highly concentrated in the traditional city and suq. With a partially autonomous economic base and an Islamic counter ideology, the traditional city remains resistant to state penetration. Moreover, there remains an anti-regime Islamic opposition in exile which could exploit a peace settlement with Israel. Broadcasting from Iraq, it accuses the Asad family of being ready to trade peace with Israel for money and continued power over Syria.15 Stability and advances in political liberalization depend on a historic compromise between the Baath and political Islam.
Asad, well aware of this, has put a high priority on reconciliation with political Islam. Since the collapse of the USSR and socialism, he has been developing the "Islamic card," fostering Islam in the media, his campaign; indicative of the new confidence of this class was Sankar's announced intention to work for reversal of such populist measures as rent control, land reform ceilings, and the progressive tax code and to push for a stock exchange and private education. Riyad Saif, one of Syria's few portraying himself as pious and generally trying to add Islam to the regime legitimacy formula as Baathism erodes.16 To this end, Asad has tried to bring the Alawis into the Islamic mainstream, building mosques in the mountain and depicting them as genuine Muslims. Basil Asad's funeral was presided over by a Sunni cleric and the Alawi sheikhs were shown in Sunni rituals as if there was little difference between the sects.
Asad is attempting to co-opt and appease the Islamic mainstream, while marginalizing more radical elements. He has fostered a conservative (al-Azhar-like) Islamic establishment to channel Islamic currents and legitimate the regime. This establishment is headed by the mufti, Ahmad al-Kaftaru (who, despite his long-time collaboration with the regime, is respected), the minister of Waqfs, several professors of sharia, of whom Muhammad Said Rahman al-Buti, a television preacher, is most prominent, and the government-appointed preachers of the great mosques. At the base, the regime has encouraged moderate "Asad Quranic schools." Some lslamicists have been coopted as independents into parliament. Asad has toyed with permitting a moderate Islamic party but has evidently feared that it could appropriate the potent banner of Islam, make the Baath party appear unIslamic and become a channel of real opposition. The current line is that no party can claim a monopoly over Islam.17 The regime is aided by limits to the spread of Islamic resurgence in a society with a relatively large active minority (non-Sunni) population and consequent tradition of secularism and religious coexistence.
To the very considerable extent that the Islamic movement expressed the reaction of the suq and sections of the bourgeoisie to Baathist socialism, economic liberalization could advance a detente with the regime. The Aleppo bourgeoisie, which supported the Islamic rebellion out of resentment at its marginalization under Damascus-centered statism, has been increasingly appeased by new business opportunities, such as the chance to cash in on export deals to pay off the Soviet debt. Syria's suq petite bourgeoisie survived and even prospered in spite of Baath rule. In the seventies and eighties, merchants actually increased their proportion of the labor force from 9 to 12 percent.18 They may be well-positioned, with accumulated capital and commercial know-how, to move into the economic space being vacated by the state. Ideologically, Syria's Islamic movement has always advocated a liberal economic model; Islamic manifestos demanded state withdrawal from commerce, free enterprise and the "natural incentives" of a fair profit. As the regime liberalizes, the cleavage with the Islamic opposition may be narrowing.
Regime and Mass Public
The challenge facing the regime is to preside over economic liberalization without excessively damaging and alienating its original populist (lower middle class/worker/peasant) constituency. The government employed middle class is being squeezed between inflation, running at 15 percent a year, and the government's refusal to raise salaries for the last four years. The poor are not yet paying the full costs of liberalization. Although subsidies have been cut, driving up the price of necessities such as mazout (heating fuel) and bread at their expense, these commodities are still sold below cost. The urban-rural gap does not appear to be widening. Fertilizer subsidies for peasants have been cut, but producer prices increased. Agriculture is booming, villages seem prosperous, with much new building of schools, mosques, villas and monuments to Asad, while electric pylons march across the countryside and orchardization spreads. Rural officers or party officials who made money through the state or those who worked in the Gulf are investing in the village. Economic differentiation in the village is probably widening but family ties cut across such stratification, perhaps retarding emergence of a large, poor peasant class.
The corporatist system links labor and peasant unions to the regime. The trade unions have bitterly complained about the regime's economic policies, but when a faction proposed pulling out of the Baath dominated system, Asad's instinctive response was to warn that freedom had to be understood "within the framework of responsibility," not "contradiction and fragmentation."19 But if more power sharing for the bourgeoisie is not matched by greater autonomy for popular syndicates to defend their interests in a post-populist era, antiregime leaders may emerge outside of or covertly within them. Parliament is a safety valve in which populist MPs speak out against the abuses of economic liberalization, but strikes and protest demonstrations are rare and readily suppressed. The mobilization of opposition to pro-capitalist policies requires a populist ideology which is currently lacking. Marxism has lost credibility while opposition Islam, which has elsewhere mobilized the victims of economic liberalization, has in Syria espoused a free-market ideology. The poor are, so far, turning to non-political Islam largely as an ideology of escape.
Those elements of the regime popular constituency who are better able to take advantage of economic liberalization-the skilled workers deserting the public sector for higher-paying private firms, rich peasants able to raise their income on the market, public employees who have businesses on the side-may gradually detach themselves from the state and join private civil society, while the less fortunate popular strata might then be left all the more dependent on state protection and unlikely to challenge it.
THE PEACE PROCESS, PUBLIC OPINION AND REGIME LEGITIMACY
Since independence, Syrians have seen themselves not as a distinct nationality but as Arabs-indeed the most Arab of the Arabs. Under Asad, the state's foreign policy role was, therefore, to defend the Arab nation against Israel, and to win an honorable peace. As such, the regime is constrained in its negotiations with Israel by its own self-image: Asad cannot readily abandon his self-assumed role as the last Arab nationalist leader. The political elite's hostility to Israel is kept alive by the diplomatic struggle and the difficult position in which Israeli breakthroughs in the Arab world have put the regime. Moreover, a regime which legitimizes itself through Arab nationalism, especially an Alawi-dominated one, must either produce a settlement acceptable to nationalist opinion or alter the basis of its legitimacy.
However, much depends on what the public perceives to be an honorable or realistic settlement and this is not unchanging. The Asad regime, beginning after the 1973 war, accustomed a formerly rejectionist public to accept an eventual peace settlement. Once Syria entered the current peace talks, the Syrian media began to promote the economic benefits of peace. Asad's commitment to "normal relations" with Israel during the January 1994 Asad-Clinton meeting was broadcast to Damascus.20 Public expectations of peace are indicated by the boom in land prices in the Quneitra area. Most recently, public opinion seems to be embracing a significant reduction in its conception of an acceptable peace, better positioning the regime than heretofore to sell the less-than-comprehensive settlement which appears in the cards.
This sea change in opinion was precipitated, though not entirely caused, by the Oslo accord in which the Palestinians took their own road to peace with Israel. Syria, many now feel, cannot be more royalist than the king and reject a settlement the Palestinian leadership itself accepts; anyway, Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank may develop into something real. As the PLO and Jordan concluded separate deals, people realized Syria had lost much diplomatic leverage. Many Syrians now feel alone in the region, are worried about U.S. threats (from being on the terror and drug lists) and conclude that Syria has little choice but to accept a U.S.-sponsored peace.
Indeed, the regime seems to be preparing opinion for Syria's own deal with Israel by depicting the PLO as submissive to Israel and showing how Arafat's policies deprived Syria of the diplomatic leverage to help win the liberation of the West Bank and Gaza; on the other hand, Syria's televising of Arafat's arrival in Gaza and the Washington declaration between Israel and Jordan suggested that peace was inevitable and Syria could not afford to be left out. In a September 1994 speech to parliament, Asad observed that "for decades Syria waged the Arabs' battle against the Israeli occupation" and carried the principal burden of the confrontation; now, however, the "enormity of the damage that unilateralism [of the Jordanians and Palestinians] has inflicted on the core of the causes for which we have long fought and struggled" was unambiguously clear.21
Thus, Oslo relieved the regime of its obligations to the Palestinians. Since some now doubt Asad can even recover the Golan, full Israeli withdrawal on the Golan could, perhaps, be sold as something of a nationalist victory. Indeed, Asad, perceived as having been consistent for years in his search for an honorable settlement and as a tough negotiator in the current peace talks, is generally trusted to get the best deal possible.
As they feel betrayed by the other Arabs, Syrians accept that Syria must look out for its own interest in recovering the Golan. Arab nationalist dreams are no longer considered realistic. Baathism is being reduced to a mere official residue and refuge of a frustrated older generation of Arab nationalists. Politicized youth, disillusioned with Arab nationalism-especially by the second Gulf War and the Yemen civil war-are turning to Islam. Many younger people lack political consciousness and will accept whatever the regime decides. Students at the university in the eighties when opportunities seemed limited and economic stagnation permanent, affirmed that they did not care about the Palestinian issue or the struggle with Israel and wanted to emigrate; much of the mass public is now, in the opinion of some Syrians, little different than in Egypt. Preoccupied with economic survival, it accepts a less-than-honorable peace as the price of prosperity. The older generations want economic development and to be rid of military domination. One Syrian observer locates Syria's position within wider global trends: "[E]conomic forces are sweeping away states" and nationalism is replaced in Syria, as elsewhere, by the search for business opportunities. The state-affiliated bourgeoisie is happy with the status quo but prefers Asad get the job of a peace settlement over with since only he has the nationalist credibility to accept less than Syria wants and neutralize the issue as a destabilizing one in the post-Asad era.
If the sort of peace shaping up will be reluctantly accepted, it is unlikely to win the regime much political capital. Syrians are disappointed, especially Baathists, over the failure of the Arabs to maintain a common front when it was most needed. The decline of Arab nationalism, potentially shrinking the unit of political identity and turning Syrians inward to their own affairs, may seem compatible with such a peace settlement. But while there is a de facto acceptance of Syria as the habitual framework of political life, a Syrian identity has not become a viable substitute for Arabism. A few intellectuals are using Syrian archaeological excavations to propose a pre-Arab Syrian identity, but there is no popular feeling that such ancient peoples are Syrians' ancestors. Moreover, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, the traditional advocate of Syrian identity, is highly anti-Zionist.
The normalization of relations with Israel is unlikely to reduce animosities, at least in the short run. While their concern for the Palestine cause has declined, Syrians' hostility to Israel has not and many are emotionally resistant to the prospect of Israelis visiting Syria. The regime will not face much overt resistance to normalization but most Syrians will eschew dealing with Israelis. Intellectuals held a conference in which the consensus was that an Israeli dictated peace and normalization would be a disaster for Syria. Their concern was to make sure it remained a cold peace. Syrians perceive an Israeli plan to use peace to achieve economic hegemony in the region. Those wary of normalization expect that some unscrupulous businessmen will deal with the Israelis and corner whatever economic benefits result from peace. The political elite fears that, as normalization brings Israelis to Syria, the regime will be blamed for it even by Syrians who accept the settlement. Thus, it is doubtful whether the regime can afford substantial political liberalization in the immediate post-peace era.
The view that Asad's regime needs the conflict with Israel and cannot survive peace is very much exaggerated. Asad, far from shaping Syria's policy according to the survival needs of domestic politics, achieved substantial autonomy in foreign policy making. Now, as foreign-policy goals are altering, he is making the internal alterations needed to preserve regime autonomy and stability in an era of peace. While he has preserved the patrimonial core of the regime, he has sought to shift the balance away from reliance on the party, army and Alawi jamaa toward the bourgeoisie. By diversifying and broadening the regime coalition, he has enhanced his ability to balance above it. The large public sector and oil "rent" still gives the state some ability to clientalize parts of society while greater autonomy for "civil society" provides a safety valve for private energies and relieves the state of full responsibility for the economy. Economic alternatives to wartime "rent" are already being fostered by economic liberalization. Corporatist forms of state-society linkage may be enough to accommodate increased societal complexity for some time. The repression at Hama reminds all parties of how far the regime will go to preserve itself should these control mechanisms fail. If Asad feels forced to settle for less than full Israeli withdrawal on all fronts, he faces little domestic constraint. Regime stability appears secure in the absence of a major succession crisis.
Parallel with alteration of the regime's coalition, Asad is repackaging regime legitimacy to sustain its longer-term durability: away from an ideological-patrimonial mix rooted in Arab nationalism toward one in which "rational-legal legitimacy" counts for more. Such legitimacy is, arguably, being advanced by economic policies fostering capitalist investment and greater prosperity and by political decompression. The likely peace settlement is probably a legitimacy liability but is rendered less dangerous by a subtle alteration in national identity away from Arabism toward a Syrian identity more compatible with scaled down foreign-policy goals. A more Syrian-centered version of Arabism is likely to emerge and-contrary to Robert Kaplan - to sustain a Damascus - centered polity quite as "real" as Israel and a persistent rival of it for dominance of the Levant.
Reliance on patrimonial means to maximize autonomy, however, conflicts with rational-legal legitimacy. The regime may be sacrificing durability based in legitimate institutions for the short-term autonomy needed to steer an adaptation to the era of peace. Long-term stability requires that it fine tune a gradual upgrading of institutions to accommodate the inevitable demands for more autonomous political participation that the revival of civil society under peace will encourage.
1 Daniel Pipes, Greater Syria: The History of an Ambition, London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1992; Robert Kaplan, Lecture, U.S. Institute of Peace, December 7, 1993.
2 See for example, Yair Evron, War and Intervention in Lebanon: The Israeli Syrian Deterrence Dialogue, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.
3 The concept of jamaa is attributed to Michel Seuret in Eberhard Kienle, Entre jamaa et classe: Le pouvoir politique en Syrie, Ethnizitiit und Gesellschaft, Occasional Papers no. 31, Berlin: Das Arabische Buch, 1992.
4 See Stephen David, "Explaining Third World Alignment," World Politics, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 233-56, for the notion of omni-balancing. In this view, Third World foreign policy is characterized by a regime's balancing between external and internal security threats. A revised version of David's omni-balancing thesis· was first applied to the Syrian case in Neil Quilliam, "Syria: Adjusting to the New World Order," Working Paper, Durham: Centre for Middle East and Islamic Studies, 1994; and in Isabelle Daneels, "Syrian Foreign Policy between Rational Actor and Regime Legitimacy," MA Dissertation: University of Durham Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, 1994.
5 Robert K. Lifton, "Talking with Asad: A Visit to the Middle East in Transition," Middle East Insight, September-October, 1994, p. 10; "After Basel Look for Alawite (Sunni) Axis," Issues, March 1994; The Middle East, October 1994, p. 19.
6 The following sources have carried information on succession issues: Middle East International, April 16, 1993, p. 17, February 4, 1994, p. 11; Middle East Mirror, January 21, 1994, January 28, 1994, February 21, 1994, p. 12; The Middle East, March 1994, pp. 12-3; "After Basel Look for the Alawite (Sun.ni) Axis," Issues, March 1994; The Middle East, October 1994, pp. 18-9.
7 Patrick Seale, interview, London, 1994.
8 BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, July 23, 1991.
9 BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, August 3, 1993.
10 Sylvia Poelling, "Investment Law No.10: Which Future for the Private Sector" in Eberhard Kienle, ed., Contemporary Syria: Liberalization between Cold War and Cold Peace, London: British Academic Press and the University of London, 1994, p. 14.
11Syria Country Report, Economist Intelligence Unit, 2nd Quarter, 1994, p. 3.
12 Syria Country Report, Economist Intelligence Unit, 2nd Quarter, 1994, p. 11.
13Fred Lawson, "Domestic Transformation and Foreign Steadfastness in Contemporary Syria," Middle East Journal, vol. 48, no. 1, Winter 1994, pp. 47-64.
14 Volker Perthes, "Syria's Parliamentary Elections: Remodeling Asad's Political Base," Middle East Report, 174/22, January-February 1992, p. 35; Middle East, October 1994, p. 18; Middle East Insight, September-October 1994, p. 5.
15 BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, February 24,1994.
16 Interviews: Patrick Seale, London, 1994; the Iranian embassy, Damascus, 1994.
17 Abdullah ad-Dardari in al-Hayat, Middle East Mirror, March 3, 1992, p. 3.
18 Syrian Arab Republic, Statistical Abstract, Damascus, 1976, pp. 151-2, and 1991, pp. 76-7.
19 Asad speech to the General Federation of Trade Unions, quoted in Fred Lawson, "Domestic Pressures and the Peace Process: Fillip or Hindrance?" in Kienle, Contemporary Syria, p. 148.
20 Middle East Mirror, January 21, 1994.
21 Middle East Insight, September-October 1994, pp. 16-7.