|Bashar al-Assad, Seif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Hafez al-Assad|
I might come as a surprise the Syrian connection to Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, but the Assad and Gaddafi families go back nearly half a century.
The young Bashar Hafez al-Assad in the chair, Seif al Gaddafi, Muammar al Gaffafi and then president of Syria Bashar's Hafez al-Assad looking on from the end of the couch.
As Syria’s bloody uprising continues into its second year, there’s a growing realization that President Bashar Hafez al-Assad just might outlast the rebels. While many had hoped that al-Assad would soon go the way of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, it’s clear that even if it happens, his departure won’t be so swift. There are a number of reasons why Syria’s Assad has stuck around, and why some people are even predicting the Syrian strongman may ultimately prevail. Here are the top five ways that Syria is no Libya.
Russian Weapons: Like Syria, Libya relied heavily on importing arms from Russia, using weapons systems such as the Soviet-designed T-72 battle tank and Su-22 aircraft. But in March 2011, Russia finally sided with the international community asking for Gaddafi to step down, which ended the Russian arms pipeline to Libya. That decision ultimately cost Russia billions of dollars in arms sales, which may be why Moscow decided not to repeat the same mistake twice. In Syria, the flow of Russian weapons goes on, much to the consternation of the United States. Russia has pledged continuing support to the Assad regime, and has even made recent arms deliveries to the country.
Intelligence Service: Syria’s Mukhabarat intelligence service is one of the most ruthless in the Middle East, eliciting fear and even paranoia among the local population. Some estimates claim that as much as 20 percent of the population is on the intelligence service’s payroll. (As in other authoritarian states, the truth of the number may not matter; what matters is that people believe it.) Syria has effectively used the Mukhabarat to keep tabs on the insurgency and to limit its effectiveness by arresting leaders—even kidnapping them from Lebanon in some cases. Read more: 5 Reasons Why Syria Isn’t Libya - Bashar Hafez al-Assad - Popular Mechanics
Realistic President: Muammar Gaddafi was smart—you can’t hold on to power for decades without cunning. But he was also delusional, believing, perhaps until the very end, that his people loved and admired him. Assad may harbor some elements of self-delusion, but he clearly knows the extent of unrest in Syria. In fact, Assad, who was educated in the United Kingdom, is well-informed on the importance of social media; according to leaked emails, he regularly discusses coverage of events posted on YouTube and Facebook. And at this point, he probably knows his choices are down to clinging to power and trying to weather the storm or facing an end like Gaddafi’s.
Strong Military: Although there have been defections from the Syrian military, so far the rebels in Syria don’t have the equivalent of the Free Libyan Army (later renamed the National Liberation Army). That group, though it was a ragtag resistance force, could fight a conventional military. Syrian rebels, by contrast, aren’t so organized. Even when rebels take over neighborhoods or towns, the Syrian army has been able to roll back those gains. The rebels have formed a military council based in Paris but don’t yet appear to have any formal military hierarchy within Syria.
Iranian Support: Gaddafi was largely isolated from the international community before the collapse of his regime, but Assad still has a couple of stalwart supporters. Iran’s leaders, like Russia’s, have refused to join international condemnation of Assad, promising to stand by their man in Damascus. While Russia supplies Syria with weapons, Iran, a major player in the region, is allegedly providing surveillance assistance, helping the Assad regime keep tabs on the opposition.