Another Neil MacFarquhar piece on Syria in the New York Times shows the effect that the freeing of Iraq next door has on their discontent. "Kurdish Syrians, 2 million of Syrias 17 million people, say that watching rights for Kurds being enshrined in a new if temporary constitution next door in Iraq finally pushed them to take to the streets to demand greater recognition. In their wake is a toll of blackened government buildings, schools, grain silos and vehicles across a remote swath of the north." As a Kurd said, "We want democracy like the others [i.e., his brethren in Iraq]." Some twenty people have been killed in clashes between Kurds and Syrian troops, who fired on peaceful demonstrators.
Christopher Hitchens notes all this and says: "It is early to pronounce, but this event seems certain to be remembered as the beginning of the end of the long-petrified Syrian status quo. The Kurdish population of Syria is not as large, in proportion, as its cousinly equivalent in Iraq. But there are many features of the Syrian Baath regime that make it more vulnerable than Saddam Husseins. Saddam based his terrifying rule on a minority of a minority—the Tikriti clan of the Sunni. Assad, like his father, is a member of the Alawite confessional minority, which in the wider Arab world is a very small group indeed. Syria has large populations of Sunni, Druze, and Armenians, and the Alawite elite has stayed in power by playing off minorities against minorities. It is in a weak position to rally the rest of society against any identifiable "enemy within," lest by doing so it call attention to its own tenuous position." Worth watching.