Analyzing Syrian Power’s Structure According to Elite Theory

This research stems from the assumption that the Syrian state completes all the elements of legitimacy and the structure of its official institutions is based on a modern foundation. However, government practice indicates that there are empty structures and that there are those who run the state in a hidden way.

To check this assumption, the research paper analyzes the structure of the Syrian authority from the perspective of elite sociology to identify the reality of its background, and the extent of its impact on the Syrian state and the Syrian decision! Is there really a separation between the Syrian state and the hidden Syrian elite power?

In order to reach this analysis, we review the history of Syria from its inception until Bashar al-Assad’s arrival to power, to indicate the root of each element of the current power. Which begins from the moment the Syrian state emerged according to the Sykes-Picot Agreement and then the French Mandate, identity struggles, independence, and the entry into conflicts of military coups and political conspiracies. Until the emergence of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party ruling in Syria today, and its coming to power on March 8, 1963, and then the conspiracies and military-political conflicts within the party and the army and with Israel. This led to Hafez al-Assad’s accession to power on November 16, 1970, after he overthrew his comrades and liquidated them politically and physically.

In addition to Hafez al-Assad’s struggles within the Alawite sect and with political Islam! Even his involvement in national and regional wars, and the measures he took to establish his internal authority

Then Bashar al-Assad came to power on June 10, 2000, in a coup against the constitution, broadcast live, and the steps he took to seize power. This narrative was enough to show the main features of the current Syrian authority and trace its roots, and thus understand its mechanism of action and answer the hypothesis of the study.

One of the most important findings of the paper is that Hafez al-Assad is a pivotal figure in the Syrian authority and the founder of the current Syrian authority structure. This authority is divided into two parts: the front government and the shadow government. The front government is divided classically and hierarchically into clear official institutions, based on the constitution and with its powers, but it is considered a front for another government that runs the Syrian authority from behind. This authority is based on several lists, the first of which are: the security branches, the Alawite sect and relatives, the army; In second place: the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party and the National Progressive Front; Third: Control over the media, the economy, internal social loyalists, and external support. Through these lists, the People’s Assembly, the judiciary, the government and the people are administered.

It appears from the paper that it is not possible to separate the analysis of the Syrian authority from the history of its emergence, and specifically the role of the Baathist “political and military” elites. Hafez al-Assad understood Syrian society and took advantage of the Baath party and the army to reach a position of decision, then turned against his comrades in the Baath and the army to gain exclusive power. He also resolved the issue of military coups by controlling the army and getting rid of opponents or neutralizing them, and resolving the issue of the struggle over identity by making the Arab Baath Party the ruling party in the state and society, and identity is the Arab identity. Hafez al-Assad established the National Progressive Front to monitor the work and activity of other parties and prevent their movement except by his decision. Thus, Hafez al-Assad limited the work of the political community, excluded his opponents from the Alawite sect and made the trusted people from other sects closer to him, and placed the Baath, the army, the National Front and the society under security control, as security branches were established to control everything, and they are repressive agencies that are not subject to Syrian law, but fall under Emergency law.

He exploited the Alawite sect to control the security services and the army, excluded Druze officers after the coup attempt of Salim Hatoum, recruited relatives to control vital sectors and satisfied political Islam in several ways without enabling it to reach power. He took advantage of the positions of the People’s Assembly, the National Progressive Front, military positions and ministerial portfolios in order to satisfy the Syrian sects, minorities and groups in terms of representation in the state through an undeclared policy called the “sectarian balance basket”.

Hafez al-Assad entered Baath Party in all the details of the state, and made for each sector a security branch responsible for it. He overpowered the security branches over each other, and he governed all of them and sort their problems out. In addition, he combined the three powers in his hand, adding them to the declaration that he was the commander-in-chief of the army and armed forces, and the Secretary-General of the Arab Socialist Baath Party. He reached the establishment of the so-called “shadow government”, i.e, the government that actually runs the country was hidden. It was the elite of the Syrian elite according to the social description, although politically it is called a “junta”.

After Hafez’s death, his son Bashar took power, and his first movements were promises of openness, political, legal and economic reform, and releasing freedoms. However, he suddenly arrested all the opponents, and the political movements he had previously allowed! Under the auspices of the old guard, he issued several decisions that prevented political life and made it like it was in his father’s era. He relied on relatives more than before and excluded not only the sect but also figures from the old guard through killing, dismissal or marginalization. He began to create new surroundings for him to run the country, then he again depended on the sect, the rest of the minorities, the Baath, and the foreign alliances with the states and the armed parties loyal to him in his struggle against the Syrian opposition movement.

This paper is considered a desk study based on the descriptive analytical method. It reviews academic research, scientific articles, reliable books, and approved and available websites in order to obtain the necessary information, and then analyze the content of this information to answer questions and hypotheses, and reach the results.

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