Syria Still Unscathed —but True Test Awaits

David Ignatius: If Assad delays reforms, he could suffer Mubarak's fate
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2011 2:00 PM CST
Syria Still Unscathed —but True Test Awaits
A file photo of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.   (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere, File)

Syria has reason to be worried about the Arab revolution sweeping its neighbors, writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. After all, it "has an authoritarian regime dominated by a corrupt Baath Party—a relic of the age of dictators that is being swept away in so many other countries," he notes. But it also has something those nations lack: a relatively young leader in the form of 45-year-old Bashar al-Assad who has at least talked a good game about the need for democratic reform.

Assad's tolerance of an early protest bodes well, but the real test will be whether he allows genuine opposition parties to participate in this year's elections. "For now, the streets of Damascus are mostly full of shoppers, not protesters," writes Ignatius. "But if the experience of other countries over the past two months shows anything, it's that delaying reform too long in a one-party state like Syria is potentially a fatal mistake." (Another crucial country facing a tough decision is Saudi Arabia; click for that.)

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