As the state dominos continue to fall across the Arab Middle East and North Africa, "who's next?" has become the most fashionable parlor game in Washington, London, Paris, Berlin and points East.
Tunisia and Egypt have had their so-far successful uprisings. Pro-democracy demonstrators in Yemen and Bahrain are still trying to tip over their dominos. Libya's domino is, as of five minutes ago, in a horizontal position. Morocco, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia appear to be vertical for the moment, with the Saudis offering its people the most aggressive rewards to stay quiet and enjoy the sunshine: cold hard cash.
But what about Syria? We haven't heard much about this bastion of democracy, but that's because the media tends to go where cataclysms have already happened, not those where the explosion is sometime in the future.
How far in the future, lord only knows. But assignment editors might do well to keep a special eye on Syria as possibly the next domino to fall.
Why not? It seems to have all the ingredients!
Syria's 20 million people live under the authoritarian presidential regime of Bashar al-Asad. The president makes key decisions with counsel from a small circle of security advisors, ministers, and senior members of the ruling Ba'ath (Arab Socialist Renaissance) Party. The constitution mandates the primacy of Ba'ath party leaders in state institutions and society. President al-Asad and party leaders, supported by security services, dominate all three branches of government in what is characterized as a republic.
But, regardless of its structure, it is a dictatorship.
According to the U.S. State Department, in 2007 al-Asad was confirmed for another seven-year term in a "yes or no" referendum that local and international human rights advocates considered neither free nor fair.