17 Dec

Scrisoarea mea din Financial Times de azi

Sir, Michael Williams argues that Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad and the late Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu share a similar determination to quell a massive popular protest as well as a mindset that does not allow for the adoption of reforms (“Turkey’s bold stance will seal the fate of Syria’s Ceausescu”, December 14). The comparison is apt but it requires some major qualifications that may explain the survival of Mr Assad’s regime.

While Ceausescu’s personal command over the state’s repressive apparatus simply withered away in a matter of days, after nine months of bloodshed Mr Assad’s army and police were more likely to take their orders and click their heels than to break ranks. Another significant difference lies in the sheer size of the protest: there were hundreds of thousands of anti-regime protesters in Romania in December 1989, while in Syria they are in the tens of thousands at best. As in today’s Syria, ethnic tensions in Romania in 1989 were dramatic and reflected a long history of conflict between the Romanian majority and the Hungarian minority. Yet perhaps at no other point in Romania’s history did these tensions melt into the air so quickly as when the crowds defied machinegun fire and armoured regiments of the kind deployed by Mr Assad during the past nine months.

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