The easy answer is that there are no easy answers. Let's begin with some background: Throughout the Syrian uprising of the last two months, the dominant media narrative has followed the now-familiar arc of a freedom-seeking populace mustering the courage to finally confront an autocratic, anti-democratic regime responsible for decades of repression. Ya, well, about that... Little mentioned is another element of the unrest, one readily apparent to most veteran Syria watchers: faith. President Bashar Assad is an Alawite, a minority sect often described, in the convenient shorthand on which journalists rely, as an “offshoot of Shi’a Islam.” The Alawites’ creed, however, is so far removed from any mainstream Islamic orthodoxy that most Muslims worldwide – Sunni and Shi’ite alike – are apt to describe them either as heretics or as wholly outside the Islamic faith community, or ummah. So what? They are all Muslims, right? No, not really. For 1,000 years, the Alawites were the most despised and suppressed of Syria’s faith communities – an isolated, rural people practicing a secret, syncretic religion rumored to incorporate Christian, Shi’a and pre-Islamic rites. In 1963 Syria’s Alawite-led Ba’ath Party seized power, an event so religiously and politically implausible that half a century later, mainstream Arabs and Muslims still struggle to comprehend it. Here's the money quote - “An Alawi ruling Syria is like an untouchable becoming maharajah in India or a Jew becoming tsar in Russia,” the historian Daniel Pipes wrote in his book Greater Syria, “an unprecedented development shocking to the majority (Ed note - Muslim) population which had monopolized power for so many centuries.” So - how did this all happen? Western influence after the fall of the Ottoman Empire (WWI) The advent of French rule after World War I ushered in a golden age for the once down trodden sect, which was granted short-lived autonomy as the “Alawite State” on Syria’s coast in the 1920s and ’30s. Colonial authorities hoping to stem Sunni nationalism propped up the Alawites and other Syrian minorities, giving them preferential treatment in the army and laying the groundwork for today’s Alawite-dominated military. Hafez Assad – a former air force pilot and the father and predecessor of the current president – came to power in 1971, eight years after the coup by his own Ba’ath Party. The movement was putatively socialist and Arab nationalist, but dominated by young Alawites eager to end Syria’s centuries-long domination by an urban, Sunni elite. One of Assad’s first acts was to replace the constitutional requirement that Syria’s president be Muslim, with a law stipulating that the president’s religion is Islam – essentially certifying his own Muslim faith. In the four decades since, the new Alawite elite have considerably weakened the Sunnis’ once-inviolable commercial dominance, and turned Syria’s military and intelligence services into its own private domain. The one significant challenge to Assad the father’s rule – a 1982 Muslim Brotherhood revolt in the central city of Hama – was brutally quashed, with security forces killing an estimated 20,000-30,000 people. So, the former slaves to Muslims were determined not to revert to the old ways. Since they had the guns...and the Golden rule applies, they stay in power. Add in poverty now that the economy is liberalized (free market) Most of low-class labor works mainly in services , as maids, porters, doormen, etc. have no social security or other benefits, can’t get married because they have to live with their parents, due to both unemployment and the severe housing shortage. ’’the struggle against hunger, poverty and unemployment. Such slogans could come to the forefront alongside .’’ Dr. Hassan Chatila said, an economic researcher, based in Paris. Sky News has this bit of interest about a possible civil war in Syria - More likely. Syria is governed by the Baath party which is secular and has kept a lid on sectarian tensions in the country for decades. However, the people know that the top positions in the military and government have usually gone to the Alawites of Syria, of which the Assad clan are members. This has caused resentment. The Alawites are an off-shoot of Shia Islam but Syria is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country. (remember my note above - they are not Shia') Please note the Baath Party was also a key player in Iraq - Its main ideological objectives are secularism, socialism, and pan-Arab unionism.It seized power in Iraq in 1963, (same year as in Syria) later, Saddam Hussein took power. Quite the mix, so now what? Two words - Muslim Brotherhood. A key player in the fall of Libya - which pissed off both Russia and China, they lost oil contracts, we saw them at play in Egypt and in Lebanon. Remember, in 1982 they led the revolt in Syria. Now you have a large, poverty stricken Muslim sub-population, a "religious" group in play (Muslim Brotherhood) and a former oppressed minority in power that wants to stay in power...aided by the Russians and Chinese. What you get is seen on the TV nightly. The US refused to do anything in Egypt and who took power? Muslim Brotherhood We intervened in Libya and who took power? Muslim Brotherhood We stick our nose into Syria and guess who will wind up in power? I'm guessing - The Muslim Brotherhood. Don't know if anyone cares, but the ties between Syria and Iran cannot be ignored. As cannot the Hezbollah and Iran connection. With India now no longer sending rice to Iran, starvation is a real threat. How Iran will react to the sanctions remains to be seen - but the area around and within Syria, Lebanon and Iran is a powder keg - the only question is what will set it off. Have fun. If you want to dig past this quick look at he region, the web is full of resources. The JPost and French papers are likely the most current and accurate.