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'We will see more bloodshed in Syria - but not a second Libya'

As the UN mulls sanctions against Damascus, Syrian troops are continuing their crackdown on anti-government protests. DW spoke to Middle East expert Volker Perthes about whether and when the Assad regime will fall.

Bashar Al-Assad poster

Soon, those posters of Assad might be coming down

Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told Deutsche Welle that the days of President Bashar al-Assad are probably numbered but warned there would be more bloodshed to come.

Deutsche Welle: In the last few days there have been reports of several politicians resigning and turning their back on the regime in protest against the violent crackdown. Do you think we will be seeing more politicians deserting Bashar al-Assad's government?

Volker Perthes: I guess some people from his administration may desert him but they are probably doing that quietly rather than publicly. The interesting question is: when will people from the army, when will captains and colonels with their units desert President Assad? That's when things will get dangerous for the regime.

Do you think there is anything more the European Union or the United States can do to help the Syrian people in this situation?

Volker Perthes

Perthes thinks that 'the end of the regime has begun'

I think that, at this point, going to the United Nations Security Council is the right thing to do. It will give a clear signal to the people of Syria that the world is watching what is happening there. The regime will not be particularly impressed if there is a resolution in the Security Council but the people in Syria are certainly waiting for that.

The ball is actually in the court of the neighboring countries and the Arab League: in particular Egypt, Saudi Arabia, but also the big neighbor Turkey - these are the countries that have a voice in Damascus and that are heard and can probably find an outcome that makes al-Assad step down - but not without bloodshed.

Let's talk about the people of Syria. Do you think we've reached a point of no return - a point where they will not rest until Assad steps down?

Yes - I do think that the end of the regime has begun. But this may still take a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months. The question really is whether regional actors, together with local actors, can manage to make this period shorter and less bloody.

But I don't think there will be return to the status quo of the Bashar al-Assad regime as we have known it for the last 11 years.

Mourners carrying a coffin

The anti-government protests have left hundreds dead so far

How do you think the situation will develop over the next days or weeks? Will we see a second Libya in Syria?

I don't think we can compare Syria to Libya. It's a very different society. Al-Assad cannot lead a war against his population for a long time because Syria is not a country that you can close down. Syria cannot live in isolation.

It is by its nature and its economy an open country, it needs to interact with the world. So this can probably go on for a couple of weeks but it cannot go on for a very long time.

I think over the next few days we will see more bloodshed in Syria. But what we will probably also see are more political moves and also moves and changes within the army.

Interview: Sabrina El Ahl / ai
Editor: Rob Mudge

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