Bashar al-Assad is not hated by his fellow Arab leaders as much as Muammer Gaddafi, but he comes a close second. Blamed for destabilising Iraq and Lebanon, he is seen by many in the region as an obstructive regional force that puts its alliance with Iran above the so-called Arab “consensus”.
Yet, as Mr Assad’s regime shakes under the intensity of months-long popular protests, there is little gloating in the region, and none of the clamouring for his departure that was evident in the case of Mr Gaddafi. Syria’s uprising has been greeted with official Arab silence. As Peter Harling, Syria analyst at the International Crisis Group, says: “Even Syria’s enemies, ironically, would like to see the regime doing a better job at managing the crisis – because they believe the consequences are otherwise too unpredictable.”