Fouad Ajami: Echoes of Spanish Civil War in Syria

Fouad Ajami is senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and author of The Syrian Rebellion (Hoover Press, 2012).

Pity the Syrian people. They had been given to believe that fighter jets in the arsenal of the state - those Russian-made MIGs they once viewed with pride - were there for the stand-off with Israel.

Now they know better. The runs over Aleppo, the bombings of Idlib, have laid bare the truth. It is no accident that the founder of this regime, Hafez al-Assad, emerged from the ranks of the air force, which is not often an incubator of coup-makers. There would come a day, the masters of this minority regime doubtless knew, when fighter jets would be used at home.

Israel was always the alibi, the declared enemy. But the Sunni-majority country the Alawites conquered was destined to awake one day, and the rulers prepared for a day of reckoning. The cruel, all-out war between the dictatorship and the vast majority of the population was in the script all along.

Of the rebellions that broke out among the Arabs in the last two years, the struggle in Syria was bound to be a case apart. Think of the Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali calling it quits and leaving with his loot, of Hosni Mubarak stepping aside after 18 magical days of protest - this Syrian rebellion's ferocity belongs to a different world of insurrections.

The Syrians must have understood the uniqueness of their situation....

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