Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, whose government was last year described as close to collapse by groups ranging from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the armed opposition, may remain in power for years to come.
France, the U.S. and other countries are showing little confidence in the week-old Syria cease-fire, increasing the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to halt the violence while aiding his opponents.
The city pulsed to a beat it hadn’t felt for decades as it welcomed its new president. Intellectuals met at private political salons for open, lively discussions of topics they had only dared to mention in whispers before: demands for greater democracy, the suspension of emergency law, an end to the ruling party’s domination.
Sometime after midnight on a recent Thursday in Damascus, restaurant manager Aziz Asfahani joined friends at the newly opened Bartini lounge bar, where Syria’s elite dine and dance till dawn on tabletops to the thump of patriotic songs.