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International political opinion about the future of Syria's President Bashar Assad has shifted.Post-conflict stabilization traditionally focuses on increasing and restoring a state's reach, either by working with a legitimate state to foster more robust and stable governance, security and social outcomes; or nation-building to replace and reconstruct state functionality in a failed state. In areas of Syria under armed opposition control, the state apparatus has ceased to function due to the conflict. By contrast, the Assad regime has focused its narrative throughout the conflict on state legitimacy to promote both international and domestic control.In all eventualities, external actors considering support for stabilization or reconstruction activity in Syria must understand the extent to which one can separate the Assad regime (Bashar Assad and the key individuals and interest groups tied to him via patronage systems) from the Syrian government itself (state programs, departments and bureaucracies that manage the state).While it is possible to delineate between problematic aspects of the regime and the government of Syria to some extent, the regime has consolidated control over the state in myriad ways, during both the prewar period and throughout the conflict. The Assad regime, however, looks ready to offer little in the way of real change or reform.
Evaluating ‘de-escalation’ in Syria and the Astana talks
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