On Monday, the Baath Party of Syria began its 10th Congress. The second one since Bachar El Assad seized power in 2000, but the first since the collapse of the Iraqi Baath. This congress will determine Syria’s future to a large extent, whether towards an opening or towards recoiling in itself. Today, after the retreat from Lebanon, achieved through international pressure, the Syrian government is hesitating. The regime lost a satellite and lost prestige. However, after having retreated from Lebanon, Assad’s government has recovered a little. But the stronger he feels, the less concessions he makes.
In March, the Syrian AmBa’athador to the United States had promised that there would not be political prisoners in Syria. I doubt whether he repeats that promise today. According to Human Rights defense organizations, there are still 1500 political prisoners in Syria, and since March, 40 persons have been arrested. In my condition of former prisoner, incarcerated for 16 years, I feel particularly skeptic as to the Syrian government’s intentions.
The Congress could decide to open elections for the rest of the parties, but the Constitution would continue to give supremacy to the Baath. A change like this would only be superficial, cosmetic. Nobody expects that an end is put to the state of emergency that protects the Baath power.
Paradoxically, the international pressures weaken the regime, but strengthen the Bachar El Assad’s circle and the Syrian President against his father’s former allies. Undoubtedly, he will avail himself of the Congress to get rid of some of them. But in order to do this, he will have to adopt a personal position in favor of the only one party and give guarantees to the Security forces. It’s this attitude which represents an obstacle to the reforms, not the old guard.
The Syrians, however, reject any foreign influence, which would plunge the country in the same chaos prevailing in Iraq. International pressures are needed which, through the application of economic sanctions, force Syria to change. Returning the Golan would be used as an exchange in case of good behavior. Let’s not forget that regime’s changes are easy but have nothing to do with the stabilization of a country.

International Herald Tribune (France)
The International Herald Tribune is a version of the New York Times adapted for the European public. It works in direct association with Haaretz (Israel), Kathimerini (Greece), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), JoongAng Daily (South Korea), Asahi Shimbun (Japan), The Daily Star (Lebanon) and El País (Spain). It also works, through its head office, in indirect association with Le Monde (France).
New York Times (United States)

" Don’t Rush the Revolution ", by Yassin al-Haj Saleh, New York Times, June 4, 2005.
" Syria: Don’t rush the revolution ", International Herald Tribune, June 6, 2005.