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Cradle of Contradictions

The American-led invasion of Iraq was supposed to begin a process of transformation across the Middle East. Syrian poet and political analyst Ammar Abdulhamid suggests that a thaw - if not quite change, then perhaps its precursor - is now occurring in Syria.

Life in Syria has never been simple. The realities, meticulously hidden under a veneer of homogeneity, have always been too complex for even the most discerning of scholars. The peaceful coexistence between the country's myriad ethnic, religious, and tribal groups is the result of a complex layer of concessions, compromises, tacit agreements, and other pragmatic arrangements perfected over the centuries.

Over the last few months, life has become even more complex, as both the country's ruling elite and civil society advocates seem more bewildered than ever about the country's future. Each group is focused on determining its particular privileges while preserving the territorial integrity and national unity of a country growing increasingly fractious and fragile.

These developments, of course, follow from the US-led invasion of Iraq, which turned a vague and distant threat into an imposing neighbor whose intentions towards Syria's Baathist regime are anything but friendly. Consequently, the need for drastic change in the structure and style of a previously reality-impaired regime has finally begun to sink in.